C/O Yoohyun Park

In order to protect McMaster community members, McMaster created its own digital platform to enforce its COVID-19 precautions

On Aug. 16, McMaster University confirmed that it would be requiring vaccination against COVID-19 for all students on campus. This information was shared in a letter from the President and Provost, which also stated that an online platform would be developed to validate the vaccination information of students. 

This online platform, called MacCheck, officially launched on Sept. 7. Since its launch, all McMaster students, staff and faculty have been required to upload proof of vaccination. Further, students, staff and faculty who are accessing McMaster’s campus must answer a series of COVID-19 screening questions on MacCheck beforehand.

According to Kevin de Kock, Director of Enterprise Solutions and Applications, there weren’t any online platforms already available that suited McMaster’s needs. 

“A lot of the other applications didn't really have the ability for somebody to go in and validate the [proof of vaccination], so it was clear to us that we were going to have to build something ourselves,” said de Kock. 

Once the announcement was made on Aug. 16 that proof of vaccination would be mandatory, McMaster was left with only a few weeks before their Sept. 7 deadline to develop a digital COVID-19 screening platform. 

According to de Kock, MacCheck’s launch has been very successful so far. With over 34,000 people who have already submitted their proof of vaccination, many students seem to understand the importance of MacCheck. 

Gayleen Gray, Assistant Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, added that, despite the initial success of MacCheck, there is still more work to be done. According to Gray, McMaster needs proof of vaccination from around 47,000 individuals, meaning there are about 13,000 people who still have to upload to MacCheck. 

“It's really important to us that we provide people with their privacy obviously, so only authorized individuals are able to see the information, but there is an intention to, as we get closer to October 18, push harder to remind people [that] this is necessary,” Gray said. 

In the comments of a post on the Spotted at Mac Facebook page, some individuals raised concerns that MacCheck isn’t enforced on campus. 

When discussing McMaster’s approach to ensuring that the daily COVID-19 screenings are completed by individuals accessing campus, Gray emphasized the importance of creating a culture where everyone understands the importance of MacCheck for community safety. 

“What we were trying to do is get away from a policing kind of approach, where anybody at any time can say ‘show me your green check; I want to see if you’re okay to be on campus,’” Gray explained. 

“It's impossible to police this, and the intention was never to police it, but MacCheck is meant to be your one-stop shop to prove that you've been cleared to attend campus,” de Kock said. 

According to Gray, the McMaster community has embraced this culture of community protection, with MacCheck averaging over 7,000 COVID-19 screenings per day. This, Gray says, speaks to McMaster’s wider culture of health and safety, as well as its culture of empathy. 

“In terms of validating whether students have or have not done that, there's a huge amount of respect and trust that our students will do the right thing. They know that this is something that they're required to do,” said Gray. 

Along with McMaster’s own mandatory vaccine policy, Ontario has also begun requiring proof of vaccination for those wishing to access indoor dining, athletic facilities, theatres and other non-essential services. This policy came into effect on Sept. 22. 

In order to comply with the provincial rules, McMaster’s COVID-19 guidelines have been further tightened. Students wishing to eat in the McMaster University Student Centre or access indoor athletic facilities are now required to show proof of vaccination and identification. As well, multiple food service areas on campus have limited their seating.

What is a meme? The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a meme as an “idea, image, video etc. that is spread very quickly on the internet.” But is that all? Memes are increasingly becoming a mode of communication and community building, particularly among younger generations. The Hammer Memer, a Hamilton-based meme account with over 6,000 followers, describes it as a “virtual handshake”a fitting description given handshakes are universally recognized as a sign of greeting or agreement, representing the idea of building friendships and connections between people through the medium of the web. 

“You can tell that it can bring a community together … just having these shared experiences, and then laying them out in some sort of comedic visual. It gives people this sense of collective bonding,” explained the creator of the Hammer Memer, who wishes to remain anonymous.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6YbTEqnuPr/

Each post on the account speaks to that shared experience of Hamiltonians, whether it be the loss of the LRT, a love for the arts or the struggle to stay healthy. There are dozens of comments on each post, with followers tagging their friends to talk to them about it. While the content may be silly, the number of people interacting with it shows how relatable it can be, to friends and strangers alike.

There are dozens of comments on each post, with followers tagging their friends to talk to them about it. While the content may be silly, the number of people interacting with it shows how relatable it can be, to friends and strangers alike.

Despite running a relatively successful local meme account, the creator of The Hammer Memer, has had a rocky relationship with social media prior to creating the account. 

“My relationship with social media is kind of all over the place, in a way that I don’t really enjoy, but I also know that it can be a lot of fun, and it can be used for a lot of good things. I just kind of got fed up using it to showcase my personal life because I’m not the most public person, I’m a pretty private person. So I decided, ‘You know what, I’ll start making memes’ because I thought it was a really fun but easy way to use social media for good . . .  to make people laugh,” explained the creator of The Hammer Memer.

The response to the page has been overwhelmingly positive, with the account even partnering with the local brand O’s Clothes to sell their own merchandise. While much of the online community and social media has been criticized for becoming increasingly toxic, The Hammer Memer has created a predominantly positive space for Hamiltonians to gather.

“You hear a lot about the volatility of the interweb, and I was expecting a lot of persistent haters after some particular memes especially, but nobody was really attached to attacking me or anything like that. Overall, I’ve only received love,” they said. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B6VjbK1FrHX/

Some of the posts touch on more serious topics, like the Chedoke water crisis and coverup, in order to draw attention to them. The Hammer Memer says that, increasingly, they’ve noticed that younger audiences are turning away from traditional media sources in favour of online content, like memes.

Some of the posts touch on more serious topics, like the Chedoke water crisis and coverup, in order to draw attention to them. The Hammer Memer says that, increasingly, they’ve noticed that younger audiences are turning away from traditional media sources in favour of online content, like memes.

“I do know that a lot of media sources don’t appeal to younger crowds especially. I guess it’s a generational thing, but I think the [former] reliance on getting information from major networks, I feel like some people have lost confidence in them, or trust in them. I know that I do have a younger crowd following me, and when it comes to sharing information to the public about relevant information that affects our community . . . I do get to help certain groups of our community to be informed and stay informed,” they said.

So what is a meme? Is it just an image to be shared? In many ways, that simplicity is what makes memes appealing; they’re easy to access and they’re relatable. At the end of the day, memes are what you get out of them, whether that be a laugh shared with friends, or a slightly forceful exhale as you laugh on your own. 

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Content Warning: This article mentions disordered eating. 

By Natalie Wylie

With a growing amount of nearly 30,000 likes and over 5,000 pictures and posts, it is no wonder that every time I open Facebook Spotted at Mac is the first notification that pops up on my feed. Spotted at Mac is a Facebook page that is based on anonymous submissions from students from the McMaster community. The page is multifaceted, as it represents a place for laughs and jokes but also a seemingly comfortable place where people go for help, tips and advice on a plethora of different topics.

Before coming into first year, Facebook was becoming obsolete in my daily life but after officially accepting my offer to McMaster I joined the Class of 2020 Facebook page. This page quickly became a large part of my personal social media intake as it became very active, with people introducing themselves and asking questions in anticipation of our first year.

The page was filled with excitement and happiness, however, the page died down after my first two semesters. Luckily as soon as that happened the Spotted at Mac page was on the rise and was an instant form of entertainment for me.

Spotted at Mac is home to a university version of Craigslist’s missed connections, where you can try to find the pretty girl you saw sitting outside of Starbucks in the student centre followed by a “coffee sometime?” request.

Spotted is also a place where you can share tips and tricks to make the most of your years at McMaster as well as to help with personal struggles among friends and family. The posts also allow students to connect with new people who have similar interest, or even those who are just looking for a pal.

 For me, one of the most intriguing aspects of [Spotted at Mac] was that it is an initiative created by the students instead of by the university. 

On a more serious note, this active Facebook page is a place where people go for advice about everything under the sun. In a more recent post on the page an individual asked for advice on how to help a close friend seemingly developing an eating disorder. When I looked at the comment section it consisted of nothing but supportive advice and even invitations to message people privately for additional help. This is the sign of a great community, one in which the people have no obligation to help but choose to out of the goodness of their own hearts.

Many parts of the internet come with hate and negativity, concepts in which Spotted at Mac is free of for the most part. There is a fair share of complaints and upsetting personal stories too. However, if you are struggling in a class I’m sure someone else is too and that they have posted a meme for you to laugh at, even if it’s just for a second. Allowing you to forget about the 12-page paper you have due tomorrow.

For me, one of the most intriguing aspects of this Facebook page was that it is an initiative created by the students instead of by the university. This is another solid reflection of the McMaster students and our ability to create communities on our own accord, specifically a community free of judgement.

McMaster students are creating their own positive space where individuals can make friends and develop a support team from behind a computer screen. This is a place where no one has to go through anything alone and everyone can engage. Spotted is a page created by students for students that allows everyone to be a part of a community with little to no rules but to simply be kind.

By: Ubah Ahmed

Content warning: this article contains a racial slur.

Wayne Welsh, an average American father of three, was an assistant police chief in his hometown of Estherwood Los Angelos, a small town where everyone knows everyone and news travels fast. Recently, Welsh liked and reposted a picture on Facebook of a mother drowning her daughter in the bathtub, captioned “When your daughter’s first crush is a little Negro boy.”  To this, his response was, “It’s not against [the law] if you share stuff on Facebook. It’s [sic] social media. Internet.”

Welsh’s response is an example of an important conversation that is reigniting today: can hateful or discriminatory comments made on personal accounts be a considered an offense if it is still a means of free speech? The lines between personal and public are becoming inconsistent. With the rise of social media and the internet, it’s no longer enough to claim your opinions belong only to you when you are in constant contact with individuals who may be vulnerable to hurtful comments. You can’t make offensive comments directed at certain groups of people for the whole world to see and not expect repercussions because of free speech. Free speech doesn’t mean speech without consequence.

Spotted at Mac is an example of this. What started off as anonymous Facebook page used by the McMaster community to send communal positivity and support is now doing quite the opposite. A recent post on the page about a guy who was “spouting transphobic and misogynistic garbage in Thode… and then whining ‘poor me, I’m a nice guy’” is an example of the offence that can be caused by commenting freely in public.

The comments, some now deleted, were a mess. Between the people who took it as a joke, those who tried to rationally and logically explain why the student in Thode was correct and those who liked those comments, it became clear that a lot of people are not afraid and unapologetic to share their hate in a very public manner. This is not okay, and responsibility needs to be taken into account whether it is in public or not.

These individuals don’t leave their hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic beliefs and views at home. When posting online, one must be considerate of those who may take offence to certain comments, and who should not have to be subject to hurtful commentary.

Spotted at Mac is an example of this. What started off as anonymous Facebook page used by the McMaster community to send communal positivity and support is now doing quite the opposite. 

It’s not something they check at the door and then manage to treat individuals they inherently see as less than them with the respect they deserve. They’re rooted deep within and when the people tasked with your protection see you as nothing more than a stereotype, caricatures, you get a world where a cop, Greg Abbott, can tell a nervous white woman stopped for a traffic violation, “But you’re not black. Remember, we only shoot black people. Yeah, we only kill black people, right?”

Estherwood Police Chief Ernest Villejoin’s response to Welsh was: “When I found out about it, I couldn’t believe I had to call him… I know Wayne didn’t do this on purpose. He didn’t do this [to] offend anybody.” It is a great privilege to be able to claim that one “didn’t do it on purpose” when referencing a grown man’s decision to repost an offensive and vile picture when that man himself sees no issue with it.

Just because something is on the internet, does not make it free from the standard we hold to all other human interaction. Scott Woods, an activist and psychologist, famously said “The problem is that people racism [and its manifestations] as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that.

Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not.”

Inequality is so ingrained in our society in its many different forms and manifestations that it will find its way into all your interactions until we begin to become more aware of its existence and actively work to rid our society of its iron grasp.

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Last week, I noticed a particularly offensive message had been posted to the Spotted at Mac Facebook page. The post was blatantly racist, and the majority of commenters agreed that it was extremely inappropriate. Frustrated and confused as to how this ever made it past the moderators, I commented explaining my issue with the post and questioned who could ever have deemed it appropriate to publish in the first place. Unfortunately, despite many people agreeing with me, it seems Spotted at Mac cares more about its reputation than it does about silencing discriminatory content, as I soon found that not only had all my comments on the page been deleted, but I had been banned from ever commenting again.

Before I get into why this is such a big deal, I want to preface this by saying that I actually did enjoy Spotted at Mac, and was - initially - a fan. Like many McMaster students, when Spotted at Mac was first introduced, I admired the concept of broadcasting anonymous messages to nearly 10,000 students, as this could be a way to give students a voice, helping to build a community among students while boosting the confidence of those involved. This anonymity could be used as a way to break down the intimidating aspects of student life, allowing those who needed advice or help transitioning through the experience that is university life to have a practical resource. Unfortunately, Spotted at Mac proved like so many things before it that anonymity is dangerous in the wrong hands.

While the page did in fact start out the way I had hoped, over time Spotted devolved into something uneducated, and deeply flawed. While the flirty and complimentary messages were there, more frequently I found negative comments that existed only to insult someone, rather than making them feel welcome. Even posts that seemed positive initially were soon filled with sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination that made people feel anything but welcome. All of this brings us back to the issue: why does any of this matter?

Well, the way I see it, there are two models Spotted at Mac could work under. The first is to heavily moderate the content that gets posted. This means making sure that anything offensive doesn’t get published, and if it does, making sure it is quickly taken down. This moderation would have to extend to the comments as well, ensuring that users understand that the page is promoting an inclusive environment for students. Obviously this is flawed for several reasons, but there is one that is especially important. It is clear that the administrators controlling what gets posted on Spotted are likely prejudiced themselves (I can’t imagine any other reason for the discriminatory content I’ve seen getting past moderators besides them simply thinking it was funny themselves) which makes this ideal option unfortunately not an effective one.

So, the only alternative is to let your community regulate itself. Much like Smith’s economic “invisible hand”, this system involves moderators doing little to regulate Spotted’s content, allowing community members to decide via comments what is and isn’t appropriate through self-regulation. This theory has a lot of flaws. In fact, one needs only to browse through Spotted at Mac for a few minutes to see that this theory isn’t an effective one. What’s worse is that even if you like this idea, Spotted at Mac simply isn’t practicing it. By banning those who speak out against negative content they are essentially combining the two methods to create a truly unfortunate hybrid. If you are a lover of free speech, you too are out of luck.

The current system of Spotted at Mac is one where free speech is allowed, but only if it is done with the forum’s own wellbeing in mind. Seemingly borrowing from major dictatorships of the past and present, Spotted picks and chooses what they like and dislike, while removing anything and anyone who disagrees with them. What’s left is a mouthpiece for hate speech and discriminatory content, so long as Spotted supports that message, which unfortunately is far too often.

My message to Spotted at Mac is simple: start working to make your page an inclusive one, choosing to censor discriminatory content and promote a positive environment, because McMaster is not a school that opposes diversity. We embrace it. If you cannot do this, it’s time for you to go.

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