Whitfield can’t dodge the journalists forever

Nicole Miller
Ryersonian Staff
Uploaded on 3/16/2010 4:54:58 PM

Toby Whitfield is unavailable for comment. Toby Whitfield is not responding to interview requests before deadline.

Has Toby Whitfield taken a vow of silence when it comes to dealing with the press?

Attempting to get a hold of anyone on the RSU can be a strenuous task, but getting Whitfield to even pick up his phone is just downright daunting.

The other student union executives seem to have a grasp on this. I have never run into trouble when trying to speak with Liana Salvador, Lise de Montbrun or Jermaine Bagnall, who have often been very helpful.

Maybe Whitfield holds himself to a different standard. Regardless, it’s time for a reality check.

While Whitfield is notorious among reporters for dodging questions and ignoring voice mails, as of late he has been stonewalling the media altogether. And it’s not right.

As the RSU’s vice-president of finance and services, Whitfield is the gatekeeper of all things financial.

He is also obliged to speak with the media about financial matters, something he has been dutifully neglecting for the past few months.

Students have a right to know where their money is going — after all, his $27,000 paycheque comes courtesy of the Ryerson student body.

More than a few stories have stalled because of Whitfield’s reluctance or refusal to co-operate.

He openly denies student money is being used to cover his legal costs, however when The Ryersonian asked for a breakdown of the $60,000 legal fee section of the budget, he didn’t deliver.
How convenient.

Similarly, when asked for documentation of previous lawsuits against the RSU, Whitfield failed to cough it up.

These are not impossible or unfair requests, so why the resistance?

Previously, he would at least return the occasional phone call and offer a vague comment. Now no such luck.

He is evasive and unwilling to be the subject of any media attention.

Much like the leader of our Conservative government,  Whitfield has an aversion to the media and remains silent on important matters rather than addressing them.

Like Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Whitfield has been the subject of some negative press throughout his political career, but such is the nature of the journalist/politician relationship.

While we have no problem publishing pieces showcasing good work, we also have no qualms in nailing them should they get tangled up in a scandal.

So, while being pictured in the centre of a burning budget is by no means flattering, it is not a licence to avoid the campus press.

How he is continually re-elected is far beyond my scope of understanding. However, the fact that he will serve as the next RSU president should have everyone concerned.

How can the student body expect transparency and accountability from an organization while it is run by an individual who turns tail and hides when something unsavoury arises?

Darius Sookram, RSU presidential candidate of the losing LEAD slate, ran on a platform of creating a viable system of transparency and accountability within the RSU. And bravo to him for bringing the issue to the forefront.

Students need a union that is completely accessible and unafraid to deal with issues head on. They also need a union that will act fairly, allowing reporters to do their job and disseminate accurate information, be it positive or not.

Though these solutions would be a step in the right direction, the fact still remains, we aren’t going away. And you can’t dodge us forever, so just pick up your phone.
It’s not a difficult concept.