Petition resumes in foyer unfettered after being shut down

Teacher was shuffled away from RBC lounge

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By Roy Fang

A Langara College instructor continues to petition in the A Building foyer as he has done for the past 20 years despite an incident two weeks ago when he and a student were told by security to pack up and leave.

After being told they needed permission to talk to people in the hallway and ejected from the foyer March 6, the pair has resumed petitioning to have mega bank RBC removed from campus due to its fossil fuel investments.

Since the incident, Bradley Hughes said he’s had no further issues.

“We’ve set up the table for petitioning twice without any inference from security,” said Hughes, a physics and astronomy instructor and a member of the Langara International Socialists.

On March 6, Hughes and student Amaranta MacAllister had set up a table directly across the hall from the RBC lounge.

“[Security] told us that we were engaging in solicitation, and that was not allowed at Langara, which I find very interesting,” MacAllister, a member of the Langara International Socialists, said. “What exactly is RBC doing with their little room in the foyer there?”

According to the college’s website, RBC On Campus is an educational centre that offers basic banking resources and provides financial advice to the students of Langara.

It remained unclear where the directive to shut down Hughes and MacAllister came from.

“I did get an email from a person in the security department saying they would look into this, but nothing further,” Hughes said. Langara’s security department did not answer the Voice’s questions about why Hughes and MacAllister were told to pack up and leave on March 6.

In an email to the Voice, Ashamdeep Dhillon, Langara’s protective services coordinator, said the pair were permitted to set up closer to the cafeteria later in the week so that other employees didn’t feel uncomfortable.

“As per our Respectful Workplace policy, opinions may be expressed freely when done in a reasonable and courteous manner,” Dhillon said in the email. According to Langara’s Premises Use G1001 policy, the college “acknowledges and supports” the use of the premises for social and community-based activities engaging its students, faculty and staff.

In addition, “the use of the college premises with regard to religious, political, social or commercial groups must follow the college’s policies.” The college also maintains the right to manage and restrict the use of its premises at its discretion.

Hughes said two days after the incident, he stood next to the RBC lounge and was asked to move closer to the cafeteria. Later, he erected a table by the cafeteria and security asked him what he was doing, but didn’t ask him to leave.

“The priorities of institutions start to resemble those of the private funders, not an academic institution,” MacAllister said. “The people on campus should be free to discuss what actions this college takes.”

Simone Le Blanc, the director of the Langara College Foundation, said the bank is a great community partner.

“I’ve worked with them in a number of different post-secondary institutions,” Le Blanc said. “RBC is definitely one of the stronger corporate supporters of post-secondary education.”

Langara philosophy instructor Kent Schmor said it is important to create an inclusive environment and ensure people aren’t marginalized.

“A college campus, that’s a place where one of our values is to really encourage freedom of expression,” he said.

He recognized there need to be some rules and structure around the values.

“So that we can have…more controversial ideas, come on to campus to be discussed,” he said. “But still have a place for people to protest in a way that doesn’t prevent the exchange of ideas.”

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