Editorial: Philosophy Students Vote to Censor Journalists

The Link and The Concordian Denounce Actions at SoPhiA GA

Graphic Sam Jones

Yesterday evening, two journalists from the student press were called out for doing their job.

During the Philosophy Student Association’s General Assembly, students in attendance suddenly questioned the rights of student journalists to be present and record the proceeding of an open and public forum.

They then voted twice on a motion to have a journalist from The Concordian, Frédéric Muckle, delete a recording he had made of the assembly until then.

Having one vote on a motion that is already groundless and which resulted in a tie should be enough to discard said motion without resorting to a second vote, which would also be groundless.

The journalists signed in and identified themselves before entering the assemblies. After sitting at the back, at the request of SoPhiA executives, the journalists and non-philosophy students identified themselves again.

Anything said in open session and at any public forum is open to reporting and indeed recording. In fact, anything said in front of a journalist is open to reporting, unless a contract between the journalist and the source is explicitly agreed upon, e.g. by asking “Can we talk off the record?”

Student associations should follow the lead of the CSU’s standing regulations, which read: “The student union respects the role and independence of student media and believes that they play an essential role in the University community.”

Following the strike vote, Katie Nelson, an executive of SoPhiA, moved to go into closed session during another agenda point after everyone realized journalists, who were waiting to conduct interviews, were still in the room.

Benjamin Prunty defended the editors from The Concordian and The Link, saying that they’re just student journalists who are still learning.

We at The Link are less than pleased to know that a group of philosophy students and the CSU’s president are willing to help student journalists learn how to do journalism.

Thanks, but no thanks. The Link doesn’t need your help.

Perhaps the CSU would do better to focus on their $99,000 deficit for this year. Or maybe SoPhiA’s executive team should focus on determining the exact number of students in their association before holding a general assembly—which legally requires quorum to be met before passing important motions, such as a strike mandate. When asked how many students make up SoPhiA, an executive asserted that anyone who claimed to know that number would be lying. The association needs to get its priorities straight.

Whatever is said at a general assembly is public record. By having the journalist delete their own recording, the majority of philosophy students present brazenly muzzled the press. The assembly voted to silence a reporter trying to inform the rest of the philosophy department about their future. This shows a lack of transparency worthy of the Harper government.

The main purpose of recording meetings is to have context when one writes a news story. While direct quotes may be used from these recordings—in particular from executive members who are elected public figures—they usually aren’t. Using a quote from a post-meeting interview for added clarification and comments is always preferable.

There were many questions that were left unanswered after the student journalists were alienated at the assembly through a closed session motion.

If student activists want to work in an open and transparent environment, they would do well to speak and act in an open and transparent way.

These students and activists are voting against the government and fighting against austerity while acting like a bunch of shady politicians.

There are a number of strike vote GAs planned for this week. If the student activists present don’t let the media do their job, then they’re the biggest hypocrites of all.

Benjamin Prunty being the chair of a meeting and remaining neutral means not influencing a vote to delete a student journalist’s recording. Having the chair of the Yes committee for a question on denouncing privatization also chair a meeting on voting to strike against issues like privatization doesn’t seem like the most democratic thing to do.

Are people encouraged to speak at these general assemblies? Are these general assemblies really as transparent as philosophy students claim them to be?

If some of the content of this editorial seems made up, neither The Link nor The Concordian have recordings to back it up, so you’ll have to take our word for it.

For everything in the meeting leading up to this political circus, you can find a recording of it below.