Students received a lesson in bullying when senior management at Carleton University cut the locks to Kitigànensag, the GSA-Carleton Community Garden, and ordered it dismantled without students’ knowledge. Senior management then violated community members’ freedom of expression by arresting them for distributing ‘Save the Garden’ leaflets.
“The administration indicated the garden needed to move, so we proposed a Memorandum of Understanding to outline the process,” said Grant MacNeil, President of the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA). “Instead of responding to our proposal and engaging good-faith discussions, the senior management decided to unilaterally break into the garden and take it apart.”
Kitigànensag, named by Algonquin elders, has been a source of pride for the whole Carleton community, and especially for the many volunteers who built it and the gardeners who harvested the first crop this past summer. The garden is an excellent example of students, staff and faculty coming together to create something sustainable, recreational, educational and accessible to the whole community.
“The decision to rip up the garden without notice and the arrest of peaceful protestors raises serious questions about senior management’s approach to the student experience and respect for the Carleton community,” said Justine De Jaegher, Vice-President Finance. “When students heard this was happening, they came to the garden in droves and managed to stop it. We still can’t believe senior management had the audacity to try this.”
Many members of the Carleton community view the senior management’s handling of the community garden and the subsequent arrests of campus community members as consistent with an aggressive approach to independent student-run campus initiatives. Senior management is also supporting the withholding of student levy money to Carleton’s Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), funds to which the campus student organization is legally entitled.
The garden is to be replaced by a private, for-profit residence. The Board of Governors, the highest decision-making body of the university, has yet to approve the construction of the proposed for-profit residence.
Justine De Jaegher
Vice-President Finance, GSA-Carleton