Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Occupy Edmonton and the University of Alberta


Members of the University of Alberta community,

You may have heard about the recent attempts by the Occupy Edmonton organization to establish a camp on the University of Alberta North campus. Here’s what we can tell you:

First of all, the University of Alberta welcomes debate and dialogue and encourages diversity of thought and opinion.  At no time does the university want to limit such healthy intellectual discussion, on any subject—and indeed, the Occupy movement itself is a subject of interest within the university community. For example, there are two different events focusing on the Occupy movement involved with I-Week currently underway this week on campus.

After learning from Occupy Edmonton’s intention to occupy campus, the university made several attempts to begin a dialogue with Occupy Edmonton organizers, but those organizers were resistant to communicating with the university.  Representatives of the university did speak directly and in person with Occupy Edmonton organizers earlier today as they gathered prior to their planned march.  It was made clear to Occupy organizers why the university cannot permit such an occupation and that any attempts to do so will result in their removal from university property.  Our hope was that in speaking with organizers in advance we might avoid the potential for any confrontation.

The university has a responsibility to ensure the health and safety of its students, staff and faculty, and to put first the protection of an environment conducive to research and learning.  As a result, policies and procedures are in place at the U of A precisely designed to accomplish these goals.  In any circumstances, unauthorized camping is not permitted on campus. Simply, any attempt to establish an Occupy camp on University of Alberta property—which is private property—will put the U of A community at risk, and, further, it will interfere with the university’s clear responsibility to effectively deliver its programs and services to students, staff and faculty.

There are ample measures and mechanisms for members of the University community broadly defined to engage in healthy, peaceful and respectful debate on campus.

15 comments:

  1. So what you're saying is that a peaceful protest against the commercialization of an educational institution is a danger? That would only make sense if it upset the status quo of something corrupt... Like an institute that cuts funding for important items while raising tuition and paying a salary of $900000/yr to a single person?

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  2. I would appreciate a response from Colloquy, preferably from a senior administrator, about the points raised in this posting at http://artssquared.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/statement-by-students-faculty-of-arts-staff-solidarity-about-yesterdays-events/

    Statement by Students (Faculty of Arts Staff Solidarity) about Yesterday’s Events
    Posted on 2 February 2012

    [FASS Media Release]

    Student Rally Prohibited on Campus

    As the Faculty of Arts Staff Solidarity (FASS), we want to clarify events that occurred at the University of Alberta today. February 1st is the national student day of action. On campuses all across the country, students gathered to highlight tuition fees, student debt, and the crisis of the university. We are a group of reform oriented students who have worked to raise awareness about the impacts in the Faculty of Arts from funding cuts. Many of our supporters had planned to participate in a rally on the University of Alberta campus, in solidarity with students across the country.

    The students, faculty, staff and alumni who wished to rally were prohibited from expressing our concerns and any individuals without current University student identification, including alumni, were barred from the campus. At no point did FASS members and other students intend to ‘occupy’ any part of the campus.

    “Every day, as a political science student, I am told of the importance of standing up for what I believe in, but when I attempt to engage in a larger conversation, the university bans it before it even begins,” says Matt Dow, a Masters student in Political Science.

    “Indira Samarasekera, the President of the University of Alberta, has gone on record to denounce the so-called ‘negative advocacy’ of student groups,” says Ashley Dryburgh, a PhD student in English and Film Studies. “There is nothing negative with saying that the U of A is one of the best universities in Canada and deserves to have vibrant and well-funded faculties. But if the administration is not willing to send the message to the provincial government that we are in trouble, we are going to do it ourselves.”

    We are profoundly disappointed by the University’s decisions regarding today’s events. The university tells us that they “welcome debate and dialogue and encourage diversity of thought and opinion” but today they demonstrated the opposite by preventing the peaceful gathering of staff, students, faculty, and alumni. Despite the University’s reluctance to acknowledge these important issues, FASS will continue to advocate for increased funding for the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. We look forward to the university joining this conversation.

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  3. The Administration did the right thing in this situation.

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  4. The University is bound by regulations, yes. But as a member of the occupy movement, I can say that certain freedoms are not, or are no longer fully recognised on university campuses; debate in certain aspects being one of them. An example of this being addressed can be found in Norway, where the government recently ended funding for "genusvetenskap"(gender studies) because it is "politicized and ideological" -essentially being closed off to debate and centered around theoretical assertions and theorists who denigrate and disparage refuting research and academic challenge or discussion. Perhaps the University should open such venues of debate and show that academic freedom does exist. Positive discrimination exists in hiring practices, but not yet (openly) in student recruiting. Balance is needed and gender theorists are not addressing this obvious inequality. It is commonly stated that more males in Engineering (for example) is due to sexism, but where there are more females (Psychology, the Arts, student #s in general), it is called equality; a serious misinterpretation which is not debated. Numerous other examples exist, but space here is limited.

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  5. I do not agree with the occupy movement and don't see them as representative of myself. They don't represent the 99% they claim to, but that's not the issue here.

    As a U of A student, I am extremely disappointed at the attitude the administration chose to take with regards to student activism. As a public institute with great pride in being one of Canada's leading Universities, we should be duty-bound to allow everyone to express their opinions - students or members of the public. After all, that is what makes our free and democratic country great.

    I am severely ashamed to be part of an institution where the administration would choose to stifle such peaceful protests. Shame on you, Indira.

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  6. I think Indira should have tricked the occupy protesters into protesting in the butterdome and then *pow* hit 'em with dodgeballs :)

    I don't disagree with the act (art?) of protesting but the "Occupy" movement is so poorly planned and organized it's nearly impossible to decipher what exactly they want. If they were clearer in their demands maybe people would act on them, or at least recognize them as legitimate concerns.

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  7. I'm proud to see the University - my alma mater - doing the right thing here, and acting right away on the threats as opposed to waiting until a situation spirals out of control. I'm sure this decision will be unpopular with the 0.99% that claim to represent 99%, but we should not and cannot choose actions based upon the threats of those thugs.

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  8. At the end of the day, the fact is that the institution stifled the democratic right to protest and expression. That's the issue here.

    I'm willing to bet that if a rally of pro-Suncor student protestors gathered to support tarsands development, there would be no issue.

    Education is not for sale; it's not a business venture; it's not a commodity - and we need an administration that understands this.

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  9. Thosands of students are gathering on campus for a pro-dodgeball demonstration! Quick - get the police helicopter!

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  10. Occupy-The-OccupiersFebruary 6, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    I do not want a small group of protestors representing myself. I agree with the comment above stating that he wishes not to be represented by the 0.99%. Please STOP trying to represent me. Speak for yourselves. There is a reason why every time you protest no more than 200 protesters show up. Most of them being homeless people. I find it interesting how most of the protesters across the globe look alike.

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  11. The OccupyYEG group is led in part by two folks, one who is paid by Greenpeace and one who is paid by The Sierra Club. Nothing against those organizations, but it seems like the Edmonton variant of Occupy is more about recruiting people to established activist groups than people concerned about the shrinking of the middle class.

    That said, it would have been nice if EPS had left the helicopter at home and instad of not allowing anyone on campus, simply have requested a bag check for camping equipment, letting any of that pile up on the drive while the students and Occupy kids had their rally and then let them pick them back up on their way back. But of course, once you get public police involved you (or in this case, the administration) doesn't get to call the shots on what EPS tactics should be.

    However, I saw a group of Occupy-oriented students protesting sporadically on campus the next day and though observed, campus police weren't stopping them. So clearly the university is allowing for folks to speak their mind publicly.

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  12. "The OccupyYEG group is led in part by two folks, one who is paid by Greenpeace and one who is paid by The Sierra Club."

    Please stick to the topic at hand. If you choose to disect the movement, you'll have to take into account the jobs (should they have one) of every person who participates in actions during traditional work hours, which, personally, doesn't play as much relevance as the person's desire for positive change.

    This protest was for positive change, and the university students finally had some outside support on their concerns about tuition raises. I'm quite confused as to why student-led protests, including the tent city that occured on the BOG front lawn a few years ago, was not met with the same instantaneous reactions to shut it down and arrest people. I'm also confused as to why Business Students are allowed to camp on campus during 5 Days for Homeless, when they are also advocating for positive change. Yet, Administration tried to stop this peaceful students, staff, and supporters from even coming on campus. To me, these actions all seem similar, but the university has reacted in much different ways. I'm confused as to what actions are allowed, who should be leading them, and when they are allowed to occur.

    Jayme Nelson
    ENCS 2008

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  13. I don't believe that any group can have a useful, proactive, positive effect towards the support of their cause, however well-intentioned it may be, by simply camping out somewhere and getting in other people's way. Successful protest is accomplished by ACTION, by working towards goals that will ultimately result in greater changes, not by simply whining about how things are. School fees are a reflection of SO many things other than Indira's salary- don't hate her because she is well paid- if you were her, you would probably have no second thoughts about accepting your salary. Let's support the positive work of students who go to school, work a job, and contribute quietly to the community, not those who shout the loudest.

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  14. Why is the U of A administration so scared of a student-led protest on campus? The argument that an Occupy Campus action would somehow impair the U of A's ability to deliver education is so far-fetched. Implying that an Occupy action goes against "healthy, peaceful and respectful debate on campus" is not supported by any facts. Did the protesters block the LRT, disrupt lectures, harass faculty? None of the above happened. President Samarasekera and Provost Amrhein should resign. They do not understand the value of an accessible, welcoming space for debate on campus. This makes them unfit to run a publicly-funded university. Not to mention that their $ 800.000 salaries makes them grossly overpaid.

    This administration-run blog is a poor substitute for open debate about the increasing costs of higher education.

    Geert De Cock

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  15. While the University of Alberta attempts to pride itself in the global presence, this is another example of how the University is so disconnected with its own vision. While we strive to become one of the leading Universities, we restrict student freedom, cut courses, cut professors, increase class size and more. While the university if private property and in the end have the final say regarding the activities on the property, I do not see how this protest is any different from Orientation. While this protest would most likely represent a small number of individuals, orientation, the recent dodgeball, and other activities have a tremendous presence. We should not condemn the would be actions of our Occupy community, based upon the actions of others.

    We try to voice our opinion, yet it falls on deaf ears. U of A administration, you have failed the vision that you have conveyed to thousands.

    "Education's purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one." -Malcolm Forbes

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