Memorial University senior administration has attempted to assassinate the character of student activist and journalist Matt Barter. Their narrative has been that it is about “behaviour” and not activism, protest, and journalism.
In a statement from December of 2021, the university wrote that it does not comment on individual cases, but it can share general information about the Student Code of Conduct process, such as how perceived risk is needed for interim measures:
“For interim measures to be applied there has to be escalation, past patterns of behaviour and a perceived risk to the safety of individuals.”
“The freedom to express oneself does not protect behaviour that becomes harassing or intimidating. Behaviour that crosses that line takes itself into the realm of actionable conduct.”
In a March 11, 2022 email, Communications Manager David Sorensen wrote to a journalist that “this matter really has nothing to do with Mr. Barter’s right to protest, but rather the behaviour he exhibits toward other people in the university community.”
In an email my lawyer Kyle Rees on March 25, 2022, Memorial General Counsel Scott Worsfold stated, “This behaviour is clearly not about protest and activism. The investigator found that activism and protest were indeed not the issue but rather his targeting, aggressive and harassing behaviour toward individuals… So again, activism is not the issue here – it is a purely behavioural issue which falls squarely within the code.”
I feel insulted by the position the General Counsel has taken and the words he has used to describe my work. In my opinion, it is a blatant attempt to smear me.
I believe Chief Risk Officer Greg McDougall has also used language meant to demean and smear me. McDougall’s December 8 complaint letter is loaded with terms like “intimidation,” “harassment,” “aggression,” “volatile,” and “unpredictable.”
I spent the last seven years of my life involved in student activism and protest on campus and have now written over 200 articles on my website including on topics like administrative bloat and the conditions of campus infrastructure. With the cessation of the print edition of the student newspaper The Muse, I am filling an important gap on information on administrative spending.
My silent protest was the textbook definition of protest. Both Jim Turk, director of Toronto Metropolitan University’s Centre for Free Expression and Cara Zwibel, Director of Fundamental Freedoms at Canadian Civil Liberties Association have supported this position. These two civil liberties experts agree that my Charter rights have been violated. More importantly, members of the public have strongly supported me, including with generous donations to my legal fund.
For Memorial University to reduce my work to a “purely behavioural issue” is demeaning. I have no choice but to take Memorial University to court to try my best to reverse all that has been done to me by the university.
Importantly, General Counsel Scott Worsfold mentions an investigation onto my protest. As part of the Student Code of Conduct process, Memorial University indeed hired lawyer Kimberley Horwood to conduct an investigation. The process cost the university over $9,000 but it wasn’t without fault. My lawyer argued both parties should agree on an investigator to avoid potential issues. Unfortunately, this reasonable request was denied. As we feared, the report produced by Ms. Horwood came with what we perceive as critical flaws.
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.