News of a student-led boycott of military recruitment ads in the University of Ottawa’s campus newspaper, The Fulcrum, sparked a freedom of expression debate yesterday.
The weekly, student-operated newspaper had never imposed an advertisement boycott until the decision at its March 19 annual general meeting, when it voted 93-85 to do so.
“We are saying we don’t want our paper to be an agent of recruitment for the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Francois Picard, with the Student Coalition Against War.
But that stance brought charges, on campus and off, that a small group of students was dictating to others what they should be exposed to in media. Some were critical that an institution that accepts government funding to operate can be selective about which government agencies can advertise through its newspaper.
But Picard, who is also a member of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, said it doesn’t matter if the government funds the university, since the paper is for the students’ voice.
“We never had such an attendance at the general assembly,” he said. “There were groups on both sides. I think both opinions were present (before the decision).”
Melanie Wood, editor-in-chief of the Fulcrum, disagreed with the boycott, saying those opposed should have taken their concerns to the letters pages to debate the issue.
“The opposing argument seems to be very based on the war in Afghanistan,” she said.
But Picard said letter writing alone won’t counteract the military’s advertising. “Writing a letter is nice, but it doesn’t balance out for graphic, full-page ads week after week.”
Wood believes university students should be able to judge an advertisement’s message for themselves, and have information from all sources upon which to base decisions.