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Security confrontation with students a “misunderstanding”

Two students at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton were left questioning their freedom of expression on Friday, Jan. 17 when an officer from the private security firm AFIMAC told them they could not enter campus with signs that supported the AUNBT.

The faculty strike at UNB has caused many differing opinions among the university’s students. Some have sided with the AUNBT and Cody Jack is one of them.

On Jan. 17, he was leaving the picket lines at the Windsor St. – Kings College Rd. entrance with a folded sign to meet someone on campus when he was approached by an AFIMAC officer.

“He exited his van and came up to us and said we couldn’t open the sign on campus,” Jack said. “We told him we were students just so he knew we were not faculty members coming onto campus kind of thing, and he said that even though we were students we couldn’t have pro-AUNBT signs on campus.”

The sign was from the Industrial Workers of the World, a local labour organization. Jack said the sign had been folded throughout the confrontation and the officer would not have been able to read it.

The university hired the private security firm AFIMAC at the beginning of the strike for safety measures.

Jack said it wasn’t until after the incident that he began to question whether the AFIMAC officer had been in the right to stop him.

“I didn’t really think much of it until I thought more,” he said. “It kind of bothered me they had stopped me and told me I couldn’t have a sign that was pro-AUNBT. The spirit of a campus is that I should be able to express how I feel about the strike.”

Jack emailed the human rights officer of UNB, Barbara Roberts, to verify if what the officer had said was legal.

“[Roberts] got back to me and said that it was a mistake, that they didn’t fully understand their directives,” Jack said.

Roberts also sent a request to the New Brunswick Human Rights Commission to determine whether the incident had violated students’ freedom of expression. There was no reply by the time of print.

Meredith Briden, another student present at the incident, sent an email to Laurelle LeVert, associate vice-president of UNBSJ, and received a similar response.

“Some of us were really bothered by the confrontational nature of the incident. We found out a few days later from the administration that AFIMAC misunderstood their instructions,” Briden said. “We were assured that the administration did not have any problems with students showing support for the AUNBT on university property.”

Peter McDougall, associate vice-president of human resources at UNB said that the incident was solely a misunderstanding between the university and AFIMAC and that they had taken the proper steps to correct it.

“The external security provider had not been briefed on our expectation that there would be students who’d want to communicate their views on campus,” McDougal said.

“When this came to our attention we immediately advised the [AFIMAC officers] that not only that this was absolutely acceptable on the university but that non-faculty, students or others are free to express their views and opinions.”

No other incidents regarding pro-AUNBT signs on campus have been reported since then.

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