May 18th, 2024

Maybe we need to start demonstrating again

By Lethbridge Herald on December 8, 2021.

Welcome to “Our University,” a new monthly column in which we’ll profile events, issues and people from our city’s university, the University of Lethbridge. 
I’m the president of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association and a long-time teacher and researcher at the U of L. Our university has some great stories to tell, and I hope to bring a new one to you each month.
Our first story takes us almost all the way back to the beginning, to the U of L’s first academic year and the great protest march that closed it out in May 1968.
Protests, especially by students, were not so unusual in the 1960s, and especially not in 1968. That was the year of the Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations. There were civil rights marches in the U.S. South and Northern Ireland.
There were student riots in North Carolina, Paris and at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. There were so many demonstrations, in fact, that Wikipedia has pages devoted just to keeping track of them. There’s a page devoted only to riots. 
The protest in Lethbridge wasn’t a riot. It was a nice sunny day (the forecast said a high of 70) and in the photos that were taken that day, all you can see are happy, smiling people. (The local MLA complained that the demonstrators were rude, but other people wrote letters to The Herald saying how respectful everybody had been). 
According to The Herald, there were about 200 people in the march. Others, including Wikipedia, say as many as 500. It started at the corner of 4th Avenue and 11th Street South, outside the Southminster United Church and across from the then brand-new Top’s Pizzeria. It then went down 4th Avenue South before ending up at Galt Gardens, where people gathered and listened to some speeches.
Like in any good demonstration, the protesters carried large banners and signs: “Freedom!” “Liberty and Education!” “Autonomy!” There was even one in Latin: “Illegitimus non carborundum” (a “punchy” phrase, according to the Herald, that you can Google if your Latin’s feeling a bit rusty). 
One unusual thing was that it wasn’t just the students who were doing the protesting. The march was led, The Herald tells us, by “two deans, a faculty member and student-body representative.” In almost every photograph, you can see them, up front: older men in long dark gowns and determined looks (in those days most professors and deans were older men). In the crowd, you have students, some more professors, one of my predecessors as president of the faculty association, and members of the Lethbridge Trades and Labour Council. 
What were they protesting? Well, that’s one thing that hasn’t changed: government interference in the University of Lethbridge’s affairs. The big debate in those days was where we should build our university. Classes were being held at the Lethbridge Junior College, but the city had bought an option on some land across the Old Man River.
Arthur Erikson had been hired to design what later became University Hall, and the Mayor, the Trades Council President, and the new Chancellor were all predicting great things would come from the city’s expansion to the west side. 
The provincial government, however, had other plans. It wanted the university on the east side of the river.
Claiming that opinion was too sharply divided to allow the university and city council to make the decision on their own, the province overruled them and declared that there would have to be a referendum. 
And that’s what led to the demonstration.
The protest began after some stirring speeches by the university president Sam Smith, the Board of Governors chair, Neil Holmes, and the new chancellor, L.S. Turcotte. 
Speaking to an audience of students, parents, citizens, senators, judges, diplomats, and representatives from other universities, President Smith took the provincial government to task, pledging that he would defend the University of Lethbridge’s freedom to make its own decisions “with all the authority at my disposal.” 
“We must not only declare these as our unalienable rights,” he said. “But work for their fulfilment.”
When his speech was over he received a standing ovation. 
One person who may not have stood was the Minister of Education – the minister who was in fact leading the charge to overrule the city and university’s decision. He was also sitting in the audience at the graduation ceremony and heard President Smith’s declaration of independence for the U of L. The Herald says that he sat “expressionless” throughout. Later he said that he hoped politics wouldn’t interfere with the important day. 
About a month later, the province reversed itself and the University’s autonomy was restored.
It’s 50 odd years since then and a lot has changed. Nobodydemonstrates as much as they did back then, and presidents rarely provoke demonstrations with their graduation speeches. 
But maybe we should start again. 
The “Autonomy and Freedom” march of May 1968 marked a high point in university (and city) history.
We successfully fought off an attempt from Edmonton to control how our university was run, and we did it by working together: citizens, students, faculty, administration, and the Board of Governors. 
Fifty years ago, the people of Lethbridge understood that an independent university was worth fighting for. 
Now that we’re facing a new attempt to dictate how things should be run “down here,” there’s a chance for us all to stand together once more time and defend our university.
Or like the banner said: “Illegitimus non carborundum”!

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Dennis Bremner

Because your banner isn’t even a Latin phrase I will give you another “Bullshitus et es Bestus”. What an amazing piece of contrived BS to arrive at the real reason for the article!

Last edited 2 years ago by Dennis Bremner

Interesting and relevant history.

Dennis Bremner