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Levy withheld from King’s student paper for accountability reasons

The student newspaper of the University of King’s College, The Watch, has not received its most recent student levy.

This amount, $12.00 paid by each student, has been held in check by the King’s Student Union (KSU) because The Watch has failed to form its Publishing Board’s approval.

The document titled “An Agreement Between The Watch and the KSU” recognizes the paper as an autonomous organization from the KSU, except for the presence of a KSU executive on the publishing board and the chair of the KSU as a non-voting member.

In addition to these positions, the board is composed of members-at-large, a member of the faculty, and a member of the professional news media. A vote of the board is required in order to release the levy collected by the KSU to The Watch.

Issues have arisen in where this agreement differs from the constitution of The Watch. Differences between the agreement and the constitution include conflicting information on the size of the levy ($8.00 vs $12.00) and the length of term of the faculty and professional news media representatives.

The most notable difference arises from the specifications of editorial control. The agreement states: “The Publishing Board has the power to: a) make recommendations about the about any aspect of administration or content of The Watch,” which is not covered under the constitution of The Watch.

This publishing board is required to meet between October 15th and 31st, which did not happen this past year. However, several meetings were arranged after the specified dates, including November 27th and December 4th.

These meetings were missing several members of the Publishing Board and were subject to some level of miscommunication – to the effect that the KSU has claimed that none of these meetings have had Quorum, following the decision of the current board to not include the Faculty or Professional members, but which were official according to The Watch’s interpretation.

On Jan. 13 Jane Lytvynenko, National Executive of the Canadian University Press, of which The Watch is a member, released an editorial on this action, taking issue with the KSU withholding the paper’s funds.

This editorial characterized the decision as “unethical and inexcusable” and that such a decision makes it so that “students would be denied an important service.”

Lytvynenko said “the [Canadian University Press] makes it their business to know what is going on in it’s member organizations” and that when it became obvious that The Watch needed their help, they provided.

In response, the KSU released a statement on Jan. 14, explaining that appropriate meetings of the publishing board have not been held as the sole reason for withholding the levy.

The KSU added that they were disappointed with the editorial which had been written about the issue, which apparently had not approached the KSU for clarification.

Rachel Ward, Publisher of The Watch and Labour Bureau Chief of the Canadian University Press, feels that the relationship between the KSU and the The Watch has been confusing.

Ward recognizes that the current constitutions and procedures of The Watch are outdated in many ways, and that they had been planning to update and go over them throughout this year.

Ward also confirmed that the current funds of the paper were enough to allow for them to publish through the month of January and to pay the amount owed to their contributors, but not much beyond that.

Any future changes to The Watch’s governance will establish a “solid foundation to not be threatened by these debates – [which] would allow [The Watch] to build ourselves up more,” she says.

Ward also noted, in her view, the public response has been full of people coming forward to give their support and wishing to see their levy reinstated.
Michaela Sam, President of the KSU, describes the recent events as “confusing and saddening that they haven’t been able to talk with us.”

Sam also recognized The Watch’s continued importance as an autonomous news organization within the King’s community, but that when entrusted with a student levy the KSU is bound by its agreements to make sure that this levy is used responsibly, meaning that it needs to be withheld for the time being.

Both sides have said that they are looking to resolve this issue, and are hoping to have a meeting soon. At this time, a meeting has not been set.

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