Controversial photo of UMSU president circulating on social media

“Yup that’s right, I’ll tutor you and check out your cleavage free of charge,” reads a comment made by current UMSU president, Al Turnbull, under a photo originally posted through his personal Instagram profile.

A former employee and writing tutor of the U of M’s Academic Learning Centre (ALC), Turnbull is pictured alongside an unidentified female, posed as if to suggest that he is her tutor, in what appears to be ALC promotional materials. The aforementioned controversial comment, however, was registered beneath an Instagram photo of this staged ALC promo piece, posted by Turnbull some time ago. A tumblr page entitled was created sometime on Thursday, Sept. 12, and contains a single screengrab of the photo in question.

The image began circulating on social media sites like Facebook shortly after the Manitoban learned, on Wednesday afternoon, that the UMSU executives admitted to manually removing all Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) promotional pages and materials from the 2013-2014 U of M student agendas, prior to distributing them to students on campus this week.

In an interview with the Manitoban, Turnbull claimed responsibility for the problematic commentary in the photo, expressed remorse, and went on to note, however, that the the photograph was taken “six or seven months ago” — prior to his being elected UMSU president.

“I’ll never escape these momentary lapses in judgment; they’ll probably haunt me my entire political career. At the same time, this is the political arena and the [circulation of this photo] is a strategic move to [defame] my character directly after I made a fairly straightforward point and advancement about the CFS’s integrity within our [student agendas] contract,” said Turnbull.

In March of this year, a similarly controversial photo of Turnbull began circulating on social media networks, only days after the Fresh Slate had been announced the winner of the 2013 UMSU General Elections.

“It was all inappropriate [on my part]; I’m deeply saddened and have apologized for [both instances] as much as I can. This is no longer an attempt to evoke remorse in me or to get a reaction from the public [ . . . ] I would say that this is a red herring to [distract attention away] from the real problem here, which is some of the findings [UMSU has made regarding] the CFS nationalist component.”

Referring to the nature of the photo in question, as well as the timing and circumstances surrounding its recent release and circulation, Turnbull noted that it was “100 per cent not a coincidence.”

“This [photo] is something that is 100 per cent not new [ . . . ] at this point the purpose is different than it was before [when the first photo was released in March], where it was to expose the inappropriateness of my comments from the past,” said Turnbull. “Now it’s trying to assert that this [current photo and comment] are new, that it’s something I’ve done recently.”

“The impression that readers are going to get, or people that visit the [tumblr page], is that I did this yesterday. That was the goal of putting this out there; it was totally [in the name of character assassination]. Whoever posted this had it or [received] it from somebody who has had it for an extremely long time — we’re talking six-plus months now.”

Turnbull reiterated that he believed the timing of the photo’s release ought to be seen as an attempt to delegitimize UMSU’s ongoing effort to appraise the quality and pricing of CFS-provided student services.

“It’s really just trying to drag my character through the mud a little bit to [distract] from the real issue here, which is the CFS and some of the clauses we [the current executive] got trapped into with our [agenda] handbooks and some of the money that was lost in the process,” said Turnbull.

-With files from Quinn Richert-


22 Comments on "Controversial photo of UMSU president circulating on social media"

  1. Must I Carry Pepper Spray? | September 13, 2013 at 10:39 am |

    The real issue is that Turnbull has no sense of judgment (or even…self preservation?) when it comes to keeping his grossly sexist mouth shut. Sexual harassment, not to mention by a tutor who is clearly in a position of relative power, is not a joke and this guy can’t seem to grasp that. It’s not complicated. He is just too lazy and selfish to put aside his male privilege and think before he speaks/posts. Please, instead of spending our union fees to pay for your time spent taking out grudges against CFS and last year’s executive, why don’t you hire someone to rewrite your jokes for you, free of creepiness?

  2. Turnbull sucks | September 13, 2013 at 1:08 pm |

    What I find funny is how he takes his personal little tiff with Bilan and turns it into a “umsu problem”. Be honest dude you’re as petty as they come. Why don’t you take responsibility for the shitty health care plan that You locked the students into. A plan from a company that A) didn’t have a license to insure in Manitoba until just before the school year started. And B) paid for an all expenses trip to Vancouver for a member of your executive. Information that was withheld from students. How very funny that Turnbull talk about certain people being sneaky, but he’s as sneaky as they come.

  3. Disappointed in what this school is becoming | September 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm |

    As a current student and past employee of the University of Manitoba, it deeply saddens me to see that student politics are being treated with such little respect.

    1) To change the health and dental coverage of students without any type of consultation is not only disrespectful, but an act of violence and aggression towards the students which you were elected to represent, Mr. Turnbull. The ramifications to students with a socioeconomic background such as yours are no doubt low. When one can afford private school, health and dental are usually of little concern, financially. Having been left out of the process entirely, most student are left to wonder what part this played in the ease of his decision and lack of regard to the effects it would have on students. These cuts WILL be detrimental to the living conditions of some students, who may now have to choose between medicine OR food. How then are their studies supposed to be their primary concern this school year?

    2) As students, each and every one of us have a right to all of the information that is included in the student agendas that we were to receive. Much of this information is absolutely helpful to students, especially those who are newcomers or who face additional barriers. I am absolutely offended that you feel comfortable in deciding the importance of that information which we have already paid to receive.

    “It’s really just trying to drag my character through the mud a little bit to [distract] from the real issue here, which is the CFS and some of the clauses we [the current executive] got trapped into with our [agenda] handbooks and some of the money that was lost in the process.”

    It is not money that was lost in the process. It is the information which you ripped out of thousands of agendas as part of your tantrum that you could not back out of a signed contract with no notice. You are a business student and the president of the Student Union, I expected that you would have a far better understanding of process. Further, you are not the one who gets to “name” the real issue. The concept of naming has always been linked to power, and to privilege. “Man” being given the divine right to name the animals and plants, for instance. I believe that instead of taking a position when poor decisions that you have made in your past are brought to your attention, rather than taking a dismissive position (which is traditionally that of the privileged), it may instead be favorable to accept some of the criticism which comes your way, in a way that shows that you have thought about those actions and will then move in a different direction. Instead, you dismissed it as an attack, reminding us that you would have to deal with the consequences of this for the rest of your life. It is not coincidental, in my opinion, that much of the same rhetoric was used in the sports college case in the United States very recently which does not need to be named.

    3) Sexual harassment is a very serious matter. I suggest you review the University of Manitoba’s Respectful Work and Learning Policy, Mr. Turnbull. I have provided a link here for your convenience, because it is important that you read it. If nothing else speaks to you, at least examine the bit about consequences, if that is what it takes.

    This is not about others trying to drag your name through the mud. You seem to be doing that yourself.

  4. Do not trust this president- he should step down- let students make up their own mind about CFS, UMSU has no right to pull out pages that students have a right to know about. This dude is showing his true colors and its ugly

  5. Disappointed in what this school is becoming | September 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm |

    Question To The Manitoban:

    Is there anyway to provide students with the pages that were ripped out of the student agendas that could possibly be published in your newspaper or would that be violating copyright? It really would be great to have this information available to those many students who could benefit from the pages which contain community resources, crisis and suicide lines, food banks, as well as other vital information, if nothing else. If this is not possible, would there be a way to publish information on some community resources that are available in the city for those that do not have access to this information at this time? Fortunately, I have friends which attend the University of Winnipeg, and they have shown me their agendas so that I am free to view information free of censorship. Thousands of students however, no longer have access to this information in their agenda, which they would be carrying with them nearly everywhere they go, so while it would not be as helpful as the original, it is at least one step towards safety for the 28,000 plus students on our campus. 🙂

  6. Fact of the matter is, the student body voted him in

  7. With that being said, instead of going public and riling up the public and have things that are so beyond the facts brought up, the student body is at fault too and should ask themselves ‘what are we doing voting him in?’

  8. I seriously cannot believe all the commenters above me.. Changing the health and dental plan was an act of violence? Seriously?!?! How about the fact that Bilan locked UMSU into a 60,000 dollar contract for another year with CFS when she had plans to run for the CFS presidency the following year? Oh right, that doesn’t play into your little delusion so we’ll completely ignore that. Jesus!

  9. This is just the tip of the iceberg

  10. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. There are bigger issues to focus on other than an instagram post from how long ago. Seriously. Wow. If this is what our student body is concerned about, I am concerned about our student body. He hashtagged #awkward #powerstance CLEARLY making a mockery of the photographer’;s ideas about how the photo shoot should look. This is a smear campaign at its finest and a petty, ridiculous one at that. Stop reading into things that should not be read into. Get a life. Also, stop screen shotting photos from a year ago in anticipation of launching a ridiculous smear campaign. LAUGHABLE.

  11. too scared to sign name | September 14, 2013 at 9:13 am |

    Thank you for the story and for exposing Al Turnbull for his sexist and offensive behaviour. I am not a close friend of this year’s executive, but I did support them during the election in March and we share many mutual friends. Since after the election, the more I got to know Al, the less I really liked him and soon saw the shallow, petty and aggressive person he actually is, though he hides this really well from most people and loves to play the victim to persuade people to feel sorry for him or take his side. Over the past several months, mostly through mutual friends, I’ve found it particularly disturbing to hear that he and some of his friends laugh and make light of the sandwich t-shirt controversy from earlier this year, and in general, they think nothing of mocking and making fun of others. I especially don’t like how Al seems to target women who don’t bow to his power or who get in the way of what he wants. This was evident through his aggressive behaviour and the complete disrespect he has shown last year’s executive, but notably only toward the women. I also heard through friends who worked at The HUB last year that Al and his friends, after a few drinks, were known to be very rude to the staff, especially the female servers and security in the pub. I was also told that Al had a few aggressive interactions with the pub manager before she left to work somewhere else. I am not sure what others have experienced, but based on what I know so far, I can only imagine what other hurtful and sexist things he has said and done.

    –I would normally sign my name, but I am afraid of being targeted due to the air of aggression and intimidation on campus to anyone that opposes or even questions this year’s executive.

  12. This isn't news. | September 14, 2013 at 10:34 am |

    Everyone needs to get a hobby. This isn’t news. He made a silly comment, posted it to his social media as a joke, and then became president. I hope each person who calls him a pig or asks him to step down feels the karma. One day, when your useless arts degrees get you a low paying job, something from your past will come and bite you in the ass and you will feel like Al feels now.

  13. What's he smokin' ? | September 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm |

    Dude needs to wake up. This is a university! Which means sexism will not be tolerated, even by other guys. Interesting the kinds of characters we elect for UMSU .

  14. CFS smear campaign, most comments reflect this.

  15. This is the second time that this president has publicly apologized for sexist behaviour (that I know of) and it is only September. Like a true politician he is still hedging and playing the victim card. Grow the f-ck up, Turnbull. Some years ago, we had a reformed felon as our pres, yet I’m more ashamed of Turnbull as the UMSU president. There’s a reason why I didn’t vote for him, it was obvious from their slate that they know little about life outside their sheltered, insular world. (Inter-faculty sports competition? Yeah, good luck with that.) I don’t think this slate realizes that they are representing thousands of students, approx. half of them are women, some are poor, gay, trans, differently abled, from different countries etc. It’s obvious that, for most of them, this was just a job for their resume and an opportunity to get work after school, into an MBA program or law or other professional school. My advice for this slate would be to keep your head down, mouth shut, get to know students, work FOR them, and then gtfo.

    And, everyone reads into your pathetic apologies and explanations and they are indeed petty. Bilan is not the only person who doesn’t support your views. 6-7 months before you ran is still only last year. So, you were sexist last year but you’re not anymore because you are president now?

    While you got the majority vote, there were many who didn’t vote for you. You represent them as well. Leave the past where it is, and act like the respectable leader of a student government that you are supposed to be.

  16. Protip: “I’m sorry I hurt my political career” isn’t an apology

  17. For the commenter (Al) above, sadly, I find your points to be true; he has his own agenda, to use UMSU to pad his resume and as his stepping stone to get into law school. which is found within the quote below from an article printed earlier this month.

    “I always had a goal to get to law school,” Turnbull said with a smile. “I’m just completing a BA with a double major in political science and linguistics. I know how difficult it is to get into law school so a couple of years ago I got involved in student government. Last year I was president of the Faculty of Arts and figured that to pump my resume and build some tangible skills, I’d run for president UMSU. It’s going to be a busy September and October.”

    • Wow. Just wow.

      I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re running for an office like President of a student union, you should be doing it for one reason and one reason only: to serve the membership. I’ve run for student council a couple times, and been a local union executive, and I’ve never done it just to “pump my resume”

      My opinion is that if you’re in it not to serve your members but to pad your resume and kickstart a political career, you shouldn’t even be running. Al, if these are your motivations and this is how you see public service, you should resign now, and not just because of your sexist comments.

    • Ugh. Not even surprised. Thanks for the confirmation.

  18. The world doesn't need any more misogynists in positions of power | September 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm |

    Hey Al, maybe take a Women and Gender Studies class at the U of M, they offer several. I’m not sure if you realize this, but half of the students you’re representing as UMSU president, ARE WOMEN. At least half of the planet is. Gain some respect, educate yourself, and wake up, it’s 2013 not 1950.

  19. Sexism is a two way street | September 16, 2013 at 7:05 am |

    He is obviously making a joke, are you all seriously upset about this? Maybe your all to dim to interpret his hashtags and immediatly see someone in success and feel the urge to bash him due to the fact that he’d probably never want to see YOUR clevage. They only sexist comment here is the u of m student body who feels this man, making a joke that remotely invovles a sexual nature, is some how sexist. Neo conservative anti-male feminism?

  20. I think that a resignation is in order... | September 27, 2013 at 10:37 pm |

    I am terribly disappointed in the decisions of this executive. Not only were the comments sexist and offensive, but as others have pointed out, make light of and endorse sexual harassment. Not only is Al Turnbull misrepresenting UMSU, but he is also misrepresenting the writing centre for which he works, which somehow makes this situation doubly worse. Many students are tentative to take advantage of the writing centre and other resources and outlets that the university offers. Now, why would anyone, particularly those of the female gender, feel safe and comfortable accessing these services if even the president of UMSU is going to be “checking out (their) cleavage”? To comment on the ripping out of the CFS pages from the daybook, all I can say is that Al Turnbull has NO RIGHT to choose what information we can or cannot access simply because he is unhappy with the previous UMSU slate. Al Turnbull is not simply “out of touch”; instead, he is out of place in the worst possible way, and obviously enjoys abusing any sort of power he may posess or gain. #Powerstance.

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