From its questionable graphic design to its mixed messages, students had lots to say about the controversial “beefier barley” ad.
Near the end of September and ahead of the Edmonton climate strike, the University of Alberta released a billboard stating “beefier barley” with the subheading “climate change will boost Alberta’s barley yield with less water, feeding more cattle.” The billboard, part of the university’s Truth Matters campaign, aims to highlight breakthrough discoveries from researchers on campus. The ad has also been featured in West Jet’s in-flight magazine.
After the billboard garnered heavy criticism, vice-president (university relations) Jacqui Tam resigned September 29 stating that the ad “called the reputation of the University of Alberta and its extensive research on climate change into question” and ultimately took responsibility for the ad.
After the university refused to comment, The Gateway took to campus to ask students on their thoughts on the billboard and subsequent resignation of Jacqui Tam.
Joey Ting (header) — first-year Masters student in Environmental Engineering
“I don’t know to what extent the [vice-president university relations] was involved in the process but if they were heavily involved I think that was a good move on them. I understand both sides [of the billboard]. I understand what they’re trying to say — I don’t agree with it — but I get what their point of view is. I didn’t take [the ad] that way though. “
Josh Rutherford — first-year environmental science student
“It’s kind of perplexing. Anything the U of A is publishing has to go through a bunch of [processes] so obviously people saw [the ad]. I’m not sure why it would go through so much processing if it was a mistake — somebody should’ve seen it. The point of climate change awareness is that [climate change] is causing bad situations that are detrimental not just to the environment. For this one little perk, the repercussions aren’t worth it.”
Sarah Collins — second-year forestry student
“Changes aren’t necessarily a bad thing and how much of an emergency [climate change is] is based on how much we value things staying the same. At the same time, the science is very clear that it’s human-caused and trying to promote that as a positive without including anything else on a billboard was a poor choice. The [resignation] was surprising to me but not uncalled for — it may have been a good decision. The university just wants it to go away now, so by resigning, it will. I would like to know and hear a little more from the university about their reasoning for it.”
Sydney Palmer — first-year general science student
“When I saw the billboard I didn’t know too much about it, but I think it’s a bit too much and a little offside. That’s not something that should be that big and advertised. I feel like the [resignation] is a bit obvious, but I feel like it’s a totally offside situation in general.”
Johnny Lee — first-year engineering student
“I don’t have too much of an opinion on it. My friend showed it to me and I was like ‘is this real’ and then I just kinda passed over it. The resignation kinda seems harsh but at the same time… I guess it was justified.”
Toshi Uyesugi — third-year biochemistry honours student
“Why is the ‘ley’ [in the ad] so big? I think it was interesting timing. It’s probably facts but to who are you advertising to? Pro-climate change? No one is pro-climate change, you’re either against it or it doesn’t exist. I feel like the [resignation] was a little extra because I don’t see anything really wrong with it but I’m just like why [put out the ad]? But the ‘ley’ bothers me so much — I think they should resign because the sign is really ugly.”
Adrian Madrinan — second-year education student
“I’m definitely against the whole thing, I want to save the environment. I can see why they would resign. This goes against a lot of other people’s values too, so I don’t think it’s very appropriate.”