College finds itself big news in row over recruiting scab labour

April 14, 2000

A journalism department at an Ottawa university learnt a quick lesson in staff politics after a Calgary newspaper arrived to recruit summer interns.

Carleton University's School of Journalism and Communication displayed a notice from the Calgary Herald offering summer entry-level jobs to student reporters.

Below the notice was another note saying that the daily was involved in a five-month journalists' strike.

Faculty wanted students to know that they would be applying to a newspaper where the atmosphere might differ from other newsrooms in the country.

"We know the students are adults and would make up their own minds," Chris Dornan, the school's director, said.

But another decision had to be made when the newspaper decided to meet students in person. Although it was the first time in years the Herald had considered sending a recruiter across two time zones to visit two Ontario journalism departments, deputy editor Gerry Nott said the trip was a necessary recruiting tool.

"I knew that any job search should include Carleton," said Mr Nott.

With the director on vacation, the professor handling the internships mentioned the visit to others in the department and a flurry of protest ensued. "They felt that if we hosted them, it would appear as if we were abetting what appeared to be scab labour," said Professor Dornan. So the faculty decided to ban the Herald from conducting interviews on campus.

The newspaper's editor-in-chief responded with a public letter accusing the school of losing its neutrality by taking a political position and ignoring the best interests of its students.

Carleton president, Richard Van Loon, warned Professor Dornan that the ban was putting the principles of free and open debate in question and overturned the decision.

Just when it seemed that Carleton would be facing its own labour dispute, a compromise was reached at a meeting between the president, the department and journalism students. The Herald would be allowed on campus but not in the school.

The Herald ended up interviewing about half a dozen students at Carleton and offered a job to one. The chosen student said in a radio interview that she was relieved she could decline the offer - she had just landed a summer job in a radio newsroom.

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