By Tamara Baluja, Associate Editor
The Canadian University Press has restructured its national office to bring its budget into line for the upcoming fiscal year.
CUP has eliminated two full-time positions—that of the president and the national bureau chief—and consolidated the work into one national executive position. It will also shut down its Toronto office as of May and relinquish control of the popular annual student journalist NASH conference to The Fulcrum, the University of Ottawa’s campus newspaper.
The newswire, which is a non-profit co-operative of Canadian campus newspapers, has a projected deficit of $7,000 for this year and laid off 12 part-time staff last month. CUP launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $50,000 by April 13, but had raised only about $8,570 as of April 9.
“We’re not going to be in debt after May 1, once we make these changes,” CUP board of directors chairperson Adam Young told J-Source. “But when we looked at the budget, we realized we couldn’t have two full-time positions and so we had to make this very difficult decision.”
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Young said CUP will still be able to offer its members access to legal services and some content—although seriously reduced in quantity—through the newswire.
The sole full-time staff position will be held by Jane Lytvynenko, who was the incoming national bureau chief before this restructuring was approved. She will manage both editorial and business operations of the newswire starting May 1 on a part-time basis. She will work 10 hours weekly out of a home office in Ottawa until mid-August when she will move to Toronto and work full-time until April 30, 2015. CUP is still working out the details of her office space in Toronto and hopes to secure a shared space for her.
Patrick Vallaincourt, who was the president-elect, is now out of a job. He published a blog post stating that the board of directors has undermined the election process.
“Nothing about this process feels right to me,” Vallaincourt wrote in the post. “When I applied, I firmly believed I was the best person to lead CUP through its much-needed transformation. My platform was outlined to the membership throughout the six days I was in Edmonton. It does not seem right that the next president was vetted through a 25-minute phone interview with a CUP Board hiring committee of five people.”
However, Young told J-Source “there simply wasn’t enough time to hold another referendum” and added the national executive search was opened only to Vallaincourt and Lytvynenko, both of whom were elected at the NASH conference in Edmonton earlier this year.
CUP has also given up financial responsibility of hosting the NASH conference in 2015 to The Fulcrum, one the student organization’s oldest members.
Andrew Hawley, the general manager of The Fulcrum, said the University of Ottawa campus newspaper will set aside $100,000 to host the conference and take on any liability, which CUP traditionally did if the conference did not recoup its costs.
The most recent CUP NASH conference in Edmonton turned a profit of $26,000, but that is not always the case.
“The conference is something a lot of student journalists look forward to every year and we wanted to make sure it would happen this year, which is why we were prepared to take this on,” Hawley said. “And we hope it gives CUP a chance to rebuild itself.”
The money for the conference won’t come out of The Fulcrum’s operating budget for the upcoming academic year, Hawley said, and the student newspaper, which has a long history of successful budgeting, will have measures in place to make sure the Ottawa NASH conference is profitable. For example, Hawley said the two conference coordinators will be paid a salary, but will only receive a commission if the conference turns a profit.
Erin Hudson, the outgoing president of CUP, said she hopes that members see these changes as a positive sign. “I know a lot of alumni are saying this is the end of CUP, and yes, we’ve had to make some hard decisions, but this also means CUP is being given a chance to rejuvenate itself.”
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