Is the editor of the student newspaper as important as the Execs? This is one of the issues which will be put to a randomly selected panel of students at the ‘Better Union’ forum on the 2nd February. The panel will have to reach a near-unanimous decision on this, or else it will go to the student body as a whole for a referendum.Although the specific question on the agenda is about whether the next Gryphon editor should receive the same coverage during the leadership race as the Student Exec, the question also relates to the role of the Gryphon Editor in our Student Union more generally.
There are numerous arguments being made against this motion that deserve full responses. Firstly, there is the sense that the Exec hold a more important position within LUU. The argument goes that the Gryphon is just another society wanting to hold an AGM alongside the ‘big’ elections.
However this profoundly misunderstands the role of the Gryphon within LUU. The only society entrenched in the bylaws. The salary of its editor is paid for by the Union as is the actual production of the paper, which, in fairness, is partially offset by advertisement sales. As is written in the motion of the idea: “The Editor-in-Chief is responsible for what the student body reads, and how it is read.” This stylistic control is not analogous to any other paid role within LUU; the power of the paper to set the campus agenda is unmatched and this position of power cannot be left solely to the editorial team to elect.
Secondly, the objection that the skills and qualities of a great editor are not suited to the pressure and scrutiny of a campus-wide election. On this point, we must understand that The Gryphon has to be able to engage societies and students in its working or the legitimacy of the newspaper will ebb away. A leadership race serves to renew the bond between the paper and the students who fund its existence. The LUU leadership’s decision last year to undermine this relationship raises larger questions of the Union’s commitment to a student press.
The Gryphon has to be able to engage societies and students in its working or the legitimacy of the newspaper will ebb away
Finally, the question is of finance: why should LUU devote more money to an election? This misunderstands the wording of this idea – a question of the distribution of resources already allocated rather than asking for an increase in the overall budget.
Each of us will come up with our own response to this idea but hand in hand with freedom of speech goes the right to be heard; the Gryphon is one of the only student platforms with a wide enough audience to make an impact on political decisions and political discourse.
This is a question of social value, not just financial value. The Gryphon is not just a cluster of like-minded students wanting to improve their CV but, at their best, they bind this community of disparate interests together. The sense of community within campus is not solely served by the student newspaper but it is one of the few institutions which encourage students to look beyond what is going on in their own lives and recognise they’re part of something larger.