Protestors in court
By Dave Yasvinski
Thirty-one Guelph University students appeared in court Wednesday for charges of trespassing resulting from the takeover of a board room last March when tuition hikes were being decided upon.
The Crown presented its side of the case with Keith McIntyre, director of Guelph security services, making a lengthy appearance on the stand. Christine Oro, VP-external for the Graduate Students' Society, acted as a legal spokesperson for the defense as she cross-examined McIntyre about the events which transpired last March.
Paul Deeves, acting inspector for the Guelph police, said a group of students entered a Board of Governors meeting uninvited and refused to leave. The police were called and the students still refused to leave so they were charged with failure to leave the premises which warrants a fine of $65.
McIntyre said the students barged into the fourth-floor conference room in the university's community centre as talks turned towards a proposed tuition hike. Although the floor was sealed off to prevent students from exceeding the room's maximum capacity of 50, the students still entered.
McIntyre said chancellor Lincoln Alexander was fearful for his safety and quickly left the room saying "make sure they don't hurt my back." The chancellor was escorted to his car while students banged on the conference table with bottles and sticks and refused to leave.
"I don't mind students protesting but in this case it was hooliganism," McIntyre said.
Oro, who was also part of the protest, said it was the result of day-long rallies by students who opposed the tuition hike. Oro said she was invited to the board meeting which began at 3 p.m. and allowed representatives of various student groups to present their cases against the proposed hike.
Oro said the tuition hike was the last issue covered and it was already a pre-determined decision. "It became clear that all the presentations were to no avail. They received token appreciation for the effort," said Oro.
The protest was peaceful and the students who participated felt they had a right to be there, Oro added. "It is a student building, we pay a portion towards the building and we have a vested interest in the outcome of the meeting. We have a right to be heard and respected beyond token gestures."