|TORONTO (CUP) - York University president Lorna Marsden had to be escorted off campus by Toronto police after being trapped in her car by frustrated students for nearly two hours.|
The bizarre altercation, with students holding an ad hoc Board of Governors meeting on the lawn of one of York's satellite campuses while surrounding a car in which sat Marsden and another senior administrator, took place March 2.
It began when students jammed into the Glendon College Senate Chamber and broke up a meeting of the university's Board of Governors. They were protesting impending tuition hikes and the strong corporate presence on York's highest governing body.
"We tried to have a meeting, but [the students] decided otherwise," Charles Hantho, chair of the board, said. "We had to cancel the meeting."
Hantho is a director of Camco, Inco, TransAlta, AGRA Industries and Imasco, chair of Dofasco and Dominion Textile and vice-chair of the Business Council on National Issues.
Also sitting on York's board are chairs of corporations including McDonald's Restaurants, Trilon Financial, Norma Industries and Silcorp Limited, as well as the president of the CIBC.
This action fell just days after University of Toronto students refused to let president Robert Prichard address that institution's main decision-making body, decrying U of T's fee-hiking board as equally corporate-heavy. And the week before, two students at the University of Alberta were arrested for mischief for painting on the wall of the campus mall challenging their school's board's decision to hike fees by nearly nine per cent next year. One of the students was strip-searched by city police for her impromptu art.
One of the organizers
|of the York protest, Joel Harden, president of the graduate students' union, says students are frustrated with the 36-member board which has plenty of representatives with strong ties to the corporate sector but only two students.|
"[The board] is very interested in hearing our voice but, in the end, pat us on the head and raise tuition anyway," he said, "and we were not going to let that happen again."
After the board meeting disbanded, Marsden sought sanctuary in her car with fellow administrator Debra Hobson, vice-president student services. But they still couldn't get away from their quick constituents as they drove off the road and onto the campus lawn.
The group of students then decided to hold their own mock meeting outside — around the car, which was nestled between two maple trees.
With a chair and minute-taker on hand, York students presented their alternative agenda —but not before one student chimed in about the president's odd predicament.
"It's bad enough she's trying to get away from us, but she actually tried to get away from us by driving across the lawn," she said about president Marsden.
Marsden, a former Senator and vice-president of the Liberal Party and current director of Manufacturer's Life Insurance Company, Gore Mutual Insurance Company and Westcoast Energy, is Canada's highest paid university president — bringing home a hefty quarter of a million dollars annually for her public sector duties.
The students finished off their meeting by firing Marsden. The students adjourned, after approximately an hour and half, and asked that Marsden and Hobson leave slowly as they escorted the car to the exit gates.
But the car, with Hobson at the wheel, moved
|too quickly and a number of students said they were in danger of being hurt.|
Marsden was eventually escorted from the campus in a police car, accompanied by Hobson and a lawyer. Six police cruisers and over a dozen officers attended the scene.
The next day, Marden's evaluation of the protest was less than glowing.
"It's just a waste of time," she said, adding that students will never be heard while using intimidation tactics.
"I remember the first one of these in 1968 at U of T, and it was the exactly the same tactics," Marsden said, adding she was an undergraduate at the time who stood on the sidelines watching. "It's been going on for 30 years, and they gained nothing. I believe in going in to change people's minds."
Reaction among students and faculty to the unusual protest has been mixed.
First-year student Jason Smith says while the protest has given board members something to think about, students will invariably end up with a bad image.
"We haven't done anything, we haven't even gotten the points across," he said. "When you go in there and you disrupt it so badly that no one can speak, it loses its momentum as well."
But Greg Guy, a linguistics professor who witnessed the spectacle, sees it differently.
"I'm very encouraged to see people active. A lot of the issues raised here were raised during our strike. It's good to hear another voice,"
During the 52-day faculty strike last year, York professors spoke out against the growing corporate presence on campus.
"The board will certainly have learned from this," added Glendon College professor David Clipsham.
But the chair of the board begs to differ.
"This kind of thing doesn't help [students'] cause," Hantho said..