By Dale Miller
After two weeks of consultation and discussion, a resolution was brought to the June 1 Student Legislative Council meeting to remove the forums outright. But after some heated discussion the resolution was amended to also “commit [the SU] to developing solely or working with other parties to develop an open online communication device with the intention to provide students with an opportunity to discuss questions or communicate on student-related or union-related issues.”
For the time being, however, the forums no longer exist.
“I don’t think they serve a purpose right now,” said SU Vice-President Operations and Finance Greg Clayton, who brought the motion. “Rights have responsibilities, but I don’t think these people [forum users] are taking the responsibility of free speech. People can say whatever they want behind a blank face and I don’t think we can solve it without verifying who is using it.”
A major problem supporters of the resolution had with the forums is that only 10 people are regular posters. They feel the image these people present to the public is not a positive one since it often involves personal attacks and petty behavior. There is also the issue of anonymous and offensive posts.
“The only people using the board are from the old SU,” said SU VP Events Alex Vyskocil. “It doesn’t represent us well, students don’t want that up there. I don’t use the forums but I read them, and you only get two or three posts out of 50 that are good.”
Not everybody in council agreed with the decision to axe the forums. A lot of discussion focused on whether or not this was a censorship issue.
“This is a debate about free speech,” said Brent Kettles, Faculty Representative for the Haskayne School of Business. “We have a forum, it’s called SLC–the students do not. The fact that anyone uses it makes it worthwhile.”
Some members of SLC felt their rights as university students include the ability to talk about whatever they pleased, and any attempt to stifle that right would be more damaging than anything posted on the boards.
“This is a university and the whole idea behind it is the free exchange of ideas,” said Academic Commissioner Ashley Martin. “Some members of council are saying this hurts our image, I think getting rid of the forums makes us look bad–why would we want people to think we don’t want discussion?”
“You want to shut it down because you don’t like what’s being said on there–that’s censorship,” she added. “We should be wanting to facilitate free discussion.”
SU President Bryan West did not feel this was an issue of free speech, but admitted his concern was about the SU’s image.
“It’s not about censorship or free speech, there are many other ways for people to discuss these things,” said West. “We are taking them down because it is detrimental to our image.”
Vyskocil was of the same mind, stating students could simply use another medium to express themselves.
“I’m taking steps to make sure we have booths in Mac Hall so we can communicate with the students,” he said. “We also hold regular office hours and have email.”
The amended resolution commits the SU to finding a good alternative to the current setup. There was some discussion on turning the forums over to the Gauntlet for moderation, but no concrete decision was made.
“We’re committed to the resolution, but we don’t have a timeline,” said West.