After months of pressure from campus administration, the University of Saskatchewan’s favourite grapevine, USask Confessions, has officially removed references to the university from their Facebook page. Now known as “You Sask Confessions,” the page’s administrator has since released a statement concerning the dispute.
Established in 2013 for students to anonymously post about their opinions, crushes and confessions, the page has operated as a communication platform of sorts for students at the U of S as well as for those not on campus. The page has more than 33,000 followers.
On Nov. 7, the current administrator of the page made a post saying that the name change is due to a trademark claim made by the U of S over the term “Usask,” which was allegedly trademarked in 2016. The post was made in response to an email from Kris Foster, university communications director, who said that the term “Usask” was legally protected and that the confessions page had no connection to the university.
In the post, the You Sask Confessions administrator also alleged that this is not the first time the university has filed a trademark claim against a group.
“They have a history of swallowing trademarks and using trademark disputes to shut down groups that have a history of active protest against policies, … which we sure do!” the post said.
The post referenced a 2011 trademark claim where a group called University of Saskatchewan Senators Working to Revive Democracy was given a cease and desist letter for their use of the university trademark term “University of Saskatchewan.” Formed in 2011, USSWORD protested the alleged ties of the U of S to CAMECO as they believed corporate interests were dictating the university rather than research.
In addition to changing the name of the Facebook page, the You Sask Confessions page administrator deleted the affiliated USask help pages. These six help pages were dedicated to helping students who seeking academic advice.
In an email to the Sheaf, Gord Hunchak, associate vice-president, strategic communications and chief communications officer of the university, said that the university owns several trademarks and they cannot be used without written permission from the university.
“The University of Saskatchewan is the exclusive owner of several trademarks, including its logos and the word ‘Usask.’ No one is allowed to use these marks without written permission from the university, especially if the use suggests an association or approval from the university,” Hunchak said.
Additionally, Hunchak said that it was important to separate the confessions page from the university as the page did bring in its own revenue.
“Further, because [the] ‘Usask Confessions’ Facebook page sells advertising and earns revenue, it was necessary for it to be made clear that there is no connection between the university and the page, and certainly no endorsement of paid advertisements,” Hunchak said.
Ultimately, Hunchak says the naming dispute is due to the fact that You Sask Confessions has nothing to do with the U of S.
“As ‘Usask Confessions’ has no connection to the University of Saskatchewan, we requested that the word ‘Usask’ and any related university logos and trademarks be removed from the Facebook page and the name ‘Usask Confessions’ be either changed or discontinued.”
You Sask Confessions declined to provide further comment on this issue to the Sheaf.
J.C. Balicanta Narag / Outreach Director
Photo: Riley Deacon / Photo Editor