Facebook photo draws criticism of newly elected UMSU president

A photo of recently elected University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) president Al Turnbull has been circulating on Facebook drawing some criticism of the Fresh cabinet leader. The photo in question shows Turnbull wearing a shirt with the text, “Cool story babe. Now go make me a sandwich” was shared on Facebook on Mar. 11.

As of 10:00 p.m. the photo had 12 shares.

In one instance, the shared photo included the caption, “lol great, good job u of m undergrads, you voted for this douche-guy to run your union. Way to go [ . . . ] hopefully next year’s coordinator defends the womyn’s centre valiantly.”

A commenter on the shared photo also alerted users to a tweet from Turnbull’s public twitter feed that reads, “The most sexist thing every feminist ignores…feminism”. The tweet from Dec. 4, 2012 has three re-tweets.

A public status on the Fresh slate president’s Facebook profile was posted on Mar. 11 at approximately 8:30 p.m. that read, “so the criticism starts. perhaps people should wait and see first.” At the time of writing, the status had 26 “likes.”

A comment on the status argued, “They judge Al and FRESH off a few pictures and the fact that you are an athlete [ . . . ] People need to educate themselves, rather than base their opinions on the members of FRESH look.”


Al Turnbull, who explained that the shirt was worn on a football trip to Regina and was purchased for Turnbull and the remaining Bison linebackers, issued the following statement to the Manitoban:

“I would like to apologize for the photo and any offence it may have caused [ . . . ] I have been stapled many things throughout my campaign, however, I would like to remind everyone that I am not sexist [ . . . ] I would like to address the fact that I am excited to work with the feminist community, and the Womyns [sic] centre in the coming fiscal year [ . . . ] I respect all women. I believe that I will properly, and fairly represent all members of the union equally as I have committed to in my platform, and which 3,555 members of the union elected me to do. ”

Turnbull also explained that the tweet in question was in response to a heated debate in which he was told that he should “refrain from discussing feminist theory (positively) without being a feminist.”

27 Comments on "Facebook photo draws criticism of newly elected UMSU president"

  1. Recently the Manitoban printed a story regarding Al Turnbull and a single picture posted on Facebook. I frankly do not care if the picture is sexist, for one simple reason…it’s called a joke. Instead of applying the old principle that a picture says a thousand words, maybe those crying sexist (or perhaps the news entity writing this joke of an article) should take 5 minutes out of their day and try to meet Al Turnbull. Writing an article and calling a person sexist without first interviewing said person is simply bad journalism. It’s not hard, clearly those criticizing him over Facebook have the opportunity to send him a message and have a civilized conversation. Yet they chose to go the opposite route, and instead attacked him at a personal level. Not only is this unacceptable journalism, it straddles the edge of slander and character assassination.

    Rather than throwing out an accusation about a person you know nothing about, I encourage all those who have called Al Turnbull “sexist” or “jock” or “douche” (and many other insulting terms) to actually meet with your new UMSU President. Festering this type of false hate within your soul will not accomplish any positivity, time might be better spent on developing and echoing your ideas to improve the Union, to your new UMSU Executive.

    • It’s only a joke if it is funny. Obviously, a lot of people do not find this funny. Also, what is this amateur hour? This is what happens when you live in the public eye, he should send this writer a thank-you sandwich for enlightening him.

      • Yes, comedy is certainly subjective. What one person finds funny is something another may find offensive. But so what? Go watch some Jay Leno then.

        Your view on what defines ‘offensiveness’ is subjective too. You’re offended; I in turn am offended that you’re offended. Our ‘offendedness’ negates each other, right? Don’t assume you can bully someone into apologizing just because all the Chicken Littles cry out that they’re offended.

        And let’s not forget that Al’s been ‘living in the public eye’ for all of two days as the UMSU President. It’s a single bloody picture someone dug out of the depths of Facebook. Don’t you think if someone had an axe to grind against you, they could find at least one unbecoming picture of you on the old FB? Let’s not get all butt-hurt and forget that.

      • Robert Paulson | March 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm |

        Enlightening eh? Because the beliefs of the people sharing this picture are so much grander. An enlightened person does not throw out such insults without taking the time to get to know him. Take a deep breath, calm down, and meet the man.

  2. Al and his team run one of the best UMSU election campaigns in recent history and all some people can do is dig for any possible dirt they can find. They easily overlook all the credentials that this man has to do the job. It is these very students that hold back the University of Manitoba from really having a sense of community. Instead of trying to do something with their own lives to better the U of M, they belittle someone else to try and bring him down to their level. In reality it’s just more people Team Fresh and Al get to prove wrong next year. I challenge you all to stop being so narrow minded and instead do something positive with your limited time at university.

  3. I have had the pleasure of working with Al over the past year – and I can definitely say that he makes every possible effort to be as inclusive and inoffensive as possible. The fact that one would think that Al is a sexist (or even a racist) is completely wrong and out of line in my eyes.

    Al has an amazing amount of spirit for the university he calls his home; but not only that, he has an incredible support for this universities academia. His work as a writing tutor speaks for itself.

    While I appreciate the hard work and jurnalism that the Manitobain writers put into their articles — I have found that if you ever wanted to know anything about Al Turnbull, all you have to do is ask him; I’m certain sexist is not something he would discribe himself as.

  4. Robert Paulson | March 11, 2013 at 11:59 pm |

    Good to see the Special Interest Groups are all ready mad to see their Champions of Justice fall to regular students. Can anyone bring up a specific incident where Mr. Turnbull has committed some act to be dubbed “douche-guy”?

    Now imagine how up in arms the same students would be if some part of Voice’s Bilan Arte’s past was brought up to bite her in the ass? These same people would defend Ms Arte’s calling a counterpart from the U of Toronto racist. It should be noted that unlike with Mr. Turnbull, this was not on her personal social media, but the offical UMSU Pres twitter. “@joshdehaas you’re concern over underrepresented white students at uoft?ummm… You Are A Racist #racist #you”

    If we are to judge someone based on every single action they have taken we will find no one worthy of leading, be it here at the student level, or federally. Calm down and give Mr. Turnbull a chance, who knows, maybe he is both genuine and good at the job? I for one can’t wait to find out.

  5. Female Advocate for Al | March 12, 2013 at 12:12 am |

    The amount of effort people are going through to try and de-validate FRESH’s victory is repulsive. The students felt strongly about what the team was campaigning for and made a clear decision as to whom they want to represent them.
    Al Turnbull is exactly what our school needs- a classy, fearless, charismatic leader. If people took the time to get to know him, like I have had the opportunity to, they would realize that the accusations are far from true.

  6. John Kraemer | March 12, 2013 at 10:23 am |

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Turnbull since we both took Introduction to Politics together 3 years ago. In that time, Al has been a member of the Bisons football team, the President of the Arts Student Body Council, and now President-Elect for the University of Manitoba Students’ Union, to name a few of the highlights. Al understands what it means to be a member of his community. Rather than focusing on the negative, we should perhaps take a moment to reflect upon the positive change and rejuvenation that UMSU is about to experience with the election of the entire FRESH slate.

    Al is working with a team composed of 3/5 women that all come from different backgrounds. I have had the pleasure of meeting every individual on the FRESH slate, and I can say with confidence that UMSU is in good hands. Rather than basing opinions off of a picture or a tweet, anyone with any concerns about the new UMSU executive should take the time to meet all the members and speak candidly with them about any concerns. They are all very intelligent and approachable people and rather than isolating any particular group of students, they will attempt to work with them. This election had one of the highest turnouts in UMSU history, clearly FRESH is doing something right.

    Rather than be bitter and attempt to discredit the democratic process, those that were backing the other slate should instead reach out to FRESH. Attempting to find a common ground to work together and bring more cohesion to the campus community is something this university is certainly lacking, and I am excited to see FRESH revitalize the sense of spirit.

    I have the utmost confidence in the ability of the Mr. Turnbull, Ms. Mcmullin, Ms. Lam, Mr. Pierce and Ms. Ally to run UMSU effectively, without prejudice, and in a manner which represents all students on campus, regardless of who they voted for. All the best to the members of the FRESH slate.

  7. Fresh supporter | March 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm |

    WOW! Everyone who was apart of posting this should be incredibly embarrassed with themselves.The fact that this is an issue is laughable. If you actually knew al, you would realize how childish and immature this looks. The fresh slate worked incredibly hard and the win was much deserved.

  8. progressivestudent | March 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm |

    What contrast, from Bilan Arte, champion of the gender inclusive washroom initiative and guest speaker at the 2013 Women’s Day March just last Friday, to our new UMSU president. It is clear that UMSU will be taking a step backwards in regards to gender issues on campus.

    • Robert Paulson | March 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm |

      Is it a step backwards or a refocusing of priorities. Yes, Bilan did do a commendable job of raising these issues, but to the detriment to other issues. The Position of UMSU President is not to be a lapdog of the service groups. By not being an outspoken champion of the Womyn’s Centre, it is somehow inferred that he is opposed to them, and therefore unfit to lead.

      I call upon the leadership of the Womyn’s Centre to take a page from the other groups, be they faculty councils, student groups, or the other service groups, the RPM and the ASA, and wait and see what Fresh is made of before judging them. To do anything less is to be on par with all the horrid accusations thrown his way.

      • The womyn’s centre “leadership” is a collective, but if you mean the “coordinator,” she didn’t post it. Why would he leave a photo like this up during a campaign, unless he didn’t mind the misogynist image he’s putting out? Plus being the guy who claims feminism is sexist, I can see a couple reasons he might need to prove himself to the women and feminist students of the U of M.

        • Robert Paulson | March 13, 2013 at 1:15 am |

          How about all the other students at the U of M. There were many areas that Bilan was weak in, but nowhere did you see this level of personal attacks. Mr. Turnbull has offered his sincere apologies, and instead of accepting this, and moving forward as a union, we find ourselves engaged in debate.

          The photo was left up during the campaign, but it was only brought up, and Mr. Turnbull’s name dragged through the dirt when Voice, and their agenda that clearly showed the womyn’s centre as a priority, lost. The students have spoken, now give the man, and his team, a chance to get into the office. Remember, a wise man once said, put down the pitchforks and pick up the pens.

  9. In response to “Ellen” complaining that Al has a “reputation for being an asshole a mile long”: Could you please expand on this analogy? By a mile, do you mean you heard it from the same number of people that would be required to reach a total distance of an entire mile if they were all laying head to foot? Or maybe if they were all lined up holding hands? And are you referring to a linear mile or a nautical mile? Or.. did you hear it from one guy who heard it from someone else and just decided to linearly extrapolate? I’ve never actually met the guy, but from what I’ve heard he’s a pretty decent human being. Obviously one of us is being lied to.. we should probably head up some investigation in order to reach a substantive conclusion.

    One of the responses on the original shared picture reads, “I guess they voted for teeth not intelligence.” (Tricia Dandenault, March 11, 4:35 PM)

    I find this comment sexist. My assumption here is that Tricia is saying that “they” – being the entirety of the female population of our student body who voted for Al – voted for him solely based on the fact that he is an attractive male. My interpretation of this is that Tricia doesn’t think women have the internal capabilities of making an informed political decision. I, for one, was not so overcome by my hormones at the polling station that I found it impossible to act rationally and thus am offended at this claim.

    As someone who identifies myself as a woman, I find it so disheartening that modern day feminism is so focused on complaining about men and changing the dictionary, rather than teaching girls to be tough in a world that may not make it easy for them. This – in my opinion – is just another one of these cases. I don’t know, maybe I’m just really bad at being a wom7n.

    • makeyourownsandwich | March 13, 2013 at 7:47 am |

      “They” being the entirety of the female population?? That’s your assumption, actually. It looks like what she really said was “they” (the students, voters, men and women, because we all like smiles and not all of us are straight/interested) voted for teeth over intelligence. Wearing that t-shirt makes you look a) sexist and B) unintelligent. I’m sure Mr Turnbull realized that, and that’s why he gave a public apology about 30 seconds after this photo went public.

  10. Regards, Anonymous and Friends | March 12, 2013 at 8:05 pm |

    I’ve been noticing that there’s a discussion circulating about the t-shirt that Al Turnbull wore with the text, “Cool story babe, now go make me a sandwich.” I wish the discussion wasn’t so individualizing, focusing on who is or is not a “bad” person. Clearly Al was not the only person to wear such a t-shirt, and this is a common joke that is made. I wonder why this is a common joke made. It seems as though the t-shirt itself perpetuates silencing (dismissive “Cool story babe.”), which is an integral process of oppression. It also seems that the reaction to this t-shirt is being shut down, silenced even, by an assertion that Al is obviously NOT sexist. Again, it seems as though this is a common occurrence. A systemic occurrence. As president elect of UMSU, Al is now in a potentially transformative space to talk about what it means to wear incredibly offensive and sexist t-shirts. It may be an opportunity to talk about sexism as something we all experience and are implicated in, in different ways, and therefore something we all need to talk about, and take responsibility for.

  11. The thing I don’t get about people saying this is not a story…. didn’t it get passed all over facebook by university students?

    That means it became a thing, right? Agree or disagree with the reaction but Turnbul replied to the issue with a statement and to me that means “yes, I understand this is a thing.”

    I’d like to hear from people who address the topic in a positive way rather than say it’s not anything in the first place.

  12. Nunya Biznus | March 13, 2013 at 1:57 pm |

    Since we’re on the topic of inappropriateness, how bout this “gender inclusive washroom” business?

    I’m sorry, but is there some third gender that is being forced to pee in the bushes that I’m not aware of?

    Maybe I’m not fully understanding the concept, but last I checked our washroom needs were fully accommodated.

    It amazes me to see how much of a waste of my money UMSU has turned out to be over the course of my degree. UofM has become such a sess-pool of extreme socialistic culture. This Union has done nothing to prevent the decay of professionalism among students.

    UMSU needs to foster an environment in which we can produce to academic brilliance while protecting students from the shameless extortion of students by the UofM.

    • makeyourownsandwich | March 14, 2013 at 5:30 pm |

      Yes, there is “some third gender” you don’t know about. Transgendered folks are often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe in public washrooms where they are told they don’t belong (men’s/women’s). I think the idea is that we can all act like humans and pee in the same bathrooms, and then no one has to get screamed at or intimidated when all they want to do is pee.

  13. Steven Perry | March 13, 2013 at 2:09 pm |

    This got very petty on the old Facebook very quickly, and while it’s not terribly surprising it’s still disappointing. Here’s what people need to keep in mind: It’s Facebook. Seriously. To everyone acting morally superior and flinging shit from above: It’s one damned photo. You’re so perfect that you don’t have a single picture on Facebook that could be construed as ‘offensive’? I’ve got pictures where I’m naked, in war paint, humping statues… and those are just the profile pictures. Please.

    Regardless, for such venom to be poured out over this is pathetic. It’s a T-shirt and a photo. Do you think that one photograph would be enough to justify strangers to make judgment calls and sweeping statements about yourself and your personal character?

    This seems to be the outcry of a small, vocal minority of students who have an axe to grind, as for the first time in years their like-minded progressive-elitists have isolated themselves from regular students enough to find themselves out of power. These Chicken Littles are trying to grasp at any reason they can to declare that the sky is falling. In doing so they are showing themselves to be nothing but prejudiced, venomous, hypocritical reactionaries who will throw a tantrum and stoop to the lowest common denominator when they don’t get their way.

    Fresh has been the incoming executive all of what, three days? Judge them and their merit on what they will do with their time in office. Don’t try and base your entire perceptions of a person based on a solitary photo you’ve seen without any context to it. That’s petty. Grow up and don’t get so butt-hurt.

  14. Seriously people, PART OF THE PROBLEM is the fact that you don’t get to decide what someone else finds offensive.

    If you are interested in working with the community then guess what? You don’t get to dictate how the community feels or reacts to something.

    If students are offended (whoever they may be) then you should respond and try to fix it. You SHOULD NOT tell them they shouldn’t be offended in the first place.

    • Robert Paulson | March 13, 2013 at 9:30 pm |

      Okay, then I am offended by the way Kelsey Isabel attacked Al. I expect as many public apologies, and for it to be fixed. Or is me taking offense to that not politically correct?

      • Ugh. You do understand there is a different set of standards for people who make themselves public figures, right? I don’t think anyone is saying that calling some else names is appropriate (at least I’m not).

        When a public figure, one who is elected to represent a large group of diverse people, is seen promoting something hateful and derogatory then that issue has to be addressed.

        Regardless of whether you believe this umsu pres is a bad person or not this is something important to talk about. Fighting hatred with more hatred gets us nowhere, but saying this isn’t an issue in the first place is just not the right answer.

        • Robert Paulson | March 16, 2013 at 1:48 pm |

          I fully understand that there is a different set of standards, I just like to take the concept further. If someone is going to try and take the moral high road, and call out a public figure, then they themselves should be held to an equal if not more stringent standard.

  15. Glad to see that Al has a lot of friends and supporters at the ready. Unfortunately, they only seem to be taking away from Al’s sincere apology. Please recognize that the shirts and tweet were in poor taste, were offensive to many (of all genders) who came across them. The new slate should learn from this controversy. I’ve studied and worked at UM a long time and I’ve seen many slates come and go. Some were questionable in their efficacy, but almost all (in the last 5 yrs. anyway) had an incredibly supportive attitude towards groups on campus, along with a compassionate and open-minded stance towards criticism. Fresh slate supporters should recognize that by attempting to delegitimize the concerns of many students, they are furthering the divide between students with differing views on social issues rather than taking this as a learning experience.

    I don’t know about Al’s supporters, but I do know that Al and his slate will be changed people by the end of April 2014. I can guarantee that as that is usually the case with a position that REQUIRES collaboration with groups that you may never have or never wanted to have interacted with before.

Comments are closed.