We all love memes, from doggos driving cars to frogs representing complex ideologies. However, Thompson Rivers University’s recent actions raise major questions to if the university shares this love of memes and more concerningly, how exactly TRU is cracking down on freedom of speech on campus.
Universities have faced this issue across Canada from Lindsey Shepard at Wilfrid Laurier University facing academic probation for showing a brief clip of Professor Jordan Peterson on TVO to Peterson himself facing the threat of firing by the University of Toronto for not backing the compelled speech laws put forward by the provincial government. Even comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld are now avoiding campuses across Canada and the United States due to a worry about getting in trouble for making an offensive remark.
When the people running the memes_of_tru page started the work of posting original funny content about the students’ unions fees, TRU’s parking and jokes about food services they never expected to get tracked down by TRUSU, get hit with a harassment case by student affairs and become the fastest growing TRU-related page on Instagram on campus (1,000+ followers in a month).
I got a chance to ask memes_of_tru a few questions, the person running it wished to remain anonymous due to safety concerns.
Is it true that theTRUSU executive tracked down the person running this page?
memes_of_tru: “No, someone was accused of being the page admin, but it wasn’t an admin, so if it was TRUSU then they got the wrong person.”
It sounds like there has been harassment cases launched through student affairs against this page, does this create issues for you personally?
mot: “I have been contacted both directly by the dean of students and indirectly about taking down certain memes, but only a couple of them. Generally, the admin seems to support my freedom of speech, but also the harassment policy seems pretty vague and its hard to know what is and what isn’t over the line sometimes. I haven’t really been subject to any backlash about the page and I’m glad I started it.”
Did you expect such growth of your page when you launched it?
mot: “I wasn’t sure how the page would grow but it seems to be really catching on, lots of funny people send me some great memes and I encourage people to.”
What does it say about freedom of speech on campus when TRUSU and TRU tries silencing you? Have you been forced to delete any memes and why?
mot: “The only memes that I’ve been asked to take down are ones that mentioned an individual student and a couple which were very sexual. I don’t have any problem taking down content about individuals and won’t be posting any more of that nature, but I think as long as I’m not promoting any sexual harassment or crime via the page then I don’t see why there is a problem with sexual humour.”
What do you hope for the future of memes_of_tru?
mot: “I hope that the page continues to grow and that there are no further issues with TRU guidelines, but if people have a problem with it that they contact the page and we can work out solutions in a mature manner rather than involving administration.”