“I think a poor situation was made worse by poor decisions,” replied Johnny Aether when asked how he felt about the removal of over 1,000 issues of The Peak from stands late last month.
Aether is one of several individuals who have given conflicting reports concerning the incident. According to statements from multiple individuals, the removal was a reaction to an article published in The Peak in which members of the editorial staff endorsed six candidates for the SFSS executive positions.
By the afternoon of Monday, March 23, the day the paper was published, approximately 1,050 out of the 1,600 total papers distributed were missing from stands on the Burnaby Campus.
After the SFSS board meeting on Wednesday March 25, SFSS Chief Electoral Officer Oscar Sanchez, approached The Peak with a report he had received the night before.
“At around midnight on Tuesday the 24, we received a complaint from a student about a large number of Peak papers being in the CSSS [Computing Science Student Society] lounge,” Sanchez explained. “The complaint was filed with photographic evidence.”
According to the student who made the report, who opted to remain anonymous for the article, “I was in the lounge Tuesday evening when I saw Ben Rogers, Jade Katherine Andersen, Johnny Aether, and Corbett Gildersleve sitting there next to the newspapers in the lounge and they were tearing all the opinions page from the newspaper and throwing them in a pile on the floor.”
They continued, “They also mentioned that they need to PEE on them and start talking about how misleading is the peak and all of these stuff [sic].”
Two members of The Peak proceeded to the CSSS lounge, where they found approximately 800 papers stacked in several corners of the room.
The four individuals named in the report have all been affiliated with the SFSS in some way over the past several years. Andersen and Rogers both held board positions as the science and applied sciences representatives, respectively, while Gildersleve was just recently elected to the position for the 2015–2016 term. Aether ran for the position of SFSS President as the leader of the LAN Party, but was not elected.
When asked about the incident, Aether explained that he was not personally involved — however, he alleged that members affiliated with the LAN Party were.
“Jade Andersen, for starters, she felt like something ‘needed to be done,’” Aether alleged. “Jade was like, ‘Oh my gosh I know what we’re going to do. We’re going to steal all of the Peaks.’”
Although he never saw Andersen or Rogers, the current SFSS applied sciences rep, physically remove papers from the stands, Aether continued, “From the second you guys started putting out those papers, Jade had a stack of at least two or three with her.”
A second report sent to The Peak on April 2 also singled out Andersen. A student reported, “I watched Jade Andersen shove stacks and stacks of [The Peak] into the three oversized bags. She tried to recruit a few students to do this alongside her, myself being one of them.”
When confronted with these allegations, Andersen denied moving the papers, but did admit to being involved in the discussions.
“I feel like yeah, at some point, I must have grabbed one or two from the stands,” she continued, recalling her involvement. “I’m sure I removed a few papers here and there.”
According to Andersen, the “reallocation” of papers was the result of the work of a large number of students, whom she declined to name. She said that many students were upset with the editorial piece and the lack of response to student concerns from The Peak.
Rogers supported Andersen’s account: “Indulging in their right to a free newspaper (or a dozen) was an idea some of the students had fielded on Sunday and the majority of people in the discussion felt it would be well within the realm of ‘law abiding.’”
He continued to recount how students began dropping off stacks of papers in their respective DSU common rooms. This report is confirmed by security footage from SFU, in which multiple students are seen dropping off Peak papers in the CSSS lounge.
Andersen and Rogers said students then began to remove the page with the editorial from the collected papers, discarding it on the floor of the lounge.
“Everybody was doing that,” Andersen said. “I definitely removed page 10. A lot of people removed page 10.”
However, upon realising that The Peak contained other important stories — specifically, those covering the elections and the Louis Riel House rally — Andersen said the group decided to begin restocking stands with the amended copies.
Shortly after, members of The Peak arrived at the CSSS common room, removing the remaining 800 papers from the lounge.
When asked whether she felt the actions taken were positive, Andersen said, “I’m a staunch utilitarian and I believe it’s not the actions, it’s the results, so yeah I do believe it was a good thing to have happened. It got students more interested.”
Rogers echoed Andersen’s sentiments: “The students who were liberating the newspapers seemed to be having a lot of fun and I am really quite proud to see such a normally apathetic bunch of students stand up and fight for something they believed in, whether I personally share their values or not.”
According to Sanchez, while reprehensible, these actions would likely not result in the retroactive disqualification of any electoral candidates, since they did not “impact the legitimacy of the vote and the electoral process.”
The Peak’s editor-in-chief, Alison Roach, condemned the actions of any individuals involved in the removal of papers, saying that it constitutes theft. She also stated that the Peak Publications Society will continue to investigate the incident with the assistance of SFU Security.