Mob rule at the University of Alberta: violations of Code of Student Behaviour knowingly condoned
- University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera condones property damage, obstruction, and incitement to violate the Code of Student Behaviour
- Justice Centre: “Criminal conduct should not be condoned for the sake of ideology”
EDMONTON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) has called on Dr. Indira Samarasekera, President of the University of Alberta, to cease condoning violations of the Code of Student Behaviour at the University of Alberta in relation to Go-Life, a student pro-life club.
On Tuesday, March 3, 2015, an anti-abortion display on the University of Alberta campus was physically obstructed by approximately 30 students who made it impossible for any person to view the display. Although this conduct of disruption and obstructing events is expressly prohibited by the Code of Student Behaviour (hereafter “Code”), the University of Alberta Protective Services did not request any of the obstructionists to cease engaging in obstruction.
Section 30.3.4 of the Code prohibits “Inappropriate Behaviour towards Individuals or Groups” including “Disruption,” stating that “No Student shall, by action, words, written material, or by any means whatsoever, obstruct University Activities or University-related Functions.”
Prior to the March 3-4 display on campus, the University of Alberta Protective Services received advance notice of the plans to physically disrupt and obstruct the pro-life club’s display, with certain individuals discussing their plans openly on Facebook in the days leading up to the March 3-4 dates. Failing to take appropriate action, the University of Alberta Protective Services condoned the violation of the Code’s prohibition on inciting others to inappropriate behaviour (30.3.4) and encouraging others to commit offence under the Code (30.3.6).
The University of Alberta’s tolerance of mob rule on Tuesday March 3 comes in the wake of the University condoning, for several weeks prior to March 3, the theft of Go-Life’s property by individuals who have stated openly on Facebook that they were stealing Go-Life’s property. In February, the JCCF provided Dr. Samarasekera and University of Alberta Protective Services with details of a pattern of persistent theft and vandalism, starting in September 2014 and continuing through to February 2015, directed against posters put up by Go-Life members to advertise scheduled and authorized campus club events. Over the course of five months, over 3,000 Go-Life posters have been torn down, effectively destroying the value of over 70 hours of volunteer labour expended by club members to put up the posters.
In addition to the Criminal Code provisions which prohibit theft and property damage, the University of Alberta’s Code of Student Behaviour states that “No Student shall possess, misappropriate, convert, destroy or otherwise damage University property or the property of any other member of the University Community” (30.3.5).
“The University of Alberta is condoning the complete suppression of our free expression rights on campus,” stated Amberlee Nicol, a second-year education student and president of Go-Life.
“The University claims to have a duty to foster and facilitate discussion and debate, yet knowingly condones the silencing of our opinions on campus,” continued Nicol.
“The disruption and obstruction of our display is prohibited by the Code of Student Behaviour, yet campus security stands by and does nothing while some students silence debate and flaunt the rules,” stated Kianna Owen, a first-year nursing student and the secretary of Go-Life.
“The people who are disrupting and obstructing our display, would they be OK with their own opinions being silenced?” continued Owen.
“The University’s choice to condone, knowingly, the violation of the Code of Student Behaviour sends a message to all students that silencing people you disagree with is acceptable conduct at the University,” stated lawyer John Carpay, president of the JCCF.
“In cases like this, where there is compelling evidence that students have engaged in conduct which violates both the Criminal Code and the Code of Student Behaviour, a person’s beliefs or ideological motivation should not be accepted as a justification for such conduct,” continued Carpay.