Fulfilling obligations, making accommodations

We pursued the Orientation topic for a follow-up article, working with an usually large number of voices


This year’s Frosh coverage has been significantly more copious than in previous years. It’s rounded off with a final article in the news section this week, after which, in my opinion, it will have been done to death.

Of course, the series of events surrounding it was also more convoluted than usual. This article, which investigates to what degree the coordinators’ resignation affected the outcome of Orientation Week—a question posed to us, often with a ready-made answer, many times since our first article was published—demonstrated this amply.

We interviewed 11 frosh leaders, Orientation Committee members, UTMSU executives, and the coordinators to get various perspectives on what happened, and there was perceptibly more beneath the surface if we had chosen to allot even more space to the events. The number of interviewees was also higher than our average, necessitating careful navigation between the extremes of the spectrum of viewpoints.

Our news editor, Ms. Ho, had already considered a follow-up to her resignation article before we received any feedback on it. We explored one dimension of the story—the relationship between the coordinators and the executives—in a balance attested by readers of both sides, including Mr. Noronha, the president of UTMSU, but there were other dimensions we hadn’t yet addressed. Even so, what resulted is in some respects a response to some of the said feedback.

This is not to say it will appease all parties. After all, several of those who talked to us expressed their hopes for the original article in terms about which I am sceptical. In a public letter to frosh leaders, Riccardo Nero, an Orientation Committee member, described his ideal picture of our coverage as “articles that should have been about how epic this year[’s Frosh] was”. In the same vein but more diplomatically, Mr. Noronha wrote to us to ask students, “Is the main issue to shed a light on the ‘series of unfortunate events’ that occurred behind the scenes that froshies and upper-year UTM students didn’t know about? Or is it to inform and educate their readers about how Orientation Week actually went despite allegations made by the OCs towards UTMSU?”

In my mind the answer is the reverse of what is implied. The students’ union’s website has a section listing its successes that I feel no compulsion to reprint. And Orientation Week was not done in a corner. On the other hand, it’s precisely because the “unfortunate events” occurred behind the scenes and without the knowledge of stakeholders that we felt it necessary to draw attention to them.

But more pertinent than a dispute about our function is that the actual nature of the proposed findings was uncertain. After all, not everybody who approached us in person and online about the article felt that it suggested that Frosh was any less successful than it was—for some it was quite the opposite. The bottom line is that we weren’t sure precisely which versions we would end up hearing from the various voices. Personally, I consider such a lack of predetermined outcomes a strength of the form of journalism we practice.

The stories were indeed across the board, although most of those who picked up the planning from where the coordinators left off defended their work—understandably, since there was a distinct atmosphere of heroism in having “saved” Frosh. There are multiple angles to consider in regards to that attitude. How much work did they do, and were they equipped for it? On the one hand, few of the committee members had previous experience directly planning Frosh, and according to one of them they had been given few important responsibilities—and on the other hand, the resigned coordinators described the work as having been 90% finished when they quit and felt that the credit for it was eventually redirected.

In the case of other controversies, the fact that they consisted purely in interpersonal relations and sketched plans means a lack of resolution was inevitable. Could the resigned coordinators have actually organized an alternative Frosh on a small or even a personal budget— perhaps on a similar scale to the free-to-attend Queer Orientation now underway—had they received enough support? How sincere was the support initially offered by committee members who considered following the coordinators out of UTMSU during the period of uncertainty before they were given further direction? These questions ultimately come down to speculation and one person’s word against another.

Overall, though, several cohesive accounts yielded a picture of a Frosh that was no failure, despite the hostility cited by all sides and despite some plans, such as the annual community service, having fallen through. No doubt there are still elements of the story that didn’t come out in the interviews or didn’t make the final cut, and no doubt we will receive flak for them. Between the tameness and the lack of timeliness, the article isn’t front-page material. But I feel we have met our professional obligations in pursuing, to the maximum reasonable extent, the state of the union’s management “behind the scenes”, for the benefit of those who saw only the exterior.

  • Ajay

    Good article(s) about Frosh. I know its not at all in the Medium’s style, but how much could it hurt to stir up a little controversy (read: report from differing or even controversial view points) from time to time? Like in the case of this article series, it more students might want to read the Medium.

  • Leon

    Y’all did nothing wrong, you were simply reporting on a story that was worth telling, a story that would not have been told if you had not reported on it. I think that is one of the responsibilities of a journalistic institution: To shine a light in the darkness where others would ignore it. Keep up the good work and be tenacious in your pursuit of the story, because if not y’all, then who?