I “liked” the U of C Compliments page on Facebook. While its content tends to lean towards male-gazey compliments about foxy women at the gym, I still think it’s kind of sweet that people take the time and effort to say something kind anonymously with no incentive. The page is problematic, but superior to others of its kind that I’ve seen online.
On the other hand, I avoid the U of C Confessions page, only looking there when someone tells me they have seen something notably awful. Sometimes I have a morbid curiosity to see the kinds of things people say, if for no other reason than to remember why I put time and energy into social justice issues. More often than not looking at this page has filled me with regret and disgust.
The problem with the whole “sorry not sorry” attitude is that while it can be used to make light-hearted jokes, it is often appropriated to excuse hate speech. We live in a world where it is still easy and acceptable to brush off prejudice as a joke, and dismiss the people hurt by it for “not having a good sense of humour.” But laughing at something does not justify its cruelty. The use of humour to mask intolerance is rampant on U of C Confessions.
While I have unfortunately come to expect homophobia, misogyny and other types of prejudice from this page, I was recently shocked by some comments so vile that it made me reconsider the idea that universities are progressive environments.
Despite the fact that the U of C is a visibly racially diverse campus, I have seen posters assert xenophobic beliefs that people of colour belong somewhere else. They do not seem to care that everyone who lives in Canada and does not have indigenous heritage has colonizer-immigrant ancestry, or the fact that many immigrants are Caucasian and many people of colour like myself were born here.
On a public forum where people perceive a lack of consequence for their words, they’re willing to use their own Facebook profiles, with names and photographs attached, to voice an ingrained white supremacy in the comments section.
What does this say about our university’s students?
Despite a multicultural student body, apparently some of us feel that it is acceptable to create a toxic online environment comparable to the kind of cringe-worthy situations found on Reddit or YouTube. U of C Confessions may be a public Facebook page, but it still unofficially represents the University of Calgary.
All it takes is one aggressive statement to make the university an unsafe space for marginalized groups.
There are pages of posts and replies making light of the oppression of others, and the fact that neither the university nor the students have made moves to change this is horrifying.
Thankfully the norm is changing. Many other schools and universities across the continent have been targeted by headlines for neglecting to ensure their students are safe.
Slowly but surely open hostility towards marginalized groups is becoming unacceptable. Both students and administrations alike are working towards making their campus environments more inclusive.
I know there are lots of great clubs and resources here that embrace diversity and difference, but they need to extend beyond physical space into the online world. What happens online matters just as much as what happens in our hallways. If our Prime Minister, of all people, can take online bullying seriously, why shouldn’t we?
In the end it doesn’t really matter that U of C Confessions is a public page. Our university’s name and reputation are attached to it. This is just one of the many outlets representing our school to the world and to each other. Do you really want to be a part of something that breeds and feeds off of hatred? Don’t like it. Don’t give it page views. Or if you do, use it to stand up for the people being targeted. Hate speech is not what this university should be about.