Recently UPEI’s student newspaper The Cadre released report cards evaluating the individual performances of the UPEISU Executive team. The Cadre intended these report cards to provide transparent feedback to the student body about the job performance of those we voted into Council. Though we appreciate this intention, as UPEI students not involved with either The Cadre or the Student Union, we want to voice our opinion that the reports themselves are unfair and problematic.
Not only do the articles fail to cite the authors’ names and clearly cite sources, leaving room for readers to conflate the author’s opinion with researched fact, they also use a vague rubric that is highly open to interpretation. This leads to the articles criticizing some executives, especially SU president Hammad Ahmed, for irrelevant details. For these reasons, the reports seem more like opinionated attacks by an author who is reluctant to take credit for his or her work than unbiased evaluations, and we ask The Cadre to print a retraction acknowledging this.
First, the vague rubric allowed the unknown writers of these report cards to issue letter grades that do not concretely relate to the execs’ performances. Instead of communicating each executive’s actual job description and comparing their actions to it, the reports use seemingly arbitrary criteria for evaluation. Since most students are not aware what each executive’s job is, it is easy to praise or decry their performance without comparing their job performance to actual responsibilities. Without a clear rubric, the individual evaluations lack consistency: Vice President Academic and External Taya Nabuurs is evaluated in terms of her overall initiatives and accomplishments, while Student Council President Hammad Ahmed’s report card nitpicks at his scheduling details.
Second, the report cards read more like opinion pieces rather than unbiased, fact-based journalism. At the beginning of the year, The Cadre’s Editor-in-Chief published a piece entitled “In journalism, the modern man wants controversy, not truth,” a reference to Fulton Sheen’s insight into modern journalism. She stated her intention that under her editorship, The Cadre would produce accurate reporting rather than sensationalist drama-seeking.
We as UPEI students are proud that our newspaper chooses to be guided by these ideals, but feel the opinionated disparagement throughout the articles contradicts these principles. Regardless of whether the “grades” were earned, the derisive commentary throughout the reports was unnecessary sensationalism rather than factual reporting. As one example, Vice President Student Life Megan Rix’s report card concluded with a jiving comment “Rix will keep on keepin’ on, but if this first semester is any indication, don’t expect much to stand out.” This comment is not a statement of fact, and acts as an insult rather than a meaningful commentary on her performance.
Rix’s report was not the only one convoluted with opinion and criticizing remarks: Hammad Ahmed’s report card was exceptionally antagonistic. Though his responsibilities were briefly discussed, the report dismissed his significant achievements to focus on critiquing minute details of his scheduling and his manner of responding to questions. The Cadre seems to have made a concerted effort to construct an unwarranted negative image of Ahmed, which could have a lasting effect on his future, as in applying for jobs.
The report unfairly portrays the actions taken by Ahmed in a rather inimicable light, despite the fact that the actions in question are hardly worth chastising. Although being criticized for insufficient committee involvement, Ahmed sits on 16 committees, including chairing the NIFD, a meeting of which he was criticized for not cancelling. He has also followed through on his campaign platform item to pursue the installation of gender-neutral washrooms in the Library and Main Building, opening the item up to student opinion through an online survey – an action which the report card nonsensically implies is a bad thing. The report card also downplayed his significant contributions and initiatives, including installing free feminine hygiene products in women’s bathrooms across campus.
In addition to making strides to implement the creative initiatives of his platform, Ahmed has certainly performed the other roles of presidency more than adequately. For reference, the president’s major responsibilities include liaising with stakeholders outside of UPEI, implementing new initiatives as needed, ensuring the sustainability of the SU structure, maintaining relationships with partner organizations such as Holland College, being involved in committees, managing internal affairs and issues in the SU, providing leadership to the SU and to students, and taking initiative to solve problems.
While it would take an entire report to evaluate how Ahmed has completed all of these responsibilities, we feel it worth mentioning that the report failed to adequately explore these other avenues of responsibility. Therefore if using The Cadre’s own criteria, as stated in their casually-worded rubric, Ahmed should have earned at least a B grade, as he has certainly “done a great job,” “redefined his role” and “demonstrated tangible progress in his goals.” Ultimately, the report ignored the value of Ahmed’s contributions, spoke as if his involvement has been substandard, focused on insignificant details, and painted the few positive aspects that it did mention in a bad light.
As a university, we are fortunate to have a student newspaper with an energetic staff who are motivated to keep the student body informed. However, it is a disservice to UPEI students when The Cadre abuses this freedom by misrepresenting facts and writing mean-spirited sensationalist attacks for the sake of a dramatic story. The right of freedom of the press comes with the responsibility to use that freedom well, including presenting the truth impartially and acknowledging misrepresentation; otherwise, there is nothing separating fact from theory or news from gossip. Therefore, we ask that the Cadre acknowledge the “report cards” represented opinion and unnecessary, sarcastic commentary instead of objective analysis.
We as UPEI students take the initiative to ask the Cadre to print a retraction to acknowledge that the “report cards” – especially Ahmed’s – represented opinion and unnecessary put-downs rather than fact, and were unfair evaluations of the executives’ performances.
By: Sarah MacDonald and Kathleen Mawhinney
Photo: Kathleen Mawhinney
The views expressed in this letter are those of the authors and are not necessarily shared by The Cadre.