A recent proposal to restructure the hiring and firing procedures at the Queen's University student newspaper has sparked controversy over its editorial autonomy.
The proposed changes include an amendment giving Queen's University's student government, the Alma Mater Society, the aut- hority to ratify elected editors. Currently, Queen's Journal editors are elected by the Journal's editorial board, business staff and volunteers who have made at least four contributions to the paper, but do not require the ratification of the AMS.
According to Sarah Hammond, Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal, the proposed changes give too much authority to the AMS Assembly.
"We don't believe members of student government should have input on who becomes editors," stated Hammond. "It's not because we don't want to be accountable, but because we report on them. We don't think the amendments were pro- posed out of any malicious attempts, but the effects could hurt us."
Claude Sherren, General Manager of the AMS and one of the three Queen's Journal board members who brought the motion forward, acknowledged the potential for controversy but stressed the changes are part of a regular review process.
"There is no agenda here," he said. "Those procedures were written in 1989. The primary objective of this review is to ensure the policies of hiring are accessible to the student body. There is currently no oversight. To conduct any election without oversight leaves the possibility for future problems."
Even more troubling to Hammond are the intended changes to dismissal procedures. The current dismissal process for editors involves either a referendum, or a two-thirds majority approval by the editorial board, the AMS Board and the AMS Assembly. The proposed changes would give the ability to fire an editor to the AMS Board of Directors with approval by two-thirds of the AMS Assembly and without consideration from the Journal's editorial board.
"The firing process they have proposed takes any voting rights away from the Journal board and gives it to the AMS," warned Hammond. "Those options could be used because they don't like editorial decisions. I don't know how they can argue it won't take away from our editorial autonomy."
Sherren stands by the policy.
"The new reality is that editors are employees and legally responsible to the publisher of the society and students," he stated. "So if an editor were to do something disreputable, who would decide if that constitutes dismissal? That's why the termination [policy] is being looked at."