Western's USC: The role of student government on campus.



it's now my great pleasure to introduce to you our guest speaker for today Matt health and is the president of the Student Council he graduated from Northern secondary school in 2009 and was an active leader in summer camps a swim instructor activity leader for outdoor wilderness living skills and director of special programs he came to Western to study political science and earned his honours BA in 2013 while completing his master's degree in political science he was a member of the student council as president of the social science student body and during that year he ran a successful campaign to become president of the USC in 2014 for recreation Matt likes the cycle to run and play the guitar and now his term is coming to an end he's looking forward to traveling while considering going back to university as a law student match will share with us his take on student government here at Western the challenges it faces and that he has dealt with its role on campus and how the USC interacts with the university administration please welcome Matt health and morning everybody and you can hear me this is a a new form of mic I've never actually worn one of these before thank you all so much for the invitation today so my office is just on the third floor and every Tuesday when I look out the front door and they see a group of vivacious young and good-looking people I wonder how could I possibly be a part of this audience or this group and just my luck Here I am today so it really is an honor now today I'm going to be speaking to you about a couple topics I'm gonna be speaking you about the University students Council the job that I have my history with student government here on campus and my experiences this year and then I'm gonna be changing gears a little bit and talking about something that's that has been a kind of filtering through my whole experience here with this organization here on campus which is freedom of speech on campus and the role of Student Union's in either promoting or suppressing that speech and freedom of expression so we're gonna be changing gears a little bit halfway through but hopefully hopefully it flows nicely and additionally we'll be having a question and answer period I believe after a brief coffee break which is always always wonderful so I'm gonna get into it right now so first I'm going to answer the the basic question of what is the university students counsel like I said and my story and freedom of speech on campus don't worry there's a lot more photos later on the text is is just this so so first off the question is what is the University Students Council and it's helpful to hearken back to what our mission statement is a mission statement is a very important piece of any organization and it ours is to enhance the educational experience and quality of life for all undergraduates at the University of Western Ontario I think if there's someone from Western communications they'd probably want us to change it to Western University and and same with our logo but it's very difficult to change our trademark so you're gonna have to live with it Western communications and so what we do is a number of different things to try and fulfill that mission statement and it it can be broken down into what I think are two main priorities or two main two main themes of our organization which is advocacy and service provision so basically what that means is we try and get other people to do stuff for us for students for the organization and we also provide services for students and fill students calendars outside of class so we ask people to do stuff and we give students opportunities and things to do we're different from all the other councils on campus so Western is quite unique in fact likes I believe that it's unique in that at every single level of decision-making within the university there is a student body that's elected that is there to hold those decision-makers accountable and provide that necessary feedback and I do say quite confidently that the Western administration takes student feedback exceptionally seriously so have a laser pointer on this no that's the wrong button I'm not even oh yes there's a laser pointer wonderful okay so other councils on campus I've provided some of the logo this is our logo here the science student council Kings University students college Brescia University students Council here on social science Health Science Engineering this is a train the ues and it actually looks there's a U and E and a NASA it took me a long time six years here at Weston to figure that one out but each each faculty has their own Council that deals with their their faculty Dean's and they work in partnership and they do similar stuff so they advocate and they also provide some services and they provide opportunities for students there's also an interesting thing which is in every one of our residences has their own student council so people within the res you live within there they're elected and they and they hold the decision-makers they're accountable but also help participate in facilitating programming again advocacy filling students calendars now how the USC is composed the USC is a democratic organization so we're democratic but we're also an incorporated body so we're separate from Western we're distinct and our highest governing authority is our Council our council is composed of of faculty single faculty across campus so there's representatives from every single faculty and meet once every three weeks in our council chambers to discuss issues to pass motions to do the things that student governors like to do we also have a board of directors this is our board of directors outside and it is on the third floor we used to have used to be the case that the executive the USC executive was the board of directors it became a bit of a it certainly was a huge conflict of interest having the highest ranking political people also the highest ranking corporate members so we externalized that board still it's all students and they are appointed by our Council and a committee then we have the USC executive now this is this is the good stuff of course because this is me and my team that's me right there sitting down in the beginning of our term we look so young and full of life and now we're just cynical and and jaded no that's it's a bit of an exaggeration we've actually had an excellent year so this is that's that's me that's Emerson Emily Jen Sam and Andrew we each have a different portfolio communications communications finance external internal and student events all of us were students at Western and this is a full-time paid salaried position that we take on in this in this role so three of us were elected as a team me and Jen and Emily and the other three were elected by Council so they were elected internally and that's actually changes here and I'm gonna get into that but they were elected internally so we're all elected we each have our own portfolios and me I manage I manage the group and that entire portfolio so the USC where we're a student council and we're a corporation and we do a lot so through our Ledger's every single year we see over 20 million dollars pass through our books we run a variety of different business units including a film a second run movie theater that we're sitting in right now this moonlights as a movie theatre and to varying success about this year we're we're really trying to ramp it up it's been it's been a really good experience trying to work on on a movie theater we run the purple store which is our clothing store in the basement and again the clothing store sorry not in the basement on the main floor and the real reason we have that clothing store is which sells Western apparel and it's to hold the books accountable because we don't want their prices to go up too high so we can keep a little bit of healthy competition there that's another thing that we run the wave and spoke are two of our most popular operations of course and today it's gonna be exceptionally popular with it being st. Patrick's Day the spoke we sell a lot of bagels there so I'm a Jewish man from Toronto and the fact that I run a bagel I don't actually run it but I'm the CEO of an organization that sells more bagels than anywhere else in London is an outstanding accomplishment and and it really is something that I'm exceptionally proud of so I never thought I would be there in my life the bagel king of London I guess that's a little bit ostentatious of me but I you know what it's mice lecture so I can I can say what I want and now also we run that we run in this building so we lease it from the University and that's a very important thing to note in that much like faculty Dean's lease their buildings and they have to pay through their tuition that they receive we also lease this building so we help administer everything that goes on in this building and that's very very important for us because a lot of this building is just student space so student space to study student space to lounge student space to drink beer whatever they want to do that's what we provide and so it's a very very important part of who we are advocacy like I said advocacy the definition that I provided trying to get decision makers and resource holders to do things that we cannot do alone that's supposed to say alone not along but do things that we cannot do alone so when we see someone who has something that we can't and off that I mean we're students so there's all sorts of people out there who are stakeholders within the city within the university and we try and get them to see our way that's basically at the very core of what we do and so included in that would be Western internal advocacy the city of London and also the province and to some lesser extent the federal government we're involved in in varying degrees with all of those different things so we'll start with internal internal advocacy trying to get people at Western to do things that we want to do pictured here is me and my executive team alongside the entire senior leadership team of the University Jana's Deakin dr. Ouma chochmah John Capone Kelly Cole all these people are are the high-ranking people within the university and so one of the very cool parts about this experience is sometimes I get to sit at these decision-making tables with people who are earning six or seven times my salary so I like to think that they owe me a little bit of money and this will be recorded on their YouTube page so hopefully we can we can make that happen but it really is exceptional to be around these people who are so intelligent and have made it so far in their in their trade and I get to sit at those tables and have those discussions and same with my team so internal advocacy and and the university is obviously our most important partner but also the the group that we that we advocate to the most and it's on a variety of different issues and opportunities so the students face a very high level of stress and so advocating for student supports mental health counseling academic resources career resources these are the big things that are exceptionally important but then also even a small stuff so even a small stuff and if it's important to my students it's important to me and you'd be surprised at the level of things that that we get so microwaves exceptionally important we need to you would never believe that I was sitting with a VP of the university trying to develop a long term microwave plan that's a thing snow days again there was a big storm we didn't have a snow day other schools did students were very upset and they came to me I don't control the snow but but I you know I I did have to ask the questions the University what are our policies on snow days because if it's important to my students it's important to me now again goes from very high to low level stuff but and it can be informal in just conversations or very formal that this form of advocacy so we actually put in a budget submission to the University and that they have their budget and we articulated our priorities to them included some of the things I said as well as maintenance and modernization of the infrastructure a lot of the things that are are things that we already know that are their priorities but we put it in there because it's mutually beneficial for us to say this is what we want this way you want students work together with administration it works well but it doesn't always work that way municipal advocacy the City of London so we are Western students but we're also citizens of London for the time that we're here and and for many of us beyond so it's very important that we work to build a better London we're important non-for-profit in the city and so pictured here is me and my vice president external with the mayor Matt Brown and here with police chief Brad Duncan and and Brent Shay that deputy police chief Brent Shea so we have conversations with them quite regularly this year we dealt with a number of different issues one that's particularly important today and we'll see where what happens at the end of the day I might have to be on call on the radio because it's st. Patrick's Day project learned liquor enforcement and reduction of noise which is a police project which has been very heavily in the news as well as town-gown relationships which is has been a very big priority of me and and many kudos to Jen she actually sits on the town and gown committee and she redrafted in terms of reference this year it took a long time and she worked exceptionally hard for that so we work with the city on a bunch of different stuff transit is exceptionally important the students represent the single largest ridership of the LTC there's something like Western has including graduates and full-time equivalents something like 40,000 students at Fanshawe and there it's another 15 20,000 add the opp College Westerville College London is full of students there are a lot of students here and Western students represent the single Western Fanshawe undergraduate and graduate represent the single largest ridership of the LTC were an important stakeholder garbage collection you got me thinking about garbage collection big thing the seven what's with this this multi-day the non seven-day garbage cycle it's it's it's just mind-blowing and so this is something that's highly frustrating students and apparently it to change it would cost millions and millions of dollars but again if it's important my students it's important to me and it is important to me because it's I mean as my roommate sitting at the back he knows that that sometimes we have a lot of difficulty with the garbage as well this year it was an election year so this was very important we ran a get out the vote campaign again Jen was very important to this we call the Western votes we were able to get students registered to vote and we were able to somewhat boost the voter turn we actually a Western student who was running as a council member he did quite well his name's Amir furrow he good friend of mine I was on the London Youth Advisory Council with him proud should've included that in my bio actually I was on the ly see with them very impressive and I'm very curious to see where he goes me and him are in a race to see Franken gets the prime minister fastest and I've got I've got four years ahead of him so we'll see how that goes but but getting out to vote is very important to make sure that people realize that students are very very important stakeholder here moving on provincial advocacy so this is very important as well to us Ontario the province it's their duty to take care of education that's their constitutionally delineated authority and so we are our active participants in the Ontario undergraduate students alliance this is me pictured with razza Murray who's the minister of MTCU which is called training colleges and universities and of course Kathleen Wynne who's our premier and she came to visit and I mean one of the things that's very interesting about my roles I mean personal politics aside it's also very always very very cool to meet people like this and premier Wynne was actually my school board trustee back when I lived in Toronto and there's this old document that my mother still has is when I used to volunteer in the principal's office on my recess I don't know why I did that but I did it and and there's a message from our trustee which is Kathleen Wynne so our photos were we're on it on it together very cool and then as well so this is Lisa McLeod she ran for PC leadership so cry cross the house anyone who comes to Western I will meet with them and I'll be happy with them I don't think she actually she dropped out of the race but but very very nice and very cool very very good however Western we've had a number of different politicians that come in I thinking dr. Kelly leach came just a couple months ago she's the Minister of Labour of course there's moving into federal advocacy Justin Trudeau who was here just a couple months ago and stiff and Dion who you can barely see but that's fine because in real life you can barely see him anyways sorry I'm sorry I just he looks a bit better on this screen right here but federal advocacy this is one that's very important so we were part of the Ontario undergraduate students Alliance we used to be a part of the Canadian Alliance of student associations but we've actually left that organization so we're trying to figure out what our role will be in federal advocacy but some of the some of the things that we that we law beyond obviously OSAP so the Ontario students a student loan program is funded largely by the federal government but it's administered by the province so we want to make sure it's efficient small things like the tax credits being housed in one hundred another ministry have a very big effect on students especially around election years it's very important for us to get in front of those decision-makers and we do so we do an annual Lobby week where we go to Queens Park and talk and then at the federal level it's a bit different only because they don't have the constitutional authority over education post-secondary education but there are still effects that they have now federal law because yes this is me advocating federally this is Wilfred Laurier a statue of Wilfred Laurier see this is how serious I take my job I will leave no stone unturned I will talk to a statue if it means helping my students it's very very important but I thought it wouldn't include this one here so campus programming so moving on to the advocacy section I'm going to move on from that that's how we try and get people to do things in the interest of students and I think we do it quite well but then is the aspect of filling students calendars and providing direct services so my phone is reminding me senior alumni speech I'm like I know I'm here right now thank you very much phone but filling students calendars outside of outside of the the classroom so what you see here is our clubs Club systems this is me and my one of my vice presidents Emily dr. almond chocolate and and a student who's a club president during club's week so I was able to drag him out to clubs because very good he really enjoyed seeing all the student clubs we have one of the biggest club systems in Canada and so a variety of different clubs almost anything from cultural clubs to paper art clubs to the tea club to the knitting club the knitting club is one that I that I really like it's like nine people and they're all really really good at knitting oh you're knitting right now that's amazing you could join you could join the knitting club but a variety different clubs and then a huge one which is orientation week orientation week is a joint program that we put on with the University so it's the USC and housing that are joint administrators of this and this is something that we see hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of student volunteers this is just a cool photo we had a lightning storm which is an interesting thing because there was a this year there was a lightning storm and how many people here have ever been booed by seven thousand people probably probably nobody but I have and it felt I felt terrible but what happened is there was a lightning storm and I had to go up on stage and and tell people that they had to clear out of the bowl out of the out of the stadium and I said everyone sorry they just I'm only here for your safety but they don't listen to that and you know what I took it it felt like I don't know like Vince Carter coming back to the Toronto Raptors you got booed I'm like you know that's pretty cool but this is a huge one we see all the six thousand incoming students and it's largely administered by our student volunteers and and the OP take on the people who want to be these orientation volunteers is just massive you put the Nate you if you we have a very hard time getting people to event sometimes but if you put soughing which is the volunteer things as part of that people will come out in droves so it's a very very important thing for our students in a very big cultural aspect of the Western undergraduate experience is orientation week and that's for better or for worse other source of campus programming this right here is an event that I started this year it's called beer fest it was a huge hit this was an absolutely hit so outside on concrete beach after homecoming we we got a bunch of craft brewers that came in and the students paid $5 that $5 went to a donation to the Alzheimer Society of Canada and and it came and they got a burger and and some chips and they were able to sample as much beer as possible and it was right the beginning of our term and we were like well you know check the year this is what you're gonna be remembered for the rest your term it said I will take it because this was an excellent event and also we just had an event last week of a concert by Canadian singer-songwriter brought them out to the Mustang lounge so again filling these opportunities for students and having fun it's very important for me that students have fun when they're outside the classroom I mean I mean of course in moderation but we can help provide that and so I actually ran on my platform was was a platform point that said focus on fun because I recognize that if people think they're having people are having fun and they associate that fun with us and with me it will enhance our advocacy efforts so I know that when I'm going to the administration and I'm saying this is very very important to students if they know I can't bring people out to anything or they know I don't have a connection with students or they don't connect with me it's not going to be that valuable it's just a title but if we're able to connect with students on a level that might be very based giving them some beer on a sunny day that helps that and it did help and so that was that was my philosophy with us now moving to my story with student government it's a bit of a unique one when it comes to the context of our council insiders or our student council people and it can be it's interesting because it can be a little bit bloodthirsty I think there's a Mark Twain quote at least I've been falsely attributing this quote to Mark Twain for my entire term but like I really I could just google it but I don't know Mark Twain he said student the politicians no he said student politics is so bloodthirsty because there is so little at stake and I think it's actually very true because from my experiences people get really riled up about all sorts of stuff and the stakes are it's not like we're launching cruise missiles here but you know what people people care people believe in it so my story was student government when I was in second year university I decided I want to be the president of the social science student council remember one of the different councils and again I don't really know why just like volunteering in the office i when I was in grade six I don't really know why but I decided you know I'm gonna be I want to be President and so I put in my form for council member and I was disqualified because I missed the all candidates meeting I just didn't I was very pissed off of myself I'm like how could I miss the all cannons meeting but you know what I'm gonna move ahead with my plan because my plan was to be a counselor and then run for president so I say you know what next I'm just gonna run for president and I ran for president of the social science students Council with zero experience absolutely I was a heretic to the council insiders because the gentleman who I was running against had a ton of experience and he'd been there forever and he thought he was gonna win he was so upset when when he lost because he wasn't prepared for me I just came in with a lot of energy and a lot of zeal and very no experience I was saying nonsense it was just it didn't make any sense but people were buying it and it worked and and it was it was exceptional so I ended up winning and you know what I learned very very quickly is that a position or a title is nothing without trust and it's nothing without respect and I learned that because when I went into the Royal I thought oh I'm president people just are listen they did not listen to me they didn't they didn't care I mean not the deans were talking about the felt my fellow students because they were all on this other guy's campaign team they all loved him but we were I was able to gain that trust by just being like a normal person because it cuz they they often were like oh the environment last year was poisonous and it was there's all this stuff and I was like you know let's just have a conversation come here when we didn't pass any motions through Council our committees never met we didn't need to but we just had a conversation every week and we were able to put on some good programs and advocate for some good change so again filling opportunities and advocating for change we got a hundred thousand dollars invested in academic counseling that was a big win I was also very active on the USC at that year and so and I will correct my bio just very slightly I actually I came back I finished my year I was asked to run for president by a couple people president of the USC I said no I didn't want to I was done with it there were a bunch of incidents like bullying within the soft teens the orientation leader team I just didn't understand it and so I just came back to do my master's degree and I was totally done with student government I was sitting in class one day and someone pointed out to me the bylaw for the USC the eligibility bylaw and now it's an undergraduate student council the graduate students have the Society of graduate students the undergrads have the USC and I was a graduate student and someone pointed out to me that within the bylaw I might actually be eligible so this is the part where people either respect me or start to hate me but there was an eligibility clause on this of what it is I'm gonna read it out for you it says candidates in the spring election shall be full or part-time undergraduate students at the university at the time of their candidacy and shall be planning to be full part-time undergraduate students at the University for the duration of their term in office except for president or vice presidential candidates except for exceptionally important now what it meant what they tried to mean was it like I said earlier it's a full-time job in this role so they said so it's a full-time job so you're not in school so the except for was to wow they're an office but you but I came in I said well you have one clause here and this except for is applying to the entire thing that's why I said it's a legal principle that I got a little bit of legal advice that said it's it's the there are two principles the principle of the last antecedent or redondo it's not some latin term that says basically treat each of their own so either you're gonna have this negating clause be just for the last thing or for the whole thing and I made the argument I went in the election to me I said this is what your viola says you cannot violate your bylaws and I was able to convince them that I should be eligible to run and with a variety of different tactics similar tactics that I probably used when I was running with no experience for the social science students Council but I was able to win and I found two vice-presidents Emily and Jen Jen was the president of the Kings students Council Emily was the president of the Cure on students Council and I was the former president the social science students Council we had a big constituency big following and we won with 66% of the vote we got a supermajority we just swept it and then as soon as I got an office I closed up the loophole because obviously it should not be like that but it is you do what you you know I had to change my hat from being the candidate who really wants to win the bloodthirsty student politician because the stakes are so low to the guy who's now the CEO and the president I have to make sure that it's fair and and so that's the big change that I made right away so the health and rule no longer exists so if they're any grad students are gonna be out watching I'm sorry that's I that's the scorched earth policy that I that I follow so like we ended up winning this that's it this is us together celebrating and on and on the front cover of The Gazette as well highway to health and this I had this little quote here and it says tonight we celebrate tomorrow we get to work that's what I said it's so it's cheesy and they're like that's a great court I'm like yeah I had a canned and and and this was the same court I did when I won social science student council president so that's that's just one of the things but you know politicians they have their little lines that they like to do now when I came in now my experiences during this year have been incredible the role of president of student council is something for 23 year old and 2024 this Saturday is just an out-of-this-world experience I mean to be in to be I used to paint I used to work at summer camp and paint houses and then to jump up from not even low-level management or anything like that but all the way up to chief executive just for one year is this immense experience and being a bit of like a local celebrity on campus is something that's very very cool and I really enjoy that and so we've been able to do a number of different things so here's Beerfest again you can tell I'm very proud of that we created a new peer support center which is very very important and we got a $50,000 donation from an external donor we changed our council composition something that previous groups had totally failed to do and we change it we shrunk it down this was a very big accomplishment for us passing our budget was exceptionally important we did it last week we passed our budget unanimously and with no abstentions this is actually a very big deal because the last two years when I had been on I had been a very chief cause of headaches for those presidents who were trying to pass their budgets and so it's very clear that I am the X Factor when I'm on one side the budget they don't pass unanimously but when I'm on the other side they pass unanimously and without abstentions so that was very important and then also homecoming homecoming we didn't have any campus programming for homecoming nothing particularly thorough and so we we worked very very hard with the university to create a new program for homecoming an american-style homecoming this year was a little smaller but next we're hoping to make it very big and this is in response to a lot of the things that go on off campus a lot of off-campus behavior we also created an appeals board which is external to us which is still students but this was very important for those I know I saw a bunch of you reading The Gazette I don't know how frequently you do there's a little bit of not controversy but maybe some hiccups and the our current election and there's gonna be some appeals that are launched and it used to be the case that president and their executive was the appeals board so that's a really serious issue so we externalized it its students but they are this quasi legal board that's binding on our so those are my experience not gonna switch gears a little bit this is a gear a gear switcher because that's that's symbolically what I'm about to do I'm gonna talk about freedom of speech on campus this is where it gets a little bit interesting this is something that I like to talk about a lot and I really it's very very important to me because as you see here that this quote from Voltaire I disapprove of what you have what you say but we'll defend to the death your right to say it this is a principle that I hold very very dear because I think there's nothing more important than free exchange of ideas on a university campus and some of the things I've seen across Canada student unions and across the UK and America it makes me it makes me question what our role is as a student union and what is it what is it that we do and so there's there's this tendency that I've seen around universities in Canada and we just actually received every year we receive a ranking from this justice center it's this right-wing think-tank that that Reitz University campuses on their freedom of speech they give them a letter grade and Western and the USC have gotten a failing grade for the past 10 years and no other school is any better like everyone fails they fail it and at first I'm like I just doesn't make sense to me like I mean look Here I am I can say what I want it's not totally it's not as if this is North Korea here this is it can't be an F but it got me really thinking about it what does it mean to get this ranking and what does it mean to have freedom of speech on campus and very importantly for me how if my experiences kind of made me understand what the role of a student union is in helping to either foster or suppress freedom of speech now for many different reasons student governments across Canada the UK in the United States have been censoring all sorts of things and and it leads me to a very specific question that I asked and when you're on a university campus or when you're anywhere in this world do you have a right to not be offended that's a question that I ask myself quite often and I struggle with it and I've come to the conclusion that people on a university campus and maybe elsewhere but often students on a university campus have come to expect that they can live their life without being offended that they can actually that they they expect that they should be able to do whatever they want without anything offensive to them now obviously there's a very big difference between offense and the criminal code of hate speech and that's something I'll get into but the notion that people can get around campus without being kind of hit with ideas or notions or or opinions that offend them or they don't like is just preposterous but that seems to be the general attitude and so I'd like to point to a few examples of experiences that I've had the first is an example of an event that was put on by by one of our religious clubs on campus and it was hosting in a former adult film actress and she was she's a born-again Christian and she's talking about the the industry that she was a part of and apparently she made a variety of disparaging comments toward the industry that was offensive to some of the students who were there and so I received a series of scathing emails from from a couple students who said and the USC we helped to pay for it with one of our grants we have a grant system clubs can apply they can do events a scathing email saying not only that should this never have taken place on campus but the USC should never ever be funding this sort of thing we shouldn't you should never be funding this you need to take more care and the sort of people that you you give money to and so this is important for me because I mean we collect fees from students they don't have a choice they don't have a choice to pay our fees where they just pay them and so we represent everyone and so I mean I hear this at Ana and I'm very intrigued and they say you have to prohibit these things you cannot pay money to them and so immediately I'm faced with this difficult situation where this couple students are clearly very upset about what was said during his presentation or the fact that this presentation was here on campus but at the same time this presentation clearly represented the views of a group of students this other group of students this club wanted to bring it on and so my response to the student was quite simple she she came into my office and she was she was angry and she said you need to apologize you need to make sure this doesn't happen again I said I'm not gonna apologize I can't do anything more than we already do to vet our speakers but this is what you should do you should write a letter to the editor and then Gazette and express your arguments express your opinions on this she stormed off she's very upset that she didn't get her opinion but sure enough three or four days later I saw a letter to the editor and you know what I agreed with a lot of this person's argument said this is very fair what you said but this person exercised their political and they did the right thing and I really hope that she learned something from it in that hopefully her opinions are not strengthened by having been challenged by by an opposing view now I really that was one of the first moments were like you know it's I'm happy that we were able to bring this person on I didn't go to the event why didn't I go to the event because I didn't agree with it I didn't want to be exposed to I didn't I didn't care to go there but that's what other people need to realize if you you have options in this situation and prohibiting it a priori or in advance is just not appropriate another example a student in a class again we don't control professors but a student in the class in a class came to me and he said this professor is telling me things I don't like I don't really am angry with the things these professor saying can you do something about it I said well no I can't this is your option and I hope you take the first one the first option is to stay in that class and argue with this professor strengthen your views and prove to this professor that your opinions are right or leave the class I don't care do you want it to person stormed off hasn't spoken to me since but but I would stand by that I'm not gonna say you know I'm gonna go go over to the Ombuds person and let's work through this that's absolutely unacceptable we have a bunch of different class on campus choose the ones that you want to be a part of or choose to hopefully choose the ones that challenge you now up on here we have a bunch of controversial speakers so these different people have come to campus for a variety two different reasons Conrad black real arrogant bastard this guy but he came to campus and we helped to fund him in one of our grants and people were so upset again same situation you could never fund this guy do not fund this guy and I say well write a letter to the editor and exec go protest or better yet go to the event ask him a tough question and watch him squirm that's what you should do now of course he's not gonna squirm cuz you ever seen Conrad black talk the guy very interesting guy but that's what I said this person again not very happy with the response but there was a letter to the editor in Gazette using their political voice and cult or similar situation a she's pretty offensive I really don't like her but again comes to campus there's okay Stephen polos he's our governor of Bank of Canada people were upset that he made some comments about unpaid internships they were very very upset they said and I got demands because he's on the side of our social science building you need to get this this down take this I'm like come on like don't even where there's represent from alumni here so it's part of our be extraordinary campaign I said you know what you can talk to alumni ask them to do it but I'm not gonna hold your hand through this if you have an opinion if you face or something you don't like argue against it use your voice but don't expect it to just disappear off the face of the earth that's just not gonna happen and now I mean here's another thing Jane Goodall so this is an example I just had to throw up Jane Goodall came to campus this year who was most recently in the news for plagiarizing her book plagiarizing her book and nobody cared nobody cared so you know people are very selective on what they get angry about maybe because she's just a nice old lady with chimpanzees but but I don't know nobody cared and that's a that is a real affront to the to the institution plagiarism but but apparently this is this one is totally okay so freedom of speech on campus back to the topic and I use a specific case study of a song called blurred lines by Robin Thicke Robin Thicke funny enough is the son of Alan Thicke who's one of our alumni one of our esteemed alumni and this is the height the fastest selling digital single of all time very very catchy song but it contains some lyrical content that many people thought was objectionable they didn't like it they said that it was misogynistic that it was promoting a culture of sexual assault and misogyny across campuses and I mean that's the opinion of some people and it was banned by 20 student unions across the UK countless more across Canada including the u.s. see last year I wasn't present but last year the USC banned this song during orientation week they banned it they just said it's not okay so I mean this this discussion isn't necessarily about the lyrical content of the song it doesn't need to be and while the song is exceptionally catching all over the radio I don't necessarily disagree with those people who don't like the lyrical content but let's be very very clear when you ban a visiting DJ from playing a song that is censorship when you were student council president who says to a DJ you cannot play this song because it might offend some these people that is the censorship that is there's there's no way about it this is not defense of some of the arbitrary values that is censorship that's what it is and so it really is a very very slippery slope because music is a form of art and historically art can be offensive that's what it does and at the same time while it's very important to balance the rights and duties that we have in Canadian society we have a Charter of Rights that guarantees our freedom of expression and we have a criminal code that says what you cannot say and you cannot practice hate speech against an identifiable group that is a absolutely a fact that I mean you look at the court cases are V geeks drug being the very famous one you cannot practice hate speech and I will stand but you do not you coming onto my campus it's not my campus but you come in here and you you practice because that's not welcome absolutely not but there's a very big difference between somewhat offensive speech or offensive art and hate speech and it's at the very core of who we are as a Canadian society and if you practice hate speech you will be severely punished but that's a bit different than these incidents so when student politicians who are elected to these organizations that students are forced to be a part of start practicing censorship I believe in its it's an affront to that balance that we have struck as a Canadian society and it's very very slippery slope like I said like I said we need to remember that we are funded only by students and we need to be fair to the fact that they pay mandatory fees to us and that we would not be here without them and so to make these decisions on their behalf arbitrarily is is is dangerous now I'd like to challenge this audience to do something that's go home and if you haven't heard the song blurred lines go listen to it first of all decide whether or not you think it's offensive because that's the whole point you can have a pinion on it maybe it's you you think it is maybe you don't but and it really has sparked a lot of very important conversations on campus of these issues of rape culture on campus and sexual assault assault which is an exceptionally important topic and it's exceptionally important to the USC and to me that were creating a say a really safe environment but to censor songs is something that's that that goes a little bit beyond the pale and I mean and and once you listen to this song think about by the logic that we ban this song what other songs and what other arts should probably be banned because I can think of Jimi Hendrix the band who's my favorite band The Rolling Stones The Doors all these things that we Revere as classic rock this best classic rock should probably be banned as well and where will we go where'd like I say it's a very very slippery slope and we should avoid at all cost censorship we should really be avoiding that as student leaders but this is where and this is where it gets a little bit a little bit interesting and weird which is that I don't necessarily blame these people for censoring it and I don't necessarily and so this is and this is why and I'm going to look at well maybe maybe I do for this one specific song but the instances of censoring because of immense pressure is something that I felt I'm going to share you a story before I conclude about when I became a censor this year and I live with it every single day and I think about that fact every single day and it goes back to the Gazette frosh issue freedom of speech this is our editor-in-chief in BO cough and and in the frosh issue they published some articles that were very offensive to some people so two weeks before the start of the year they came up with their Frost shoe I read through it was a long issue I thought it was pretty good but this society of graduate students took exceptional offense to one article how to date your teaching assistant so you want to date your teaching assistant was a terribly poor attempt at satire it was a stupid article it was not funny it was probably pretty inappropriate but they took great great offense with this and they were absolutely livid they said that it created his culture of sexual harassment with TAS they said it was misogynistic and and all this meanwhile I mean it was written in a totally gender-neutral tongue you know I'm not even gonna get into my opinion on the article because that's not the point but the point is these people were very very upset about it and I got a call from the editor in chief who said you know they're very upset about it it's gonna pass it's not gonna be a big deal and then it started and that Sunday I start receiving messages on Twitter from a community member a prominent community member in charge of a community organization who I will not name but I got 60 tweets at me in one day start it's Sunday keep in mind it's a Sunday and and you know it's saying how could this be published this is absolutely discussing how the president of Western you as well so dr. almond chocolate just it became this storm and it got picked up now now note that we're actually the publisher I think is at the USC but we're not we're also criticized by them so it's a very weird relationship and so they were saying you have to do some you have to do something about this started getting a lot of storm around that because that didn't apologize they did not apologize they put on a statement saying you know what we're sorry that you found it offensive basically sorry not sorry that was a mistake because the media storm brewed and it became national news it was on national news because around orientation week these topics are very very poignant and it went all over everyone was talking about it and nobody was reading the actual article nobody's reading the actual article but it spun into this narrative that was so far beyond what my first interpretation of this article was that I I just didn't really know what to do and the editor-in-chief still refused to back down this was him in the London Free Press and the funny thing about it was that the abuse that was being hurled at this guy was way worse than the actual article the things that were being said about him in another context would have been called by the same people who are angry would have been called cyber bullying but in this case it was justice and so the stuff that was being hurled at this 21 year old amateur journalist was just it was the hypocrisy was just was just beyond so it's similar to the hook the strange hypocrisy of no one caring about Jane Goodall nobody cares when you start just absolutely tearing down and destroying this guy because people can be selective on what they choose these are all it's all backwards okay this is this is kind of weird uh but but so so this is some of the tweets and comments that were at him and me again I got sixty tweets in one day that's a lot of this person took it very very seriously and ended up becoming the national media and eventually my leadership was called in the question with a publisher I started I got an email from a professor who I respect very greatly who said this is unacceptable and and me in my position started being called the question people start calling for my resignation I didn't publish the article but and somehow I need to resign and I need to clean this off the face of the earth and and it got to the point where I had to do something because if I didn't do something my career was gonna be ruined my year was gonna be ruined because there was so much media around this it was on the national news it was I was getting calls it was absolutely hectic I keep mind this is the first week on the job in September so me and my communications guy were like well I guess this is gonna be what we're dealing with all year but luckily it came at the big we learn from it but I was forced to to do something and so I submitted a letter to the editor meanwhile the editor-in-chief we've become very good friends now we've grown a lot together from this but he's had a very good year on the paper since but he I had to submit a letter I see he was gone he was gone he was destroyed because when you got that sort of abuse this is serious and he was gone and I said you guys have to submit an apology I gave them a letter to the editor and I said submit and we you should apologize you should pull the articles and you should do an investigation so we hired a lawyer to do an investigation now the funny thing I learned this very quickly and this will stick with me forever once you start calling for investigations people stopped caring because investigations are boring but resignations are exciting and people getting angry is exciting and so it just you know it's just one of these days I learned call for an investigation people will stop care call for if will call for anything that is beyond just give me what I need now and people just won't care and so that's one of the things I learned but call for an investigation and we also we also pulled all the papers we pull the papers from the shelves the first years were not exposed to this I know there's probably a million like it's like Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451 or whichever that book is it's it's they did not see it they were spared spared this and and so it's it's it was very interesting but I had to be a censor I caved we cave and I live with it every single day and I wouldn't go back and change it because my career would have been ruined my statement was put out I ended up looking very very good because my statement was put out there was picked up by 70 media sources across Canada 70 you google my name on new on in Google News 70 media sources picked up my statement it was a good statement politically speaking but I live with it every single day and now three days later the Gazette alumni and all these people start being like oh they never should have pulled this article this is an affront to freedom of speech I said where were you during the actual crisis why are you just saying this now and and it's like because nobody wants to stand up for this 21 year old journalist who's doing who's doing the duty of Canada by saying you know what if this freedom speech you're offended write me a letter they got no one wrote a letter to the editor no one wrote they just started tweeting and they just started throwing these accusations Adam terrible accusations I will have and now so this is this is where I'll come to a bit of a conclusion and and about freedom of speech on campus and and the Internet and freedom of speech and so this is an illustration of Newton's third law which is for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction now the action in this case is the Internet is this great enabling force it allows me to pick up my phone and I can send out a tweet to however many people I follow or are on Facebook or are on any comment and I and anyone can hear and I can blast my opinion everywhere and that is great that is enabling but there's also this other factor in that reaction the reaction to that action is that you can now no longer have the expectation that you won't be receiving opinions that you don't like you don't get both you don't get to have that enabling force of being able to tweet out whatever you want while at the same time the expectation that you don't get to hear anything that upsets you and that's the Internet you will be bombarded with things that you don't like but more and more people are living with this expectation that they that anything that offends them that they don't like should just be wiped clean and they don't need to see it people get outraged this outrage is is some I don't know if it's new or not haven't been around in this world for long enough to know that it's new but I certainly am exposed to it more because I see it around and so like I said for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction you've got an able to say whatever you want you can have your opinion but you have to start respecting others and you have to start understanding that you will be seeing things that you don't like and you do not get you do not get to have it wiped clean you not get to come to the student council president and demand that it do not exist because I will not do that for you and I hope that the next person won't do it as well because you know what this is a university and on a university campus we need to maintain that this is a place where ideas and opinions can be exchanged freely this is the fundamental core of the institution and so a student union as a student union president I asked what is our role in this and I think our role is to create an arena where dialogue can take place and we should be so hesitant to censor these opinions and again outside of hate speech because that's where the law takes place but we need to be so careful to to not be censoring these things because once we censor it and we elevate and we enter this arena that we're supposed to create that the universe is supposed to create where people can challenge their ideas and become better because of it once we enter that we are doing individuals an absolute disservice and if we are not allowing people to be exposed to ideas that they don't like and we're not allowing people to challenge those with those ideas and have that dialog we are doing an absolute disservice so I hope that student unions across Canada will remember this as my issue with the frost with the frosh issue that I said dictates it can be a very delicate balance and I'm still figuring out what that balance is and I don't necessarily know because I was under this immense pressure to do something and I did and I caved and I live with it but figuring out what that balance is and ensuring that it is the absolute last step the absolute last step only after seven days of cyber bullying maybe that's what it is or maybe it's about 70 people who are upset or a hundred people or a thousand people I don't really know what it is that's up to us to figure out and you can have your opinion and we can discuss it at length but the moment that the student union says you cannot have that discussion or this club cannot exist or we will whitewash this and make sure that you do not see it we are doing a disservice to our students and I will stand by that thank you very much well the enthusiasm and and excitement that you've brought to your position this year obviously is catching obviously a steep learning curve a slippery slope in deciding what the issues are that you deal with and you don't deal with I can't imagine the immensity of the budget you're dealing with on in the multi-millions I know but it would be interesting to hear how on earth you face that and the responsibilities of it as well

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