150 protest over Bush degree
By Brendan Howe
An army of protestors and a plea from a student still could not convince the University of Toronto's Governing Council to reverse a decision to grant former President of the United States George Bush an honorary degree.
Approximately 150 protestors crammed into the Governing Council chambers on Monday to watch a student governor ask the council to reconsider their decision to honour Bush. The university plans to give the former president a doctorate when he comes to their campus to lecture on Nov. 19.
Wendy Cecil-Cockwell, vice-chair of the Governing Council, said it was a very exciting meeting, as arts and science faculty representative, Jacob Glick, made a motion to add to the agenda the reconsideration of the degree. She said the meeting went into closed session as a result and the motion was defeated.
"The argument I tried to make to the governors is about the purpose of the degree. No one can say this is a degree that represents the general views of the public," Glick said. He added he was trying to explain to governors an honorary degree is supposed to bring a community together, not tear it apart.
Along with Monday's protest, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group gave a petition to Governing Council. The group cites Bush's alleged war crimes as the reason for their opposition.
Elliott Anderson, a volunteer with OPIRG, said he thought the protest went very well. A lot of anger came out during the meeting although it remained a peaceful protest, he said. Several protesters banged on the walls, yelling and making noise while the meeting was in closed session but no damage was done to any part of the building.
"It seems the governing council at this university has adopted a view-point like the one the Harris government has adopted we have the power so we'll do whatever we want to," Anderson said. He added the voice of the protesters was heard loud and clear.
Originally Bush's spokesperson Jim McGrath said the former president was to attend a ground-breaking ceremony for a new international centre donated by his business acquaintance Chief Executive Officer of Barrick Gold Corporation Peter Munk. Kerry Delaney, associate manager of news services for the university, said this is not happening and nothing was ever fully planned in regard to the ground-breaking.
McGrath said he does not know Bush's itinerary for Nov. 19.