Students expected college to warn them about campus protest

The Jan. 23 pro-Palestinian rally at Langara caught many students off guard

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By ENZO GALLARDO

Some Langarans have expressed disappointment in the college’s failure to inform students about the pro-Palestine political repression rally that caused a disruption on campus last month.

On Jan. 23 protesters gathered at the Langara-49th Avenue Station and marched onto the campus, where they attempted to enter the A Building.

First-year geography student Hubert Leong had class in A Building when the protesters appeared at the front entrance. He said many of his classmates were also caught off guard by the noise from the crowd, leaving them confused.

“I think … if there’s going to be further disruptions or further demonstrations on campus, that they should at least give the students a notice,” said Leong, adding he only knew about the rally from a poster by the SkyTrain station.

Though the protest was peaceful, on-campus rallies have been known to turn sour.

In November 2023, a peaceful demonstration turned violent at Concordia University in Montreal after pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups clashed. The incident, which grew from an argument into punches, led to an arrest following three people being injured in the physical altercation.

Langara’s risk containment plan

Cynthia Fudgell, Langara’s manager of safety, security, and emergency management, told the Voice in an email statement that her team assesses the risk to the campus community and the probability for disturbance to its learning environment.

Fudgell said protests are generally permitted on the front exterior of the campus, which allows “the demonstration to be heard while minimizing disruption to the staff, faculty, and learners.”

“The safety and security team have a duty to ensure that staff, faculty, and students have access to their right to a safe learning environment with minimal disruption,” Fudgell wrote.

Although it was a pro-Palestine rally, protesters were also there to support former English instructor and Indigenous curriculum consultant Natalie Knight, who had been placed on leave in the fall for making pro-Hamas comments at another rally downtown. Shortly before the rally marched onto campus, Knight announced her reinstatement at the college before Langara had informed the community. Knight called her reinstatement a win and insisted that her reinstatement proved she had done “nothing wrong.” A few days later she was fired for breaching the expectations on her reinstatement, according to the college.

In an email statement to the Voice earlier this month, Langara president Paula Burns spoke about students’ rights to peaceful freedom of expression. She said while the college knew about the rally and were “prepared,” the rally’s route onto campus was “unclear.”

“In these difficult times we must balance that against the obligation we have to ensure safety and security of everyone on campus.” said Burns, adding that the college understands that their “community is hurting.”

Students not pleased by college response

Bioinformatics student David Shmil, the former head of the Jewish Students Association at Langara, said he and other Jewish students are frustrated with the college, calling the administration “reactionary” as opposed to “trying to get ahead of things.”

“There is definitely a sense of — I don’t want to say fear, but — they’re not happy with the way things are going,” Shmil told the Voice.

with files from Louis Bergeron

Students share their reactions with the Voice towards Langara College’s lack of notification for the on-campus rally.  

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