STU apologizes for controversial Facebook post
Image of bikini-clad woman "was too stark without enough context," says university
November 6, 2013, 3:48 PM AST
Last updated November 6, 2013, 7:48 PM AST
An ad posted on St. Thomas University’s Facebook page was removed Tuesday after the content elicited a negative response from viewers.
On Nov. 1, the school put up an ad on its Facebook page as part of its social media campaign to attract future students, which featured a young emaciated female in a bikini with a caption containing Facebook’s “Like” symbol (a thumbs up) and a question: “Healthy or Unhealthy?”
Underneath the ad, the university posted, “Some issues need more than a LIKE. Become a critical thinker. Apply now at STU.ca.”
Comments quickly began to appear, upset at the graphic content and suggesting the ad was inappropriate. One commenter even said it changed their view of the school and they might not apply for STU as a result.
Jeffrey Carleton, the university’s director of communications, says the ad was meant to generate a discussion about aspects of social media such as “liking” and “hashtagging,” topics that a liberal arts education from St. Thomas University prepares students for.
In addition to removing the image, Carleton issued an apology on the school’s Facebook page yesterday, saying, “The image we used came across as an endorsement or manipulation for a specific opinion rather than a start to meaningful conversation. In this case, the image was too stark without enough context and that is why I removed it as a post and as an ad.”
In response to the apology, Facebook user Hannah Gray says, “I’m glad you call it an ad, because that makes it so obvious that we actually were using people, their opinions, and that young woman’s body (and those that look like her) to sell the idea of a BA. It would have been a lot better if you had put “issue or not?” instead of “healthy or not?” because I hope, that at the very least, you have learned that a person’s body is not a social issue.”
Carleton says in the past 24 hours after posting the apology, the debate has actually shifted online to what the school had intended for the ad to cause.
“I think if we had led with legalization of marijuana or online bullying we could have created a better debate,” Carleton says.