Whatever happened to radicalism?

My mom is an alumnus of the University of Winnipeg, and one day this summer at a family event she pulled out a bunch of old copies of the Uniter from her university days in the 1970s. I was struck by a couple of things: first, the amount of content devoted to covering radical social issues in depth; and second, based on the content, I got the sense that the student movement and student groups at the U of W were far more radical and active back then than they are today. It made me wish I could somehow take the Uniter back in time to when social justice dialogue and discourse were part of the mainstream on campus and not merely on the fringes.

This is definitely not the fault of the Uniter staff; the paper today is excellent in its own right but unfortunately it is simply the case that it is a reflection of broader social patterns and trends. The current trend, and what university students in general seem to be interested in these days as far as I can tell, isn’t so much the big issues related to poverty, justice and freedom, at least definitely not as much as it was in the 70s. Not that that type of content isn’t present in the present-day Uniter, but I think on this 65th anniversary of the paper, students need to seriously think about what it is they want from their university student paper. If you think it doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. The Uniter has a huge readership and it has every potential to be more than just a paper: a vehicle for social change, dialogue, and generally stirring up shit. The whole point of having a student paper is to give students a voice, but that depends entirely on the will of the student body to participate in that process.

Compared to the student movement in Quebec, the student movement in Manitoba is pitiful. As far as I know there essentially isn’t one at the University of Winnipeg, or if there is it’s being very sneaky about it. Our Students’ Association functions nowhere near like a real union. The last time I heard about EcoPIA doing anything exciting on campus seems like years ago. I know of a couple other students groups of which I used to be a part who have seen very active and productive days but who are now floundering and on the verge of disassembling. I’d like to consider myself a pretty informed and aware person when it comes to the goings on at my university, so if there is action being done, it’s my guess that the average student is totally unaware of it. And if you’re a student organizer trying to get a message out, there’s no better way than through the student paper.

I’ve made it my goal as Comments editor to see to it that in addition to the hard-hitting news stories in the front section of the paper, the Uniter also has a space for radical voices. And not just radical voices, mind you: controversial, in-depth articles that tackle the big tough questions are always welcome no matter where the author falls on the political spectrum. The point is that I want every article to inspire dialogue and debate, the potential for which is exactly why I think the Comments section is absolutely indispensible. My motto: no fluff. But to accomplish this goal I need contributors who are willing to meet that challenge. I want community organizers, activists, student group members, professors, politicians, and any student or citizen (or non-citizen!) with something to get off their chest to write for my section.

If you disagree with anything I’ve said in this post and you want to prove me wrong, or convince me that the majority of university students these days really are active and aware and critical, (or if you do agree and you too want to see change,) I think you should do something about it. Step up and write something! Get your opinion out there! I don’t bite. I will probably think you’re awesome just for taking the time and effort to contribute anything at all. I think if you’re taking that initiative, the paper needs more people like you, i.e. people who give a shit. Whatever your viewpoint, I just want to be publishing Comments articles that are important and relevant. And I want lots of impassioned response letters. Let’s make this paper stronger and more thought-provoking than it’s ever been.