Statement from the Vice-President and Provost

From: Vivek Goel, Vice-President and Provost
Date: April 28, 2008
Re: Statement from the Vice-President and Provost

On March 24, 2008 President Naylor issued a statement to the University community regarding an incident at Simcoe Hall on March 20, 2008. I am writing to provide an update on developments since that incident.

First, I wish to restate the points made at the start of the President’s statement: the University holds as its central tenets freedom of expression, freedom of speech and the right to assemble freely. In protecting these rights, the University has also consistently taken the position that such freedoms must necessarily be exercised within constraints defined by law. Furthermore, the rights of one group to express a view cannot and should not infringe on the rights of another group.

As was noted in the President’s statement the protestors of March 20 seriously infringed the rights of workers in Simcoe Hall, to the point of holding some individuals against their will. When the protestors refused to allow safe passage by obstructing a door, campus police, after repeatedly and politely asking them to clear the passage, then moved to lift the protesters away from the door they were obstructing. It was reported that some protesters engaged in various forms of misconduct including verbal abuse, pushing and shoving of other members of the University community and in the case of one protestor, the uttering of death threats. At no time were the protestors forced to leave the site – they left on their own volition some time later.

The Governing Council’s Code of Student Conduct states: "The University takes the position that students have an obligation to make legal and responsible decisions concerning their conduct as, or as if they were, adults... University members are not, as such, immune from the criminal and civil laws of the wider political units to which they belong... Conduct that constitutes a breach of the Criminal Code or other statute, or that would give rise to a civil claim or action, should ordinarily be dealt with by the appropriate criminal or civil court...". The University thus submitted evidence from the incident to Toronto Police Services in order for them to assess whether charges might be warranted.

Following their own investigations Toronto Police Services have laid charges, proceeded to arrest certain protestors, and in consultation with Crown Prosecutors have determined bail conditions. Contrary to some reports, the University has not laid charges against the protestors, and as a result does not have authority on the disposition of these charges.

Also consistent with the Code of Student Conduct, before Toronto Police Services decided to lay charges the complaints against individual protestors were referred to the Division Heads of the units where students are registered. Those Division Heads have commenced an investigation into those complaints.

The University seriously regrets that these actions have had to be taken. We will continue to defend the rights of all members of our community to assemble peacefully, and to make their views known even when they are offensive to others or the administration. While peaceful protest is protected, such protection does not allow for the disruption of the University community. We cannot, and will not, let a small minority engage in activities which threaten the safety of others and which may violate both the law and University policy.

March 20 Statement from the President.