The CBC reports a student union leader at the University of Ottawa, Anne-Marie Roy, was anonymously sent screenshots of a Facebook conversation about her among five male students who are also student leaders. It was an unpleasant conversation from her point of view.
The online conversation — a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press — included references to sexual activities some of the five individuals wrote they would like to engage in with Roy, including oral and anal sex, as well as suggestions that she suffered from sexually transmitted diseases.
“Someone punish her with their shaft,” wrote one of the individuals at one point. “I do believe that with my reputation I would destroy her,” wrote another.
After confronting a member of the conversation in person, Roy said she received an emailed apology from all five men which emphasized that their comments were never actual threats against her.
“While it doesn’t change the inadmissible nature of our comments, we wish to assure you we meant you no harm,” the apology, written in French, read.
Ohhhhh you know what? Fuck you. The comments are the harm. They’re in writing.
Roy decided she would bring it up at a Feb. 23 meeting of the student federation’s Board of Administration, which oversees the affairs of the student union.
Her plan was to distribute copies of the conversation to the board’s members while asking the board to move a motion to “condemn” those who engaged in the discussion, two of whom were board members. The other three were involved with organizing campus events.
After learning of Roy’s plan, four of the five individuals sent her a letter warning her that the conversation was a private one and that sharing it with others would amount to a violation of their rights.
A violation of their rights! They threatened her to make her shut up about their conversation about her – their conversation about her that degraded her. Their rights. Great godalmighty.
The one participant in the conversation who is not threatening legal action said the entire incident has been a huge learning experience.
“There was some conversation with some pretty violent, like, some pretty demeaning words,” said Pat Marquis. “I didn’t say much in that conversation, but I didn’t stop it either.”
Marquis was a vice-president in the student union until he resigned this weekend, reportedly after receiving hate mail and threats related to the conversation. He said he planned to meet with Roy to “discuss ways to move forward.”
“There’s a lot of boys’ talk and locker room talk that can seem pretty normal at the time, but then when you actually look back at it, it can be offensive,” he said.
“I would never say that kind of thing out in the public but when it was a private conversation I guess it slipped my mind that that’s really not acceptable.”
It’s good that he learned, at least.
He gave himself a helpful clue: he would never say that kind of thing out in the public. Well why not? Think about that for a minute and it might become clearer why it’s not acceptable in private either.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the University of Ottawa said it was “appalled” by the online conversation which it said demonstrated attitudes about women and sexual aggression that had “no place on campus, or anywhere else.” It said it was working with Roy to develop “an appropriate response.”
The entire incident has at least one observer saying it’s clear universities need to have a more open discussion about how students talk about each other, even in private.
“I do think it’s a form of cyberbullying even though she wasn’t a direct recipient of those messages on Facebook,” said Wanda Cassidy, associate professor at Simon Fraser University who researches cyberbullying in schools and universities.
“There needs to be a lot more conversation around those kinds of behaviour and comments that are made demeaning towards women.”
The footprint that such comments can leave on the Internet should also make individuals think twice before sending demeaning or hurtful messages, she said.
“Whereas 20 years ago those guys might have been out sitting around having a beer and talking in that way, it is quite different when you’re putting in print, because it’s there as a record.”
Yes it is, and yes it is.
Another report says the students dropped their legal threats and resigned their posts as student representatives.
Marquis, Larochelle, Giroux and Fournier-Simard were all elected student representatives who resigned from their posts over the weekend after a mounting outcry from their peers. Tremblay volunteered on occasion with the university’s Faculty of Arts student association but was not an elected member.
The University of Ottawa said it was “appalled” at the conversation and is working with Roy on “an appropriate response.”
After a brief conversation with the university’s president on Monday, Roy said the institution was considering a campus audit on issues related to student safety.
Good. This shit isn’t ok.