On December 15, 2021, on Talks with Jinesh, Youtuber Jinesh Modi spoke with student protester Matt Barter on his ban from Memorial University campus. See the transcript below:
Jinesh Modi: Hey guys, welcome back to another episode of Talks with Jinesh. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about a student who has been banned from attending the Memorial University campus. Matt Barter is a fourth-year Political Science and Sociology student, and now he’s banned from attending the campus. If he even steps foot on campus without checking in with security first, the RCMP, which is the police, can even be involved. Why is he banned? What were his actions that led him to be banned? Let’s see.
Matt, as a person, he’s a really nice guy. I’ve spoken to him a couple of times, and he has a really warm approach to his things. He’s really friendly as well. Very easy to socialize and hang out with. He’s been protesting against the university’s leadership since a long time. He has his own website, mattbarter.ca, where he puts out articles against the university administration. Recently an event took place that crossed the limits and boundaries of protesting. It all started as a normal news conference where they were announcing an initiative to help keep international students in the province, and then this happened. Matt Barter was protesting against Vianne Timmons as the president started her speech. Matt went up, stuck a sign on the podium and had another in his hand, which read, “Stop Vianne: no to tuition hikes and out of control spending.”
JM: What happened after the media conference?
Matt Barter: So, I stood up with the sign, nobody told me to leave, and then after Dr. Timmons was finished speaking, I sat down and then I listened to the next speaker and even after that part of the event was over, nobody from the university confronted me about it. Like nobody took issue with it. It wasn’t until a day or so later that they sent me an email.
JM: Matt later received an email saying that he’s banned from the campus, and he’s not allowed to have any direct or indirect contact with the president. The university later released a statement saying that they support the right to protest but not the right to harass or intimidate any staff member, including the president.
JM: So, Jennifer Browne, who’s the Director of Student Life, said you’re banned from the campuses, including the one here in St. John’s and that your behaviour has been interpreted to be harassing and intimidating towards Dr. Timmons. Do you think you may have gone a little too far with your protest against her?
MB: No, I think given the circumstances with them having my posters taken down, they really imposed limitations and restrictions on how I can express my views. So, not being allowed to put up the posters I want reduces what I can do. So, I need to be more creative in my approach.
JM: You also interrupted an event and video tapped while asking Dr. Timmons questions earlier this September. You’re also pretty close to her while taking a picture like a selfie with the stop Timmons sign. Do you think that was crossing the line? Do you see how she may think you’re attacking her personally?
MB: So, back in September, that was at a conference on the economic future of the province, and Dr. Timmons was one of the many presenters, and after she spoke, they asked if anybody had any questions, and there was no one at the mic, so I went and stood at the mic, and I asked her questions about why did she increase tuition and why were the posters ordered down. So, I was well within my right to do that, and I was within my right to video record it because the conference was actually being live streamed, and it’s up online now for anyone who wants to see it.
JM: And what did she say after you asked her about why she was taking down the posters?
MB: So, she finally answered that after ignoring it. So, she finally said that the posters were taken down because they do not honour the respectful workplace policy. So, she finally provided a reason.
JM: A lot of people have come out in your support as well, right, the CFS and the MUN Student Union.
MB: I’m using every resource at my disposal, so I’m glad that both the CFS and MUNSU that they recognize that it’s a larger issue than just my situation and that the ramifications are for the entire student body.
JM: So, I believe you also put out your interest of wanting to sit down with Dr. Timmons and have a conversation. Has anybody from MUN followed up on that with you?
MB: Nope, nobody from MUN has contacted me about that, which is unfortunate. It represents the pattern by the MUN administration of not wanting to meet with students on issues of tuition or their lavish expenses.
JM: So, now that you’re banned from campus and have to check in with security every time you are there. What do you plan to do? This is the exam time also, right? So, how is your preparation and everything? Is it going to be hindered because of that?
MB: So, because of the ban, I’m not allowed on campus except to go to class, for exams, or medical services, so I don’t have access to the library; I don’t have access to their resources. And they’re isolating me from the campus community and isolating me from my fellow students
JM: True, and also all the services you’re paying for with your tuition.
MB: Yes, so I paid tuition, but I also paid fees on top of that, like I pay a fee for The Works Recreation Centre.
JM: Exactly. All this is part of the tuition that you’re paying. The library, the services, the student services, and everything. But now, this ban is preventing you from utilizing them.
JM: Well, Matt, I’m very sorry to hear you’re going through all of this, but it’s a solid case.
JM: This is the aftermath of the fee increase at MUN. What do you think about this? Was Matt Barter right in his ways of protesting? Or was the campus ban too strict an action from the university?
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.