Ha! And you Americans thought you had it bad.
In response to backlash from the student community, The University of Western Ontario has filed an official police investigation for students jokingly sharing “Western Lives Matter” slogans both on and off social media.
The schools administration released an official statement, where they first condemned the slogan, and then informed the student community that an official police investigation will be undertaken to determine whether or not these students committed the heinous crime of… saying words.
“Western University has been made aware of a number of images, symbols and slogans that were shared by Western community members through social media over the past weekend.
Specifically images of a banner with the slogan ‘Western Lives Matter’ has produced outrage and backlash within our community. ‘Black Lives Matter’ is an important human rights movement and a powerful response to systemic racism that permeates our society. Co-opting the ‘Lives Matter’ phrase in this way is repugnant and trivializes the validity of this international cause and network.”
“Western does not tolerate racism. Western University considers the ‘Western Lives Matter’ banner to be contrary to the university’s values. In conjunction with Campus Community Police Service (CCPS) and London Police Service (LPS), Western is investigating this matter to determine whether individuals involved will be dealt with under Western’s Code of Student Conduct.”
The facetious slogan was likely motivated by a change that Western’s administration made to the school’s homecoming date, from this past weekend, to right in the middle of midterms in mid October. Students were upset that the school moved a big party weekend to smack in the middle of midterm exams. As a response, students held a “Fake Homecoming”, and it is likely that this is where someone spotted an off-campus house that had a sign reading “Western Lives Matter”. The photo was subsequently posted online, and Western’s Internet trolls immediately began posting “Western Lives Matter” signs on social media.
In response, the student council president released a video condemning the slogan, and accused the perpetrating trolls of harboring racial sentiments.
I can only imagine what those being investigated and charged would to have a First Amendment on their side right now.
However, Western is no foreigner when it comes to the suppression of free speech. Just last week, the student-run Western Gazette released an article that (ironically) criticized free speech because pro-life pamphlets were being placed outside student’s homes off-campus. The author of the article argued that these pamphlets were a threat to home security, and one’s right to feel secure in one’s own home should trump one’s right to freedom of speech.
Earlier in the year, many students were outraged that the university didn’t take action when “no means yes and yes means anal” was written on the window of a student-inhabited house off-campus. It’s possible that the administration took such quick actions with the “Western Lives Matter” slogan in fear of receiving backlash from students if actions weren’t taken. Backlash could result in anything from protests, to demanding that certain administrators step down for not doing anything.
But as a student of this institution, I am now more afraid than ever to say things in jest, or to say anything at all that might run counter to my university’s agenda in fear that my future will become jeopardized.
Josh Eisen is an undergraduate student at the University of Western Ontario. He is a writer and contributor for websites such as The Rebel Media, CIJ News and Campus Reform. Follow him on Twitter.