Get mad, send a letter, save the garden


Found out via Facebook and email that, apparently, this is what’s going down at Carleton University:

Carleton University Picks Fight With Gardeners, Arrests Students

OTTAWA, ON, Dec. 5, 2013 – 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.

— End Press Release —


In solidarity with the plants and the students, I submitted the form letter (available for submission by any concerned citizens of whatever country) with a few revisions of my own (underlined):

Carleton University is in the news for lots of reasons, but I prefer it when those reasons are innovative pedagogy and award-winning teaching, not arresting students on campus!

Therefore, I am writing to express my concern (via form letter) around senior administration’s Dec. 5th attempt to dismantle Kitigànensag, the GSA Carleton Community Garden, without first establishing an agreement with the Graduate Students’ Association defining the terms of its relocation.

I am deeply troubled by the arrest of two peaceful protestors on campus who were quietly distributing information leaflets calling for respect for the garden. Their arrest marks a violation of their freedom of expression. Plus, it’s all over Facebook, and it would be nice to be proud of my University instead of finding out third-hand about this terrible news.

It is with disappointment that Carleton’s senior administration would consider building a for-profit residence in the place of the garden, which is a source of pride for the many students, staff, and faculty who contributed to its creation.

I request that senior administration respond to the draft Memorandum of Understanding proposed by the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA) and engage in good faith negotiations. The purpose of the Memorandum is to ensure careful and site-specific planning that accounts for accessibility, safety, proper drainage, and the implementation of the current garden’s innovative permaculture design.

If the garden is to be relocated to the proposed location near the Nesbitt building, this relocation must be done in accordance with a comprehensive plan, and in collaboration with the GSA. Or at least without arresting people.

The garden stands as a symbol of the Carleton community coming together to build something that is ecologically sensitive and sustainable, educational, recreational, and accessible to the entire community. Please respect the garden’s contribution to Carleton. And don’t arrest people for hanging out on campus being students.



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