Screen grab of Live from HSU's Instagram page.

OPINION: What happened on Live from HSU?

The Live from HSU Instagram stirred with controversial discussion

Live from HSU Instagram stirred with controversial discussion

Social media can be a powerful platform where people can express their opinions and uplift others or it can be a complete abuse of power. Recently the student-run Instagram ‘Live from HSU’ posted several photos about logging practices and the negative effects on forests. A stream of user comments responded. A mix of forestry students and plenty of science majors defended the logging industry, saying that practices have drastically changed in the past 100 years.

Live from HSU brought this up as an open topic for people to bring different opinions to the table, and that’s exactly what happened. The posts got negative and defensive backlash as they were not backed up by factual evidence.

The question is where does one draw the line when it comes to freedom of speech? When it comes to controversial topics the strongest amount of evidence backs up a claim the most.

“I don’t think that using the student-run Instagram was necessarily the best platform to relay his message…”

Maddy Tervet

When emotion and opinion get dragged in the waters get muddy and people lash out angrily. What came out of one post continued to come out with several other posts. Students spoke out in a way to defend the forestry department, but the account continued to respond in an emotional way.

Maddy Tervet is an oceanography and chemistry major at HSU. Tervet said that she thinks the instagram user at the time had a valid point about these issues not being brought up enough.

“But I don’t think that using the student-run Instagram was necessarily the best platform to relay his message,” Tervet said. “I think that if he’d been a lot less hostile in responding to people’s comments and had done his research before he posted, his message would have been well received.”

The controversial topic about the logging industry is that people are clear cutting land due to historic intensive logging. The thing about the logging industry however, is that it has drastically changed over the years. What students are learning extensively now is how to restore the forests and fix what was done years ago. Sustainably managing the forests is what is being emphasized in the current forestry program.

Colleen Sloan was among many of the forestry majors that responded on their defense to the Live from HSU Instagram post.

“I see space for growth and fixing things that are broken,” Sloan said. “We’re in school to learn and go more in depth, so that what happened back in the day can be changed.”

The ‘Live from HSU Quick Start Guide’ specifically states that the purpose of the Instagram is to show what it’s like being a student on this campus and share about their clubs and activities.

“I think that in a lot of cases he crossed the line a bit, but we really try not to intervene. We don’t want to be controlling [the Instagram], we want it to be as authentic as possible.”

Frank Whitlatch, Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications

Students receive a guide as to what they should and should not post at the start of their week and it specifically states, “because you are representing the Humboldt State and the CSU System DO NOT post…” the list goes on to show ‘views on politics or policies’ as one of the things to strictly not post about.

Frank Whitlatch is the associate vice president for marketing and communication at HSU.

“I think that in a lot of cases he crossed the line a bit, but we really try not to intervene,” Whitlatch said. “We don’t want to be controlling [the Instagram], we want it to be as authentic as possible.”

Live from HSU took a student platform and abused its power, discrediting the school and some of its departments. Students took the platform as a way to defend the truth. Plenty, if not all, students responded in an emotional way, but did not fail to back up their comments with data or facts. It was a constant battle when the account responded and continued to make posts with negative rhetoric.

Erik Van Steinburg is a wildlife major and was one of the many students defending misconceptions of the logging industry.

“It’s just not right, a bunch of false statements were said,” Van Steinburg said. “To bash doesn’t make sense. It was emotional based and no facts were supporting [their claims].”

The individual running the account declined to make a comment about the debacle. They took to the Instagram page to call out the journalism department and said that a journalist’s objective viewpoints can be problematic. With this came a new cycle of students and alumni responding all over again.

“Misrepresentation in the media is seldom intentional, but it often happens to people whose viewpoint is radically different from the status-quo,” the individual said in a post.

When emotion fights with emotion, the argument gets nowhere. This was clear as the week went on with several posts ending up the exact same way through the exact same cycle. The posts brought up controversies that should be discussed, but the individual who ran the account lacked the credibility to back up their facts.

A platform like Live from HSU should be used to share a student’s experience here on campus, it can also be a platform where students can have open discussion about a topic they are passionate about.

Students should know full well what kind of power comes with a platform like Instagram, especially when the platform associates with a public university.

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