Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
April 06, 2005
Board of Governors Meeting Disrupted
Today’s Board of Governors meeting was disrupted when an initially peaceful protest about budget-related issues became violent and some of the protesters forced their way into a restricted area in the University Centre to gain access to the meeting.
The University had limited access to the fourth floor of the University Centre, where B of G meets, because a specific and personal threat had been made against a board member prior to the meeting. Campus police were stationed on the floor to ensure the safety of staff and those attending the meeting, including students, faculty and staff members who were scheduled to attend to represent their respective groups.
Shortly after the meeting began, a group of protesters gained access to the Senate Offices and B of G offices on the fourth floor, and used chairs and garbage cans to charge past campus police posted outside of the meeting room. They pounded on the door to the board meeting, demanding access.
President Alastair Summerlee, who was in the meeting, admitted the protesters, asking only that they be respectful of the process and those presenting to the board. The board proceeded to discuss the University’s 2005/2006 MTCU preliminary operating budget for more than two hours, listening to comments from students, staff and employee group representatives. The proposed budget had already been presented to the community numerous times, including during a town hall session and a special informal session of Senate on Tuesday.
The budget was approved by the board, and when the board chair tried to proceed with other items on the agenda, the protesters once again became agitated and disruptive. After attempting to restore order several times, the board chair adjourned the meeting.
“Obviously, it was a distressing and upsetting situation for everyone involved,” Summerlee said. “I am particularly sorry that the students chose not to represent their views at the open meeting of Senate on Tuesday. The University has a time-honoured tradition of respecting students’ rights to dissent.
“In fact, free speech is a vital value of this campus. It is one thing to celebrate this proud tradition. It is something altogether different, however, to abandon such a mutually respectful dialogue in favour of actions that promote hostility, aggression and, in some extreme cases, outright violence. Everybody suffers when non-violent protests turn ugly. It undercuts the free exchange of ideas, and it’s disappointing that a group of individuals has undermined what has otherwise been a collective and open process,” Summerlee said.