April 11, 2013
Guest Column: Jon Liedtke
The Lance, the University of Windsor’s student newspaper, the second largest in the city and the only weekly newspaper in the city, was forced to immediately suspend print operations by the outgoing University of Windsor Students’ Alliance board of directors in a lame duck session.
The board claims the decision was made strictly on the basis of finances, but one must question whether finances were the sole motivator.
If the matter were only about finances, anybody with basic business acumen knows that eliminating two-thirds of a business’s revenue stream is not the way to go about decreasing a deficit, and make no mistake this is what the board did.
To further complicate the board’s decision, the university president Alan Wildeman offered to cover half of the deficit if the UWSA covered the other half. The board chose not to immediately accept the offer that Wildeman presented, which could have solved this situation entirely.
In what I’m sure the board considered a gracious act, they voted to allow for The Lance to print its final issue of the current volume. We are thankful for this concession as readers and advertisers were looking forward to this special edition of The Lance.
It will be the new board of directors who will decide the fate of The Lance. If they decide not to accept a newly penned restructuring plan submitted by The Lance by April 30, 85 years of print history will be shuttered and critical insight into the UWSA will be greatly diminished.
The issue is further complicated by the fact that the board made the decision to cease print operations just hours after The Lance published a highly critical article on misconduct in the UWSA’s general election last month, aptly titled “Electile Dysfunction.”
The article looked into the matter of improper disqualification of candidates, a faulty appeal process, roughly 40 broken governance policies, a serious lack of campaign finance enforcement, students being disenfranchised with no resolution, allegations of hacking and an overall lack of oversight and accountability.
An independent media is of the utmost importance in maintaining a healthy and informed electorate and it’s highly troubling and equally disturbing that the board made this decision so hastily.
It’s unnerving that a group of elected students have the ability to shut down the second largest newspaper in the city, without consultation with the paper itself. It can be argued that this decision should have been made by the newly elected board of directors, which assumed office Thursday.
The UWSA has a history of making last minute decisions and leaving the mess to the incoming administration to deal with. Just last year, students at the university lost The Thirsty Scholar Pub in a similar act made by an outgoing group of student representatives after the business went $1-million into debt.
I hope that the UWSA and The Lance are able to foster a relationship of respect and integrity and based on openness and transparency.
Short-sighted decisions are often made by governance bodies, and it’s understandable that people without any experience in the media industry were able to make this unfortunate decision without consulting professionals or at The Lance itself.
Wildeman understands the benefits of having a print student newspaper, and while the outgoing board of directors has faced critical national and international media coverage as a direct result of their decision, I hope that they come to understand how gracious Wildeman’s offer was and attempt to begin to repair this rift.
A thriving print newspaper ensures that students are informed as to what is happening on campus and in the community, and it allows students to better hold the UWSA to account.
The Lance looks forward to working with the UWSA towards seeking a legal separation of the two entities. Events that have transpired over the past week clearly demonstrate that a political organization has no place controlling a media outlet.
The Lance has a rich history of reporting on events that occur on campus and in the broader community. While the fate of The Lance is uncertain, the outpouring of support has been overwhelming and heartening. Students, faculty, alumni, community members, business leaders, politicians and various media have taken notice.
The immense outpouring of support for the newspaper speaks to the important role that The Lance performs in the community by continually providing quality journalism, both online and in print.
Competition in the media industry helps to create a more informed community and it’s of utmost importance The Lance continues to be a strong presence both on campus and in the City of Windsor.
Jon Liedtke is Features & Opinions Editor of the University of Windsor student and community newspaper The Lance