Yesterday, CUP, the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) & the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ) sent a letter of concern to the University of Waterloo’s Federation of Students (FedS)—the elected political body that represents students on campus—regarding the termination of the Imprint‘s lease and the difficult terms they were asked to renegotiate it on—including doubled rent on the current space, a severely reduced space elsewhere in the building or the choice to find space off campus.
The Imprint has started an online petition asking FedS to let them stay in their current space.
Here, in full, is the letter, addressed to Carly McCready, Vice President Operations & Finance of FedS:
Dear Ms. McCready,
I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.
CJFE, the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ), and Canadian University Press (CUP) are deeply concerned by the recent lease termination and potential eviction of Imprint, the University of Waterloo’s independent student newspaper, from the Student Life Centre by the university’s Federation of Students.
It is the responsibility of the university, faculty, administration and student government to promote and ensure for the right to free expression on campus; the presence of a strong student press with a multiplicity of voices is central to a healthy climate for discourse. The tactics being used in negotiations with Imprint—of either doubling their rent, forcing them into a significantly smaller office, or removing them from the student building entirely— appear designed to reduce the newspaper’s viability and reach and are thus at odds with these principles. Regardless of the motive, this action puts freedom of speech and freedom of the press at risk on campus.
Students have a very limited understanding of the Federation of Students’ decision-making process with respect to Imprint‘s lease termination. Whatever the nature of those discussions, they’re shrouded in mystery—and not mentioned in any recent meeting minutes of the federation’s board of directors. It is important that an elected student government is open to the student body in order to promote accountability and transparency. To hide the details of such important decisions about student media limits the flow of information and threatens to stifle free expression on campus.
CJFE, CAJ, and CUP urge the Federation of Students to consider the importance of a diverse student press when undergoing lease negotiations with Imprint, and provide them with the appropriate space to conduct their work effectively. In addition, we request that you take the necessary steps to improve transparency and accountability in your decision-making as well as to promote a thriving and independent student media.
We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.
Alice Klein, CJFE President
Nick Taylor-Vaisey, CAJ President
Ryan Macfarlane, CUP National Executive