LGBTQ students blame branding rules for SFU student society logo appearing on controversial poster

Queer students at SFU aren’t satisfied with the Simon Fraser Student Society’s explanation of how its logo ended up on an event poster alongside the name of a well-known anti-LGBTQ activist.

The Get-A-Grip 2018 Christian youth conference made headlines last week after Vancouver trans activist Morgane Oger tweeted out a photo of the July event’s poster Thursday.

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Pointing out the poster listed among the conference’s facilitators Kari Simpson – a vocal opponent of B.C.’s sexual orientation and gender identity or SOGI123 school curriculum – Oger tweeted:

“Hey SFU students, Is this event at the Anvil Centre really something you're involved in? … Inciting hate against #LGBTQ people is not education or free speech. #newwest can do better.”

The City of New Westminster cancelled the booking for the conference at its Anvil Centre venue soon after, saying it made the move after being made aware of one of the event’s headliners.

The Simon Fraser Student Society also quickly distanced itself from the conference, putting out a press release the same day.

Student society officials said Redeemed Christian Fellowship, an SFSS-sponsored club, had used the society’s logo without permission, and the society had since directed the club to remove the SFSS logo from all materials related to the conference.

“Typically, clubs submit their requests for printed materials (banners, posters, flyers, etc.) in advance, which provides us with an opportunity to review these requests and approve or reject them for publishing,” stated the press release.

In this case, Redeemed Christian Fellowship had had the posters with the SFSS logo on them printed externally, SFSS spokesperson Jasdeep Gill told the NOW.

She said Simpson’s association with the event and the design of the posters – featuring rainbow colours and the letters LGBT, standing for “let God be true” instead of “lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans” – raised concerns at the student society.

“Previously she’s been known to be quite outspoken against the LGBTQ community, and the SFSS has always stood by the LGBTQ community,” Gill said of Simpson.

But the student society shares at least some blame for its logo appearing alongside Simpson’s name on the Get-A-Grip conference’s poster, according to members of SFU’s queer community.

They point to a recently adopted SFSS branding guideline that dictates clubs, to remain funded by the society, must put the SFSS logo on all material promoting their club-sponsored events.

“The threat of not putting their logo on something and then being de-funded is very real,” former SFU grad student Amy Lippett told the NOW, “so people put their logo on everything and throw it out there.”

Gill said flyers and posters are looked at by both the SFSS communications department and the print centre to make sure the posters and events align with the student society’s values, but that’s not the case for promotional material printed off-campus, according to Vivian Ly, an executive with SFU Autistics United, an SFSS club.

When she chose to print promotional material for her club off-campus, she said she was told it too needed the SFSS logo.

“It gave the message to club executives that, no matter what you’re doing as a club, you would still need the SFSS logo on it,” Ly said.

There’s been “a lot of pain” in SFU’s LGBTQ community around the poster, according to Jen Marchbank, a professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies the university.

And she said the whole incident begs the questions, “why would the SFSS have as a member organization, an organization that would act in such a way?”

“I cannot tell the student society what to do," she told the NOW, "but, as a queer professor working on that campus, I would like them to take into account the need to consider more fully the types of student clubs and activities they have under their umbrella and who they fund."

The Redeemed Christian Fellowship did not respond to the NOW’s request for comment before press time.

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