By Emma Prestwich
Soviet Union-themed posters have stirred up controversy on Ryerson’s campus.
The University of Toronto Russian Students’ Association (RSA) created the posters to promote their “Back in CCCP” party on Nov. 12.
While the posters were displayed around campus, there was no indication that the event wasn’t from Ryerson.
CCCP is the Russian acronym for the USSR. Posters also featured the characteristic sickle and hammer and red star.
RSA president Danil Shezelev said he planned to throw a “retro party.” He didn’t think the theme was an issue and he didn’t mean to offend anyone by “reminding them of the darker history” of the USSR.
“We didn’t throw a Siberian exile party,” he said.
Paul Terek, president of the Ryerson Ukrainian Students’ Association, said he sent an email on behalf of the group to the RSA, encouraging the organizers to change the name and theme of the event.
He said the posters are “offensive to descendants of all post-Soviet states” and wanted to remind them of the harsh conditions and exploitation that people experienced as a result of the Soviet government’s policies.
“They were probably looking at it as, ‘The USSR is cool, it’s badass, let’s go with a USSR theme’,” Terek said. “But the fact is, it isn’t cool, for the price that has been paid.”
He doesn’t have anything against the RSA, but thinks they were misinformed about the values they were promoting.
“I understand that we’re living in the 21st century, we can’t hold grudges against what our ancestors did,” Terek said.
Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) policy dictates that a poster has to be approved before posting. Posters have to come from a student group and be related to an event on campus, said Toby Whitfield, RSU president. Posters also have to support the RSU’s mandate of respect and inclusiveness.
“If it turns out that [the poster] is not part of the mandate, then they shouldn’t be on a board”, he said.
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy suggests the organizers go through the poster approval process, but didn’t have a strong opinion on the poster’s content.
“People can like or dislike things. That’s a bit of what university is about.”
Photo: Lauren Strapagiel