On December 6, 2021, on CBC News: Here and Now, journalist Anthony Germain spoke with Memorial University of Newfoundland student Matt Barter on why he was banned from campus. See the transcript below:
Anthony Germain: Matt Barter is a student protestor who has a problem with the president of Memorial University and her policies, and now she has a problem with him. He’s banned from going on campus. So Matt, what happened?
Matt Barter: I received an email from the university on Friday at 5 PM that says I’m banned from campus immediately.
AG: What was the problem?
MB: So, they referenced two different events: one event was back in September at a conference when I asked her (Timmons) questions about tuition fees and why she took down my posters and the second event is when I stood up with a protest sign during her talk at an event.
AG: Jennifer Browne, the Director of Student Life, says you’re banned from all campuses, not just the one here in St. John’s and quote, “your behaviour has been interpreted to be harassing and intimidating towards Dr. Timmons. Do you think you have maybe gone a little too far?
MB: I don’t understand how any of my actions can be perceived as harassing and intimidating to anyone. I have an issue with the decisions that Dr. Timmons has made as the President of Memorial; I don’t have an issue with her personally. I don’t know her as a person. I’ve only ever been in her presence two times at public events, so I’m not sure why she’s taking it personally.
AG: But you know, in one event, you did kind of interrupt, and you video tapped while you were asking her (Timmons) questions, and in the other one, your kind of pretty close to her, and you’re taking a selfie. Do you see how she might think that you crossed a line? You’re a little too much in her face?
MB: No, I think if someone’s a president of a university, or an elected politician, or a head of a large corporation, they should be able to handle protests. They should be able to handle freedom of speech, and they should be able to handle criticism.
AG: Now they say that they have no problem with protest. They just don’t like the way you kind of hang around and going to her events. University students have protested for ages, so you’re claiming that this is still a legitimate kind of protest?
MB: In the past, at MUN, students have ever taken over offices of administrators and occupied them. Students have taken over the president’s office. Students have disrupted Board of Regents meetings in the past. Actually, one time a couple of years ago in 2017, a group of students went in and stormed a Board of Regents meeting, and the university didn’t say anything about it.
AG: Right, so if you’re banned, what does that mean? I mean, classes are over, so I guess in some ways it’s not that bad. You can go take your exams and all that, right?
MB: But the issue is that I paid my tuition fees and not being allowed on campus; I’m not getting what I paid for, I’m not getting the full university experience. I don’t have access to the library, so I don’t have access to materials to finish my final assignments, and the university is putting this ban on me at the very end of the semester when students are entering a period of preparing for exams and finishing assignments, so instead of doing my school work, they have me doing media interviews.
AG: So, you’re banned, you can’t go to school, it’s the end of the year, what are you going to do?
MB: I’m going to use every resource at my disposal. The MUN Faculty Association has written two letters to Dr. Timmons in the past about freedom of expression. There’s another freedom of expression organization, a national one, who wrote her (Timmons) another letter today. I was also talking to the student union today as well, so I’m going to be using every resource that I possibly can, including possible legal action if they don’t reverse the ban.
AG: Alright, Matt, obviously, this is not over. Thank you for your time, and we’ll see what happens.
MB: Thank you.
Matt Barter is a fourth-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.