In response to “USC re-allocates space on UCC second floor to best meet student needs”

At approximately 3 p.m. today, the USC released its official response to the Gazette’s article “USC to replace Gazette with multi-faith” and the column “Campus press freedom weakening under USC.”

This is our response:

One of the consistent concerns the USC has heard from many faith-based groups on campus is that different faiths have different needs for programming and worship. The current multi-faith space that exists on the UCC second floor does not provide an adequate space for many different types of worship. While in the USC budgeting process we began discussions with staff regarding our current spaces and where to put the multi-faith space, our new creative services business unit and a campus media hub in order to fit the needs of the maximum amount of students.

Such discussions with The Gazette consisted of calling me into their office last Tuesday and informing me The Gazette would be moving into our composing office to make room for multi-faith. Other alternatives were not presented to me, and I attempted to provide my own ideas in hopes of reaching a compromise. We were willing to give up our composing office and move composing into Purple Door Promos, but this was shot down. We then asked if they could renovate the current multi-faith space instead to save money—student money—but, once more, this was deemed not to be viable due to the sound of concerts within Mustang Lounge. The Gazette is also located beside and above the Mustang Lounge and gets the sound pollution worse than the multi-faith space, as confirmed by a member of the MSA. Komaragiri conceded she had never reviewed the Gazette space while a concert was underway. 

As such, the USC entered into discussions with the Gazette to determine a new space that could be provided to the different faith communities as well as create an optimal campus media hub on the second floor. These discussions also aimed to ensure any new space would fit the Gazette’s needs. The USC has conducted a study to determine the best fit for multi-faith programming and worship space, including consultations with the different faith leaders on campus earlier in the academic year.

I’m unclear how the word “optimal” can be used here when the USC intends to move us to a space nearly half our size. These discussions were not adequate and when I was informed of their intention, I told the USC this move would not allow the Gazette to continue to perform at its current level. I was told by Tony Ayala, vice-president finance, that multi-faith had been deemed a “higher priority.” Ayala could not provide any statistical data to support this, save for an out-of-date survey that was then debunked by the MSA for its relevancy. He also could not offer comparative data reviewing Gazette and multi-faith concerns side-by-side.

The USC had identified the current Gazette Office as an optimal area to move the multi-faith space. They were presented with a number of options to where the Gazette space could be moved. No final decisions have been made as to where the Gazette will be moving. The USC was hoping to finalize a space allocation to present to the different faith communities once discussions with the Gazette were completed.

While the USC intends to finalize their decision this Tuesday, I was told by Ayala, speaking for Komaragiri, no other spaces except The Gazette office were suitable on Monday, January 14 and that the USC would be moving ahead with their decision to replace the Gazette office with multi-faith at a meeting on January 22.

The USC has always looked to support a strong campus media environment, as we allocate annual funds to equipment for the Gazette. This year alone, the USC has paid for new computers, software and camera equipment as well as calling together an objective working group of industry experts to provide recommendations on the long term viability of the paper in the ever changing media landscape.

The Gazette recognizes that, in the past, the USC has been supportive of the Gazette. This is evident of the capital plan that was passed by last year’s council to provide us with new computers—not this year’s government—as well as the multimedia fund that was established in 2010—again, not by this year’s council. I explicitly stated in my column that these issues arose over the past nine months—after all of these funding decisions were made. Computers, cameras and software are not the result of Fearnall’s government. 

We were surprised to see the headlines today because we’ve been in open discussions with the Gazette about spaces and had hoped to continue negotiating in good faith.We don’t think of this as pitting operations against each other, we think of this as a way to better serve the needs of a higher number of students and find more efficiencies in our operations resulting in more exposure for the Gazette.

We were told on Monday that discussions over whether or not we would get to keep our office were at an end. The negotiations were simply to be regarding renovations on the new space for the Gazette—like paint colour. It was at this meeting the Gazette announced its intention to go public with the plan, given that the USC was no longer willing to negotiate over the current office or seriously consider a multitude of viable alternatives.

From the USC’s standpoint, it seems that campus media freedom is alive and well. Despite the fact that student fees are being spent to put political pressure on the USC, we respect the Gazette’s editorial autonomy.

The USC looks forward to continuing discussions with the Gazette to ensure that their new space fits all of their needs.

Please note the use of the word “new” here.

For final clarification, it seems the USC has changed their plan for the approval process as of this morning, now insisting it will go to council. This was not the case Monday.

We are willing to discuss.