The Kwantlen Student Association held their annual general meeting (AGM) on Friday, March 31 where questions and comments were made about The Runner.
A student raised questions about The Runner’s coverage on the KSA and the worth of Kwantlen Polytechnic University students paying the $0.75 per credit fee to fund the newspaper.
The student’s first concern was regarding how much money students pay in their tuition to fund the paper.
The Runner and PulpMag are the two publications at KPU funded and operated by the Polytechnic Ink Publishing Society (PIPS), which is governed by a board of directors who must be current students at KPU and are elected at the PIPS annual general meeting in May.
Any student can be on the board, contribute or work for PulpMag or The Runner so long as they are not in a position of conflict of interest because that is against PIPS bylaws.
There is an optional fee of $0.75 listed in student tuition, which funds PIPS. Assuming a student is enrolled in five classes in each of the three semesters, that student would pay $33.75 for one year. The PIPS budget varies largely, given the fund is based on student enrolment rates. That amount is split between the two student publications operated by PIPS.
Below are the last several years of student fees paid to PIPS:
Student enrolment seemed to be increasing before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In 2022, with the return of in-person classes and student services, enrolment appears to be picking up again.
As the Editor in Chief is an elected position from within the contributor pool, their salary is dependent on their skillset and experience — which goes for the other staff positions in The Runner and PulpMag. The students elected as PIPS Board members receive $360 per year, and can make more if they contribute regularly to a publication.
In the 15 years of PIPS operation, no salary has risen above $40,000 per annum. The elected students from the larger membership have their information published every year, and the lack of asking for information does not constitute an attempt to hide said information.
On KPU’s website, the PIPS fee is currently listed as $0.78 per credit, which is an error either KPU or the KSA made and we all failed to notice. PIPS is working to rectify this now that the society is aware of the error.
The Autonomy Agreement is a legal agreement between the KSA and PIPS that was most recently updated in 2019. It states that PIPS is to receive $0.75 per credit.
The Autonomy Agreement also requires The Runner to publish a minimum of 18 print issues of the paper each calendar year, with at least one per month, and distribute them to KPU campuses.
The student commented that The Runner only reports on things that make the KSA look bad. While no clear examples were given by the student, we guess this is regarding the article about the KSA executive tuition benefit and the executives’ email responses quoted given that the student later commented on the publishing of executive salaries.
The tuition benefit was passed suddenly, and before that, the executive benefits hadn’t been touched since 2018. Students deserve to know why $40,000 of their funds paid to the KSA were suddenly going towards current and future executives’ own tuition. The KSA refused to provide us with documents per our requests, which raised further questions.
Under the Autonomy Agreement, the KSA shall “guarantee PIPS right to access all KSA documents and records” and “legal and professional invoices” and “information about the hours, payments and benefits of KSA councillors,” excluding human resource matters, legal advice, and in-camera minutes.
We published the facts we knew. The executives refused an interview, and opted to provide a joint statement to our questions. We included the executives salaries for context, because many students don’t know that information is available in the KSA Regulations. We expressed no opinion as to whether this is good or bad, but the suddenness of the benefit seemed out of the ordinary and we asked why.
The KSA Executive Director Parveen Sehra supported the student’s comments at the AGM, and referred to her emails with us regarding a couple errors we’d made in December about motions passed at KSA meetings.
Sehra was appointed as interim ED on Dec. 16, and at that meeting an error was brought up in which we had misunderstood the creation of the Associate President role. We had published that the role was approved at an executive meeting, but in fact it was approved to be discussed at the next council meeting. We apologized for the error and it was corrected in the article that day.
Sehra first emailed The Runner about an error we’d published regarding the Gallivan contract, which offers the extended health and dental plans for KPU students. We published that the contract was extended, but it was tabled until the next council meeting. We corrected the error the same day.
In the same email, Sehra questioned our use of quotations around the words “mentorship capacity.” As per our writing style, we must use quotations when directly quoting a source. Seeing as there was no way to easily paraphrase the statement, we opted to directly quote her words.
When Sehra expressed her concerns to us that the quotations around the words “mentorship capacity” could be viewed as having sexist undertones, we promptly responded that we would contradict our writing style because we saw her point of view and meant no harm. We opted not to note this change in the article, as it was not a correction to facts or our writing style, but also to not draw attention to something that caused concern for her reputation.
Although we have made corrections to address concerns raised to us, it seems that there was still some confusion. We then had the following email exchange with Sehra:
We are of the view that we took all appropriate action to address the concerns. We were surprised this was still viewed as not sufficient, especially by someone who is well versed in the law.
The Runner is a student run, student funded newspaper. We do not exist to only publish what the KSA or KPU wants us to. Journalism requires facts, and sometimes facts are disappointing. The Runner is independent from KPU and the KSA to maintain its integrity of reporting on events and processes either organization hosts or partakes in.
A journalist’s first duty is to seek and report the truth, which begins with gathering and verifying facts and conducting interviews. Journalism principles require us to be transparent about our methods, which is why we published them in the story about the executive tuition benefit. Our loyalty is to the people, the students of KPU, because we have to think of their interest and the truth above our own. This is what makes journalism different from advertising, fiction, and propaganda.
The Runner has covered many events that the KSA and KPU hosted, when we were informed of them and if a writer was available to attend. We are a small team with our own obligations and responsibilities outside of our jobs, just like any other student.
The Runner covered KSA Clubs Day in the fall and spring semester, the Surrey mayoral candidate forum in October, and we made sure to include event details for the Women’s Day event and Valentine’s Day event in articles about KSA meetings because we weren’t able to arrange a writer to cover them. We’ve done several articles on new student clubs the KSA approved over the past several months as well, because we know that helps inform the student body.
It would feel ironic and hypocritical if The Runner didn’t cover KSA council or executive meetings as they are both in the public interest of students. It’s also our only way to be informed about any upcoming events, because they often aren’t posted online for students to know in advance. The details to join KSA meetings also aren’t made accessible to the student body, so students don’t realize they can attend these meetings as paying members of the society.
We are open to constructive criticism and we know we are not perfect. Mistakes happen, but we want to fix them. The Runner is not inaccessible to students. Any students with questions, concerns, or tips about an event can email the Editor in Chief anytime at email@example.com. This includes the KSA council if they have a new story angle or an upcoming event they want covered.
If students have questions about PIPS, they can email the Operations Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org. That includes if they want to opt-out of paying the publication fee.
Just like you, we are students as well. We have a duty to inform the student body about events and topics you’d care about. Help us do our best to keep you updated.
The Runner editorial team