Yet another student publication has thumbed its nose and done the dance of freedom.
When all the votes were tallied and the dust settled, the results of the University of Alberta Students' Union general elections on Thu., March 7 revealed students voted 71.4 per cent in favour of autonomy for the student newspaper, the Gateway.
"The last count came in at midnight and we were miles ahead of the 'no' side," said Dan Lazin, former Gateway Editor-in-Chief and "yes" campaign leader. "We ran around yelling at the top of our lungs and hugging everyone, whether they were Gateway or not."
The student-run publication has always asserted editorial autonomy from the SU but will now be free to govern their own finances and business transactions. Lazin points out that the two cannot really be separated.
"We've always had editorial control from other people," he said. "But we always had to weigh everything we wanted to print against the harm it might bring to the paper. If we criticize our hiring and review committees, it's easy for our fees and our funding to go away. So it's business autonomy but it gives us greater editorial autonomy as well."
Lazin pointed out that as a possible result of exercising the right to free press, Gateway editor's salaries have risen only six per cent over the last 10 years, while SU executive salaries have risen seven per cent over the last two.
"There's been a sense of need [for autonomy] for the last five years and the urgency has increased every year," he said. "Our SU relations have been better this year but some things have been worse. We're planning for the future; some horrible things happened last year and although we all learned our lessons, once the institutional memories of the SU and Gateway have lapsed, they'll happen again. I don't want anyone else to deal with that."
The Gateway must now begin the process of negotiating the transfer of assets with the SU and conducting some internal structure changes, a process Lazin says will not be as painful as expected.
"I don't expect the negotiations to be difficult," he said. "The new SU executives are friendly to us and smart and progressive. We have our bylaws, our budget and operational procedures all drawn up. All we need to do is pick a board of directors right away and approve our bylaws, examine our budget and do a few things internally."
U of A students will now support the Gateway through a levy collected during the fall/winter sessions to the tune of $2.50 per semester per full-time student and $1.25 per semester per part-time student.