When a photo was recently published on the “Overheard at the University of Alberta” Facebook page, allegedly showing the university’s provost and vice-president Steven Dew tearing down a “U of A Not Okay” poster, comments flooded in defending the provost. The defenders argued that he was justified in removing these posters because they should have been placed in designated poster areas and they were “damaging walls with tape residue.”
They paint a picture of the provost as a good Samaritan who is just super passionate about poster placement protocol, caught red-handed in a moment of passion as he delivers justice to the rule-breaking hooligans by tearing down their unapproved messaging. The truth is likely that the university provost has not been overcome by a sudden interest in poster placement justice, but that he allegedly tore down that poster because he possibly has a disdain for student interests that do not align with administration. We should rightfully shame this kind of callousness.
It is puzzling to me why people defend the provost even if the poster he tore down violated protocol. Should students only express their discontent at the university if they do it nicely? The university has blatantly shown that they don’t care about treading on students. Did the university “ask for authorization” from students before they voted in a meal plan opposed by 94 per cent of students? Did the university really “go through the proper channels” when they raised international tuition exacerbating existing food insecurity among international students? They hardly deserve our civil courteousness. We should not go out of our way to vandalize anything, but we should also not care about asking the university where or when we can protest against them, or whether or not our posters leave some sticky residue behind. Maybe tape residue is the symbolic gesture of civil disobedience that we need in these dark times.
The most disheartening is the group of students who commented expressing their concern and support of student protestors but who commented things like “it was rightfully allowed to be taken down,” as if to say that they agreed with the student message but their hands are tied because of those poster laws. This kind of posturing is even more ridiculous than the caricature of the good Samaritan provost. How can someone truly like a poster but then cheer when it is taken down? If their moral compass is truly swayed by poster rules more than it is by international students going hungry then we have a serious problem.
Poster placement rules may be the most trite and morally empty rules that exist. Yet is hard to argue against the truth of following these rules, outside of arguing that they are very unimportant and overshadow student interest.
Now is a crucial time to be heard, as we have learned that the fee increase was needless in light of the unexpected increase in government funding that the university has received. Students should be united in the message that these fees are unwanted and should be reversed. Being nit-picky about mildly impolite protesting undermines that. Let’s recognize this situation for what it is: the provost who tears down our posters is no friend of ours.