Student activist banned from campus following silent protest

Screen Shot 2021 12 06 at 11.47.47 PM
Screen Shot 2021 12 06 at 11.47.47 PM
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Featured image: A stop-sign shaped protest sign reading “Stop Vianne! No to tuition hikes and out of control spending!” held by Barter during the protest.

            This week many students and spectators have been concerned following the events surrounding Memorial University’s treatment of student journalist and campus activist, Matthew Barter. On Friday, the Director of Student Life, Dr. Jennifer Browne, notified Mr. Barter of “interim measures” which effectively ban him from Memorial Campuses with the exception of class-related activities and medical services. This ban comes following a December 2nd protest by Mr. Barter of a media appearance by MUN President, Dr. Vianne Timmons, wherein the activist silently held up a sign in protest of tuition hikes while she was speaking.

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Barter has agreed to share the letter sent to him following the incident with the Muse:

Correspondence copy 1
Letter of Correspondence shared by Matt Barter

Citing Section 6b of the Student Code, Barter will be required to call and “check in with” Campus Enforcement and Patrol and prior to any activity. Contrary to the stance taken by Student Life, the Canadian Federation of Students – Newfoundland and Labrador responded by citing MUN’s Student Code of Conduct recognizing “academic freedom and the right to free speech, creative expression and peaceful protest…” Furthermore, the CFSNL noted, as described in the Student Code of Conduct, peaceful assemblies and silent/symbolic protests cannot be considered disruptions so long as they do not “substantially interfere with communication inside, or impede access to the meeting or class.

            Barter has personally responded to the issue in his own defence, through his blog wherein he has expressed his concerns:

“[Banning] me from campus is an attack on journalism and the free press. Memorial University is preventing me from doing my job as a journalist and an activist.”

Video of the incident which prompted his ban can be found here.

In the past, Barter has placed posters on Memorial Campus which urged for President Timmons’ resignation. These posters were promptly taken down throughout the Fall semester prior to the recent development. According to Barter, the only other encounter with the President occurred following a post-presentation question period held by Timmons on September 15th.

It seems that these actions along with Barter’s posters and silent sign-holding count as “behaviours that have been interpreted as harassing and intimidating towards Dr. Timmons and her staff” according to the correspondence. If additional behaviour or justification for the ban exists, the administration has failed to publicly clarify or give context to their decision.

One separate 2017 incident reported by the CBC described a confidentially-mediated workplace dispute between Barter and another MUNSU Executive during the former’s time as Director of Advocacy.

Barter has since requested for his ban to be reversed and has proposed that he and Dr. Timmons engage in an open-minded discussion to talk over the issue.

We are reporting on this story and will continue to update with ongoing developments.

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Jacob Laybolt
Jake is a graduate student, currently studying Employment Relations. In 2023, he completed his Honours BA in Political Science. He has worked with the Muse since 2018, covering student politics, labour organizing, and campus activism.