Destroying These Words Won’t Erase Them

Wednesday evening, as I went checking my usual Snapchat stories of all-you-can-eat sushi, small dogs, and the dark Toronto skyline, one image quickly got my attention. The Snapchat story depicted the front door of my old office building at Wilfrid Laurier University (also known as the WLU Student Publication building), where a pile of shredded copies of The Cord laid on the front step.

As a student who actively volunteered and later worked for The Cord during their undergrad at Laurier, I quickly investigated the situation. Apparently, someone, or some people, intentionally ripped up newly released copies of the Laurier student newspaper on newsstands, and someone was kind enough to leave some the remains at the front door of their office.

Knowing how hard The Cord’s news team had worked on this issue, along with everyone else who took part in creating this issue, to say I’m “angry” is a huge understatement. To make only one issue of The Cord, editors, writers, and artists need about a week to start and complete their work for the paper. During this week, The Cord’s staff team will write and design content to fit the pages of said issue. On production night, the staff will work non-stop – usually for 10-12 hours, sometimes longer – until the issue is sent to the printers. I was an editor for two years during my undergrad, and it wasn’t considered unusual if you were at the office designing and copyediting the paper until 4 A.M.

I expect this to sound like a hellhole to some, and sometimes it felt like one. But walking onto campus the next day, exhausted from the night before, and seeing the finalized piece on newsstands across the campus, you realize all the hard work, stress and tears has paid off.

I am not sure if the perpetrator, or perpetrators, who decided to destroy these copies know this. I hope they realized this after the fact, but it’s uncertain. I keep thinking of valid reasons as to why they were so livid they decided to go around campus ripping up whatever copies they could find. I honestly can’t think of any.

The topic surrounding freedom of speech has been a focal point of various columns and news stories recently, due to the arguments surrounding Wilfrid Laurier University and teaching assistant, Lindsay Shepherd, which by now needs no explanation. Students, staff and the general public have taken to social media to express their sides of the debate, and publications across the country have published columns and editorials on why the freedom of speech is in jeopardy on university campuses.

However, this week’s issue of The Cord didn’t include an opinion piece or an editorial about Shepard’s story. It just included the facts – what happened, who was involved, and what is to be done. It was unbiased, properly researched and included everything the reader needed to know about the unfolding situation.

This is what confuses me. Why try and destroy the facts of the story? What positivity would come out of this? What image is this sending to the country about the university, whose image is being scrutinized and assessed in every news station in Canada?

This destruction of free speech and story-telling is not going to help either side of the argument being discussed, nor will it uncover the winner of this already exhausting debate. Blaming a group of students for publishing the very thing you may be fighting for is demeaning.

The act of destroying a product that tells a story, or even disagrees with your argument, proves how we little we may actually know about the freedom of speech or how to use it.






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