OCAD University putting image ahead of free speech

OCAD University (formerly, Ontario College of Art and Design) students trying to spark dialogue about campus life have been facing continued censorship by the administration.Poster 1 Make OCAD Us

In September of 2013 an “anonymous” group of faculty, students and alumni formed an association called “OCAD Us” to voice their frustration with the administration and leadership at OCAD, and things like bathroom quality, representation, etc. The group has a Twitter following of more than 600 people and an active Facebook group. The group did not seek ratification because they feared the repercussions of daring to speak out against their administration about the quality of life on campus.

OCAD Us decided to hang posters around campus. The first poster was hung in September and was removed by campus security days later. Posters were removed a second time on November 9th. These posters stated “What’s your Problem at OCAD U?” and left space for students to share their answers.

 On November 10th, University representatives contacted OCAD Us and explained the posters were removed “as per our poster and student organization recognition policies.” They implied that only recognized student groups may post in OCAD buildings.

The group re-posted the same “What’s your Problem at OCAD U?” posters, which were removed again on November 11th. On November 20th, security removed posters for the 6th time.

Poster 2 What's your ProblemOn November 27th, Ksenia Soldatenko and a fellow OCAD student and representative of OCAD Us met with Associate Vice President Deanne Fisher about the removal six times of their posters. Ms. Fisher informed the students that they would stop removing the group’s posters if they removed mention of OCAD University’s name from the posters. The students agreed to black out OCAD U’s name in future posters.

Despite meeting with Fisher, posters were removed a 7th time on December 3, 2013.

According to OCAD Us’ account from the meeting, OCAD University was primarily concerned with its image. “We were told that [OCAD Us] is making the school look bad and we shouldn’t do that. Security gets word from the admin on poster removal,” said one student who attended the meeting.Poster 6th time

There are some problems with the administration’s justification for blatant censorship. Neither the Poster Policy nor Student Organization Recognition Policy require students to be officially registered in groups in order to poster on the bulletin boards. Campus security does not remove all posters after a specific time period, as these students have documented posters which continue to hang on the bulletin boards and walls since September.

OCAD University is sacrificing its fundamental values as an institution of higher education, free expression and open discourse, for the fear of having its good name sullied by talk of its broken toilets, crummy campus life and deteriorating infrastructure.

Students at OCAD University should be able to express their discontent about campus life.  After all, they’re paying for it.