By Leveller Editors
After five long months, the Leveller is back, ready to call out injustices that try to mask themselves as fair deals, to point out the pointless platitudes that powerful people offer to those who have none, and typically raising the hackles of the far right while we’re at it.
If you’ve been around Ottawa for the past few years, you’ve probably come across one of our papers (or parts of it) fluttering around a bus stop on a windy day, or perhaps wedged under a table leg to keep it from rocking. But maybe you’ve also been hanging around a campus or community centre and noticed someone actually reading our paper, devouring the alternative media that we and our contributors work so hard to produce.
Some of you may learned to love us, while others may have decided that our paper does some of its best work lining the bottom of their hamster cage. That’s ok; we won’t judge… much.
We’re here merely to offer you some of the tools you may need to more fully understand what is going on around you: on campus, in the city, even regionally and beyond. What you do with these tools and opinions is entirely up to you, but if you’re a Carleton grad student, you should know that these are resources that you’re actually helping to support.
To take a trip down memory lane for a moment, to that far off year of 2010, the Leveller won a referendum vote (albeit by a narrow margin) asking Carleton grad students if they would like to support our independent media project. Our $1.50 has since morphed into a whopping $1.67 thanks to levies being pegged to the Consumer Price Index.
Thanks to all of you, we have the stability and independence to root out and report on the shady dealings of some of the main power-hitters on campus without fear of financial reprisal.
Now, the special issue you’re holding in your hand isn’t a format that we often hold to, although we did do something of this kind after the 2010 referendum vote in Issue 0 of our 3rd Volume. In thanks, we dedicated all 16 pages to student issues at Carleton, including socially responsible investing on the part of the university administration, labour conditions for campus employees, and the admin’s vetoing of resources for sexual assault survivors. Some of these issues, you may have noticed, remain pressing in the present.
In this issue, we also published “A Working Landscape,” a feature spread centred around Campus United, a coalition comprising much of the Carleton community, including its worker and student unions. Its raison d’etre is to keep the university administration in check, whose measures over the years have served to erode student space, job security and freedom of dissent.
Also included was a short history of student resistance to the power of the Carleton administration. A highlight from this article is the Evict Admin campaign (2004-2007), which was launched following admin efforts, led by the infamous and now retired — adieu! — Duncan Watt, to evict OPIRG from their home at 326 Unicentre.
Unfortunately, 10 years after this event, these efforts were repeated, ironically and sadly, by CUSA, who attempted to relocate the OPIRG to a closet on the first floor but were met with stiff resistance and forced to back down. What is unfortunately lost amidst the current (and sometimes heated) animosity between CUSA and certain socially minded groups — such as OPIRG and the Leveller — is that, not so long ago, these groups often together resisted the admin’s appetite for gobbling up and corporatizing student space.
Picture a time when Baker’s Lounge, the International Centre and the University Bookstore were all student spaces that did not generate any profits for the University. Without negotiations, the University moved to seize the space but were met with a 10-day, 24-hour occupation of what once was Oliver’s patio. Fourteen students were arrested in the occupation. While CUSA once offered their solidarity for actions like this, after a contingent of determined tiny Tories took control of the organization in 2012, the student association shifted their tack, cozying up to admin and attacking progressive student organizing.
As we mentioned earlier, back in Issue 0 of the 3rd Volume, there also appeared this article: “Admin Blocks Sexual Assault Centre,” which covered the students-led establishment of the University’s first sexual assault support line. Establishing this line was the “culmination of three years of student activism in the face of Carleton’s opposition to a university-funded feminist response to violence against women on campus,” according to article author Julie Lalonde, in the wake of a high profile sexual assault which made national headlines in 2007. Carleton’s administration downplayed the sexual assault and, in response to student organizing — formation of the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Centre, with the goal of creating a student-run, university-funded sexual assault support centre; an initiative which students voted overwhelmingly in favour of in 2008 — provided a myriad of obfuscations to thwart, manipulate and eventually stifle the project.
Even now, students continue to struggle with the Carleton admin’s efforts to control and deny services surrounding sexual assault and rape culture on campus. Most recently, students and admin have come to grips over the creation of a sexual assault policy as mandated by the provincial government in 2015. Over the past year, the admin held a series of consultations and meetings that have been publicly criticized by students, who claim that the university is not listening to their concerns and refuses to recognize rape culture.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom at Carleton. Or is it? Climate justice ninjas, following in the footsteps of UOttawa and countless other universities, have organized to form Fossil Free Carleton, an organization that urges admin to stop investing in non-renewable energy. They’ve even gone one step further and created the Carleton Climate Commons Working Group, a group focused on open discussion and education about climate change. Given the university’s refusal to divest from companies facilitating Israeli apartheid, we’re skeptical of immediate success but also optimistic of this initiative.
But don’t mistake us as being focused solely on our campus communities; we strive towards a larger scope. The events taking place beyond campus boundaries affect our readership as much as, if not more than, campus politics do. Important and ongoing issues in the city and in the national political landscape require that we report on them with a critical inflection, perspective and editorial bent in order for us to fully, properly and responsibly respond to them.
The Leveller has attempted to stick hard to its mandate of being a publication that leans left, that is rooted in a democratic process, that is willing to raise its voice over popular opinion and level its critical perspective at real issues and that puts the value of people over that of property and financial gain. Pursuant to that mandate, we continue to cover instances of police violence and murder against racialized populations, such as the summer slaying of Abdirahman Abdi, the land theft at the Chaudière Falls and evident whitewashing and greenwashing in the colonial “Zibi” project, to name just a couple of the many issues currently affecting our communities, from a critical perspective.
With that being said, we invite you to get involved and enjoy the Leveller this year (and forever). If you are a Carleton grad student, you are helping to pay for it! And if you are a UOttawa grad student and want give us money as well, please orchestrate a referendum question and campaign. Although beholden to our dearest members of Carleton’s Graduate Students’ Association, we do maintain the right to be fiercely independent.
These levies aren’t strictly for our own benefit either; unlike many campus newspapers, including the Charlatan and the Fulcrum, our contributors are not simply volunteering their time for the currency of “exposure.” We pay your generosity forward by rewarding our writers and content creators with something a bit more tangible. We are proud to maintain this element of professionalism in a culture that often tries to take advantage of creatives. That being said, this does raise our expectations for quality journalism.
While we strive to be hard-hitting, sharp in tooth and wit, and encouraging of new and experienced writers, remember this: we are not an activist rag (although we appreciate the valuable work that activists do and strive to report on it all) and we are not your blog post. We strive to not only print things worth reading about, articles that are accessible and well-written, we want the articles we print to provide our readership with the tools they need to understand some of the complex issues that they may not even realize surround their lives.
That being said, we want you to participate and make this your project too, no matter what your skill level. Our editing team is constantly working to foster and develop the critical minds and writing abilities of our contributors. Part of the political project that is the Leveller is to build grassroots community media skills.
This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 9, Broadsheet (Sept 2016)