Wednesday, September 3, 2008

GSS Handbook Upheld

Nothing like a little controversy to start the fresh school year off! The Graduate Student Society (GSS), like the AMS, releases an agenda and handbook that's distributed to students for free every year. This year they asked a well-known campus activist, Nathan Crompton, to put it together. Supervising it was the GSS Handbook Committee chaired by GSS VP Student Services, Rodrigo Ferrari-Nunes.

The Handbook has been printed at a cost of at least $20,000. In addition to normal stuff like an intro to student services and an agenda, the handbook features a critical, cynical and satirical history of UBC and numerous assertions about the university's profit-mongering raison d'etre. The content proved to be too "inappropriate" for GSS President Mona Maghsoodi though. In response, three members of the Executive decided to suspend distribution of the Handbooks and lock them in an unknown location. Although Mona would not return my calls and it has been noted in other publications that she declined to say which elements of the handbook are contentious, but said it's not necessarily the "activist stuff."

In response to the nature of the content, Nathan Crompton said that "there's a certain level of satire. I don't think it's over the top." He also expressed his views on the purpose of the handbook. "A lot of people see the handbook as a way to impress the president. We didn't make that kind of handbook."

Some people think the radical political content of the handbook is fine, and withholding it is "censorship". Others find the content inappropriate for the handbook and objectionable in general. For me, the more interesting question is: How was this thing massively produced before being checked over? Presumably the president of a student society would weigh in on such a massively important publication before sending it to the printers. According to Nate, the editors did their work in the plain view of the GSS Executive. Editors held 'Open House' meetings, where executives were invited to review Handbook material, in addition to several Handbook presentations to the GSS Executive in which Executive members were informed that the Handbook would feature the activist history of UBC.

Since the the Handbook is the responsibility of the Handbook Committee and GSS Council, not the Executive, the final decision on whether or not to distribute the handbook lies with GSS Council. See the debate play out at tomorrow's GSS Council meeting! Free beer!

Happily, we've got an electronic copy. You can download and take a look a the contraband handbook itself HERE .

What do you think? Good political critique of the university's past and present, or overly negative and editorialized introduction for new grad students? What reflection does this fiasco have on the GSS as a whole?