Not quite censorship

By Вen Li

An irresponsible act will transpire in the next week if students do not stop it.

After two years of successful operation, top elected officials will vote next week to shut down the on-line Students’ Union forums. The forums have provided students, elected officials, and outsiders opportunities to debate the issues and to make their views known. Now, this newest attempt at remote democracy will be terminated, largely because officials do not like what is being said.

Instead of leading the immature members to dignity, the executive favours denying both supporters and detractors of the union, and its members the opportunity to speak and be heard.

Official reasons for the elimination have been scarce. Vice-presidents in the S.U. executive will not talk about the issue until the removal is voted upon in next Tuesday’s Students’ Legislative Council meeting. What outsiders know comes only from counsellors discontent with the move, and VP Academic Laura Schultz, the only executive member who currently posts to the forums.

In her forum post dated Tue., May 25, she indicated, reluctantly, that childish name-calling by a very few elected officials is sufficient to deny all students and officials a forum for their views. Apparently, many elected officials agree with that position, or at least, the position of their VPs to stifle possible dissent, even if such dissent is from immature officials who disgrace students and the union by their actions.

A vote to remove the forums on its own would seem innocuous, perhaps even prudent to some. And it would be, except that the vote and the discussion leading up to it will occur during the summer when few students are on campus to object to the decision. Further, the vote would come after only one week of consultation, mostly with opponents of the forums from inside the SU. Less extreme alternatives to complete removal of the forums have apparently not been considered in the process leading up to next week’s vote.

That many students had to discover that the vote would take place from a University of Alberta student and not from the SU officials who would dispatch the forums only compounds the tragedy of this undemocratic action.

By suppressing this outlet to students and the rest of the world, the SU executive would with one act eliminate much of the attention given to students by both the local and national media, who lurk in the forums to find out what U of C students think.

Eliminating the forums will do nothing to eliminate those who post negatively of the SU, nor address their views. Hiding the problem will simply move substantive discussion to other on-line forums not under SU supervision. Learning from, and improving the existing forums is more challenging than eliminating them outright, yet our elected officials have declined this challenge.

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