Cut: Progressive organisations promote democratic values. Photo: Via Facebook.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Control-Alt-Delete the SFUO

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), as a member of the Canadian Federation of Students, had a responsibility to promote democratic principles, and advocate for the student’s voice.

However, in the face of scandal, corruption, dissatisfaction, the SFUO has deleted comment after comment. I remember when comments voicing frustration with the election results were deleted off of a post, and then the post itself was deleted. This censorship probably stems from long before that, and has continued on throughout the wave of embarrassment the SFUO has caused the student body.

In a response to a comment on their livestream, the SFUO admitted they deleted comments they found hateful and abusive, and that as a progressive organization, they didn’t support the type of language used. I find it really hard to believe that every single comment that got deleted was hateful, abusive, or used offensive language. I think it was more a case of people actually calling out real corruption and scandal, and the SFUO not knowing how to respond. But of course, we’ll never know, since the SFUO deleted them all.

Getting constructive feedback on your work as a student organization is an important component to growth. It also lets you know what the people you represent think of how you’re doing. People voicing their frustrations with the system, with the actions of the organisation and its executives, is an important part of democracy.

The SFUO had no right to delete these comments. After all, this is not their personal Facebook page where they can just block whoever disagrees with them (@JimWatsonOttawa). At the end of the day, the people they disagree with are still people they represent. As a progressive organisation, which they claim to be, they should listen to the calls supporting transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption.

If there is truly a hateful or offensive comment, deal with the comment on a case-by-case basis, instead of going on deleting sprees, or communicate your rules for commenting in an outline that is publicly available. If it’s a comment that spurs disagreement from the SFUO, why not engage in conversation with the community you claim to represent? You can’t just cherry pick the people you want to give a voice to.

Students feeling like their voices were suppressed by the SFUO played a big hand in the formation of things like the Beloved SFUO Overlords meme page, where people could vent in a setting where they knew their comment wasn’t going to be deleted and their voices would be heard.

Now that the SFUO is on its way out, we need to make sure that all voices are heard moving forward—not just the agreeable ones.