ISS resolution fails to persuade Facebook page to change name

The “University of Illinois’ Memes” page retains its original name, despite Wednesday night’s Illinois Student Senate, or ISS, resolution calling for a dissociation from the University.

The “Statement to Encourage the ‘University of Illinois’ Memes’ Facebook Group to Disassociate from the University of Illinois” resolution passed after a debate. Going into the meeting, the resolution’s name was “Statement Condemning the ‘University of Illinois’ Memes’ Facebook Group.”

The Facebook page has garnered the attention of thousands of University students since its creation in early February. The page features memes, or stock photos with short statements about a certain topic.

Many user-made memes on the page refer to observations about the University or certain student groups, sometimes targeting certain races or ethnic groups. Suey Park, senior in LAS, said this is the main problem with the page and asks for the removal of its content.

Park and a few others began the “End University of Illinois’ Memes” Facebook page in response to the original page.

“The page claimed to be the U of I’s memes page — that’s a rather large claim to make. They represent a group of people who think similarly,” she said earlier in February. “Even the Internet has to be a safe space for students.”

Though originally against the resolution, Senator Matt Gold, junior in LAS, said he was moved to change his position based on both public comment and the change in the resolution’s language.

“Before (the title) changed on the floor, I saw (the resolution) as an attempt for the student senate to censor private free speech,” he said. “But when I looked more into the issue, I realized more people were truly offended by this.”

But Senator Ramy Cohen, junior in Engineering, maintained his position against the resolution, citing a right to free speech.

“I don’t think it’s the job of the student senate to tell students what to post on Facebook,” he said. “It would be foolish to assume that having the University’s name in the title would imply that the University has any connection (with the page).”

Sam Barghi, vice president-external of ISS and senior in LAS, said he understands the sensitive issue of free speech but supports the resolution in order to further the University’s policy of inclusion and diversity.

“The resolution reaffirms what the University believes in when it comes to racial tolerance and acceptance,” he said.

He said the aim of the resolution was to remove the University’s name from the page, though the page administrators have been removing content deemed insensitive.

Sanjay Thomas, junior in Engineering, became vocal about ISS’ actions via the Facebook memes page, engaging in a dialogue about the usefulness of a resolution and the page in general.

Thomas, himself an international student from India, said he did not understand how other minorities can be offended by the content.

“The student senate should involve itself in matters that are more important or actually affect diversity on campus,” he said. “We all have our differences, but the minute that you acknowledge these differences, it becomes easier to respect people. Just to point out these differences, to me, is not offensive.”