At Concordia University, there’s been a rivalry between its student newspapers for more than 20 years now, since The Concordian was launched in 1984 as competition for The Link (both now have RSS feeds, by the way, for those who want alternative local news sources).
This week, The Concordian rekindled some of that rivalry by questioning The Link’s referendum question asking to have their fees applied to graduate students. Currently both papers are funded by fees from undergraduate students only.
The piece goes on in detail about how The Link (a paper I ran three years ago) receives twice as much money from students than The Concordian, for about as much output (one issue a week during the school year). Because of the extra money, The Link can afford new computers, salaries for its editors, better quality printing and a substantial budget surplus.
Let’s go into a bit of background to understand this situation a bit better.
The Link was created in 1980 as the result of a merger of two newspapers: The Georgian, which served Sir George Williams University, and the Loyola News, which served Loyola College. When those two institutions merged in 1974, it was decided that merging the two student newspapers was a logical step.
Efforts to create a second student newspaper at SGWU and Concordia emerged during the 60s and 70s, but none lasted more than a few years. In 1984 a group of renegade Link staffers broke off and formed The Concordian, which was supposed to have a more moderate mainstream editorial stance to balance The Link’s crazy leftism. (An ideological split that amazingly lasts to this day)
Both newspapers were funded in full by the student association, until in 1986 students decided that in order to ensure editorial independence they should get their funding directly from students through a tax on their tuition fees. Since then, both are independent organizations with their own boards of directors.
At the time, The Link was publishing twice a week and The Concordian once, so the fee was established at $0.13 per credit for The Link and $0.07 per credit to The Concordian. In the early 1990s, The Link successfully passed a referendum to increase it to $0.20, and in the late 1990s dropped from 40 issues a year to 30, or once a week. The Concordian got their fee levy increased from $0.07 to $0.10 a few years ago.
So all this to say that The Link publishes 30 issues a year and The Concordian 25, and The Link gets almost twice as much money ($0.19 per credit from all undergrads after yet another referendum to get engineering and business students to join in). The fee difference has always been a pain in the Concordian’s neck.
The criticisms brought up in the piece are for the most part justified. The Link enjoys an accumulated $250,000 surplus while The Concordian barely scrapes by. The old excuse that The Link was simply better has largely fallen by the wayside as the quality of both papers’ editorial content has become more equal.
But there is nothing sinister about The Link’s fee. They have it because they asked students for more money and students said yes. When The Concordian goes to students this fall to ask that their fee be brought in line (something The Link apparently doesn’t support), it’ll be up to those students to decide if their paper is worthy of the extra money.
The Link, which asked graduate students to join them a couple of years ago and lost a referendum on the subject, is certainly motivated more by money than membership in its desire to get fees from graduate students. I wanted membership extended to graduate students because there were some (notably in the journalism department’s graduate diploma program) who wanted to become members of the society. But they said no. To me, that was the end of it. Graduate students are disconnected from student life and don’t spend as much time on campus, so they decided the student paper thing wasn’t for them.
Now they’re trying again, and The Concordian isn’t happy about the idea of the divide between rich and poor getting larger. I can’t say I blame them for their emotional reaction, though they shouldn’t be blaming The Link for their troubles.
We’ll see what happens to both papers’ requests for more student fee money. Will students want to dig into their own pockets to settle the score?