On December 16, 2021, on CBC News: Here and Now, journalist Anthony Germain spoke with Lawyer Kyle Rees on why student Matt Barter was banned from campus. See the transcript below:
Anthony Germain: The lawyer for a student who’s in a dispute with Memorial University and its president Vianne Timmons says MUN has overreacted. Matt Barter has restrictions from setting foot on campus because of posting photos like this one, and the university is also investigating his actions as well. Kyle Rees with the law firm O’Dea Earle says instead of tolerating legitimate protest, MUN is treating Barter like a criminal without any justification.
Anthony Germain: Tell me about the dispute that Mr. Barter’s facing right now.
Kyle Rees: Well, Matt Barter is, I think, has been publicly notorious at this point, has been banned from attending on campus at Memorial University, with the exception of going to his classes and even when he goes to classes, he has to be escorted by campus security when he attends those classes. That is in response to a silent protest that Matt conducted on December 2nd of this year and, in our view, is completely inappropriate and a misuse of the student code of conduct process.
AG: But what’s inappropriate about it because I think he has a certain intensity, he’s been on Here & Now quite a few times, he’s a very intense person, sometimes he does get a bit close, or he has gotten a little close to the president, even though there was no contact. Can you see how some people are upset by his methods?
KR: Sure, and I would suggest that anybody has a right to be upset by any methods employed by any student in the form of protest. In fact, I’d also argue that upsetting people is sort of part of the point of protest. I don’t think it is cause for safety concern that a student gets in a subjective view too close to the university president. You know they’re not the president of the United States where their well-being is an issue. A student’s ability to protest to get close enough to their president to be able to ensure that their message, which was a silent protest, by the way, is seen and captured by cameras and viewed by people within the audience. I would submit is something that is important to do, and whether or not the university likes his methods or not I would suggest that when you’re are a university, when your a center for activist thought as a university ought to be, you should be prepared to deal with uncomfortable situations, and that’s what occurred here.
AG: Now, in taking up his cause as his legal representative, you said in a fairly succinct letter that he’s being treated as a criminal as if he’s a dangerous criminal.
KR: That’s right, I’m not aware of cases where an individual attends class and has to be escorted by campus security to and from class. All the kinds of cases that I’ve seen where the student code of conduct gets used, where interim measures get imposed against somebody, there cases where there was like a public safety threat, a person has assaulted somebody or made a serious obvious threat towards a person and that’s not the case for Matt.
AG: Last question for you, what does, I don’t want to be too dramatic, not what justice looks like, but what a remedy looks like in this case or what does Matt Barter want?
KR: Well, the first thing is he wants to be able to go back on campus. It should be acknowledged that I mean going to Memorial University is more than simply attending classes and getting grades. You can do that at any university in the world. Going to Memorial University is about, you know, being on campus, being part of clubs and societies. Hell, there are court of appeal cases in this province that says that being able to have a beer at The Breezeway is part of the important educational experience of going to Memorial University. Matt Barter can’t do any of those things. The university needs to understand that damage has been done, and a public perception problem has occurred as a result of banning Matt Barter from campus less than 24 hours after he protested decisions made by the administration.
AG: Alright, appreciate your time. I suspect we’ll be speaking again. Thank you very much.
KR: Take care.
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.