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From campus to courtroom: The Writing Centre saga continues at the Supreme Court of British Columbia

Two weeks after the February 25 protest to save UFV’s Writing Centre, organizer and alumnus Jack Brown filed for an injunction against the university, alleging that it did not follow due process in its decision.

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Image: Scott/ flickr

By Megan Lambert (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 18, 2015

Image: Scott/ flickr

Brown is waiting for UFV’s response to the petition against the closure of the Writing Centre.

Two weeks after the February 25 protest to save UFV’s Writing Centre, organizer and alumnus Jack Brown filed for an injunction against the university, alleging that it did not follow due process in its decision.

On Wednesday March 11, Brown and UFV’s lawyer Adnan Habib stood on either side of a courtroom in the BC Supreme Court, poised for a 9:45 a.m. hearing to began.

However, it didn’t happen. Paperwork was filed incorrectly and Habib only received it the day before, so he arrived minimally prepared. Therefore he asked Justice Lance W. Bernard for an adjournment.

The judge, who did not have a copy of Brown’s materials, agreed, noting the complexity of the issue to Brown.

“Everything you’ve said so far suggests to me that this is something you are intimately familiar with as a result of your interest in the matter,” he said. “But it’s certainly not something that is straightforward from a court’s perspective.”

The hearing could have been rescheduled, but after a conversation with Habib later that day, Brown agreed to drop the injunction and instead wait for UFV’s response to the petition given to administration at the protest. They are required to respond by April 1.

Brown said in an email that his decision was influenced by a concern raised by Habib in that conversation.

“UFV was quite concerned about this, and apparently felt that an injunction would jeopardize their annual operating grant from the Ministry of Advanced Education,” he said. “My intention was not this; simply to prevent the budgetary allocations from locking in the decision to close the Writing Centre.”

UFV’s Board of Governors will review the final 2015-16 budget by April 9. Forty-six per cent of that budget comes from a provincial operating grant. An injunction could prevent the university from submitting its budget to the ministry on time.

Habib argued that this was reason enough for Brown to reconsider.

“[It would have] a significant impact because there are 15,000 students that have to be serviced, there’s employees, that all has to be laid out,” he said.

He also said there are potential holes in Brown’s case; the first is the issue of standing. Because Jack Brown is an alumnus rather than a current student, he is arguing from a public interest standpoint, which could affect his case. The second hole, Habib said, was fundamental factual information; the court would need to clarify whether the Writing Centre is “closing” or “expanding,” as there is a disagreement between parties on this notion alone.

Habib also pointed out that because the Writing Centre is not an academic program, it doesn’t come under the jurisdiction of the Senate, and therefore would not breach any policies related to the University Act — a core argument in Brown’s case. Habib said the court would have to decide whether or not to interfere with the inner workings of the university, given UFV’s academic autonomy.

In the meantime, Brown is seeking counsel and will continue to attend graduate school in Ontario.

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