Looking back at 105 years of The Ubyssey

It’s The Ubyssey’s birthday!

Established in 1918, we’ve spent the last 105 years covering life on campus, from breaking news and policy deep dives, to arts, science, sports and university research. We’ve published opinion articles and satire, all while taking photos, making videos and designing countless print issues.

To celebrate our 105th birthday, here’s a trip down memory lane.

The beginning

In December 1916, a UBC newspaper called The Anon was published from the then-UBC campus in Fairview. The name changed to The Anonymous and soon was renamed to The Ubicee.

The Ubicee was a small monthly publication that was “brought into the world with a brain, but no body text: it published essays and literary pieces, but no news,” according to the 1988 70th anniversary issue of The Ubyssey.

A 1918 editorial soliciting opinions.
A 1918 editorial soliciting opinions. Ubyssey Archives

But the monthly wasn’t successful and finances were uncertain since the paper was funded by voluntary student subscriptions. In March 1917, the publications board asked for more financial support for the paper, leading the AMS to increase its own membership fee from $2 to $4 to create a proper budget for The Ubyssey. The “steady source of revenue gave the paper a new lease of life,” read the March 29, 1923 Ubyssey issue.

The 1918/19 editorial thought the paper was destined to become the Odyssey of the university, so a new name, The Ubyssey, was adopted.

According to the 70th masthead, the name “has proved to be apt,” though they didn’t foresee 105 years of editors having to explain how to pronounce it.

The Ubyssey has taken countless student journalists on a personal odyssey, through the basics of news style to the spirited parries of editorial writing, through the intricacies of student politics to the heady analysis of social issues,” read the 70th-anniversary issue.

“And the paper itself has had a rich enough history to be worthy of an epic name.”

The first Ubyssey front page dated October 17, 1918.
The first Ubyssey front page dated October 17, 1918. Ubyssey Archives

Community pushback

In 1921, the paper ran its first humour page called “Muck-a-Muck,” which then continued for 20 years. According to the 70th anniversary issue of The Ubyssey, a year after the page’s first appearance, The Ubyssey was banned from local high schools for its “questionable ‘quality of humor.’” Eventually, the paper retired the page because of a change in the relationship between the publications board and AMS.

An ad from the paper's then-printers wishing a happy 70th birthday.
An ad from the paper's then-printers wishing a happy 70th birthday. Ubyssey Archives

In 1931, then-UBC President Leonard S. Klinck ordered the paper to stop publishing because it was hurting UBC’s reputation when negotiating with the provincial government. The Ubyssey didn’t back down, leading to editor-in-chief Ron Grantham’s two-week suspension for speaking out against government underfunding. But even that didn’t stop the publication.

“In the Pub office, a corpse was found,” read a 1988 Ubyssey issue. “It bore the name ‘Free Speech.’ A funeral was held. Words were uttered. Photographs were taken.”

Ubyssey editor-in-chief Ron Grantham was suspended for two weeks. Hijinks ensued.
Ubyssey editor-in-chief Ron Grantham was suspended for two weeks. Hijinks ensued. Ubyssey Archives

The vilest rag

In 1956, Reverend E. C. Pappert, the faculty advisor of Windsor’s Assumption College’s student paper called The Ubyssey “the vilest rag you can imagine, and the best argument for censorship that could be produced.”

Pappert said this after the Canadian University Press’ Editorial Committee reported The Ubyssey was the student paper with the most relative freedom from censorship by their student councils and administration. Assumption College’s paper ranked third from last.

“But this is a university and we are a university paper. And a university is nothing more than a forum for the free exchange of opinion. If everyone liked this paper and agreed with all it said it wouldn’t be worth the paper it is printed on,” read the January 5, 1956 issue of The Ubyssey.

The paper wore “vilest rag” like a badge of honour, eventually adopting “the vilest rag west of Blanca” as its unofficial slogan.

The Ubyssey clearly holds grudges.
The Ubyssey clearly holds grudges. Ubyssey Archives

Ubyssey independence

Until 1995, The Ubyssey was part of the AMS.

But, in the 1993/94 school year, the paper’s spoof issue, called The Ufeces, featured a satirical full-page ad on the second page which criticized the AMS for playing favourites with clubs and claimed the society did nothing in students’ interests. In the same issue was a full-page spread of the only woman AMS executive in suggestive poses.

The paper also fought lawsuits that depleted its publisher’s — the AMS’s — budget, according to The Ubyssey’s 90th-anniversary publication.

In retaliation, the AMS forced out the paper’s editors and hired new ones — locking the ousted editorial out of The Ubyssey’s office to boot. Staff refused to work for the hired editors, forcing the paper to shut down after 76 years in publication.

A group of fired editors and concerned students campaigned for free press on campus, leading to the 1994 creation of the Ubyssey Publications Society and a referendum to revive the paper as an autonomous society.

On January 24, 1995, nearly 5,500 students voted in the referendum, surpassing quorum and giving birth to an independent Ubyssey. Levying a $5 fee from students, UBC had a free press on campus with no outside influence.

Ubyssey logos from 1918 to 2008.
Ubyssey logos from 1918 to 2008. Ubyssey Archives

Since independence

While we celebrate The Ubyssey’s independence and our ability to scrutinize the AMS and UBC, our independence was in part spurred on by misogynistic jokes.

We recognize that if The Ubyssey is going to continue reporting on campus issues, we need to continue to respect the community members our paper serves. The paper works to include marginalized voices in our reporting and on our staff and editorial board, but there is always more to be done.

In 2018, the paper turned 100 and held a gala to celebrate its centennial alongside Ubyssey editors, alumni and staff.

In the last year alone, The Ubyssey was nominated for 16 national student journalism awards and won 9 of them, including Student Publication of the Year.

The first editorial published 105 years ago in The Ubyssey said the paper would only be as interesting as its contents and its contents depend on the student reporters. “If you do not like the paper, get to work to improve it, but do not grouch about it in the corridors.”

Though meant in an edgy-cool-outcast way, that editorial was right! The paper is open to anyone who wants to try their hand at journalism, whether you’re interested in writing, photography, videography, design, illustration or even web development — no experience necessary.

So, here’s to The Ubyssey.

Established in 1918, vile since 1956 and independent since 1995.