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University of Toronto to close during G20 - updated

Aw_march8weather02 Students study outside Hart House at the University of Toronto in March. The university will close its St. George campus during the G20 summit. Photo: Andrew Wallace

Spillover from the G20 summit has spread to the white ivory towers of Toronto.

Spooked by its proximity to Queen's Park, the G20 designated protest area, the University of Toronto decided on Friday to shutter its St. George campus during the June 26-27 summit. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 23, the university will close until Sunday, June 27, said vice-provost students Jill Matus.

"We had a series of deliberations and in light of the fact that the protest site has effectively been moved to our doorstep on the St. George campus, we took the decision to restrict access," Matus said. "We took this decision based on our concerns about safety. We know that in past G20 summits, in particularly last year’s summit in Pittsburgh, protests may be associated with violence, arrests, disruptions, tear gas and damage to property." 

Trinity Bellwoods Park on Queen St. W. was originally chosen for the summit's "designated speech area" but organizers changed their minds after residents and nearby businesses vehemently opposed the idea.

Matus says there are no classes scheduled for the Thursday and Friday prior to the summit but the closure will force some summer session exams to be rescheduled earlier in the week. Students living in nearby residences will also be relocated and four colleges are so far affected: New College, University College, Woodsworth College and the Innis College residence at 2 Sussex Ave.

Matus said senior administration is still deciding where to move uprooted students but it's possible some will be relocated to residences at the university's Scarborough or Mississauga campuses. The heads of other colleges near the protest zone -- such as Trinity College, St. Michael's College and Victoria College -- have not yet made any decisions to relocate their residence students as well, Matus said.

Matus emphasized that the university is supportive of peaceful demonstrations but also said the school was not consulted prior to Queen's Park being selected as the designated protest zone.

She said it is still too early to know how many students or exams will be impacted, as well as what associated costs might be for the four-day university closure.

The G20 is taking place at the Metro Convention Centre from June 26-27 but security preparations are expected to begin at least a week or two prior.

Update: This afternoon, the Council of Canadians has released a statement decrying the university's plan to shut down campus during the G20, calling the decision "at odds with what would have been expected from a public institution committed to freedom of expression and the city itself."

The organization says it has already sold more than 500 tickets for its June 25 "Shout Out for Global Justice Event," which was supposed to take place at Convocation Hall and will be attended by speakers such as Maude Barlow, Vandana Shiva, Leo Girard, Amy Goodman and Naomi Klein.

"The Council of Canadians is now left scrambling for an alternate downtown location -- in a city with increasingly limited public space due to G20 security -- but will continue to sell tickets, determined that this event will not be shut down," the statement reads.

The council's director of organizing says the group is "disappointed" by the decision.

"We would have expected an institution that promotes the exchange of ideas and public discourse not to close its campus to an international forum at this pivotal moment in history," stated Carleen Pickard.

The Council of Canadians says it plan to contact the mayor as well as the U of T to appeal this decision.


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Finally, a positive outcome of the G-20 summit...extra long weekend :-)

doctor's appointments at university health network are also cancelled! this g20 is a disaster.

Can you blame them? Who wants to be around the G20 hooligans for a week and risk not only the lives of students, but also those of the faculty.

Professor Matus is an awesome prof, by the way.

Why wasn't the citizens even asked if they wanted to be put in this pathetic and dangerous situation in the first place? I, for one, don't care about any of the figures coming here, bringing violence right behind them.

Not true, Ms Matus! I have....well....HAD, I suppose, a class on the Thursday evening! But, as "U of T Staff Member" said, a long weekend is always appreciated!

Such a shame that the media fosters this kind of paranoia

A very wise move. It not only reduces safety risks, but gives no spring board for rabble rousing student groups taking advantage of a less secure vantage point.

The police walked into the University of Pittsburgh during the G20 there and tear gassed them. Horrifying. Lets hope the police show more restraint in Toronto.

Designated protest area? Is this what has become of our free speech in Canada?

long weekend FTW!!!

Will the students get a refund?

I don't have exam anyways, it's ok!!

I was a student at the last G20 summit in Toronto during the summer of 1988. The university's doors were wide open, me and my girlfriend used the campus all throughout that time and no, the sky did not fall.

This is a totally unnecessary over-reaction.

Very smart move by the University, I hope the feds give them some money for afterwards when they have to clean up as I'm sure even if there isn't any violence that the university grounds will be unfortunately used as a dumping ground along with the rest of the area.

As for the statement from the Council for Canadians, that irks me a bit. The University has the full right to close down its doors and secure its buildings and those who use the premises. Thats very selfish that they are crying that they've lost space for their event when they don't have to take on any of the risk themselves.

This is a frustrating situation for students living on UofT residence during this time. This disrupts students like myself who have to work full time, and must commute to Oakville during this week. Being moved to UTS or UTM for 4-5 days would be a mess and a huge inconvenience. No information has been released about St. Michael's college yet, one of the closer colleges to Queens Park.

Hundreds of activities stand affected, one of which is Amnesty International Canada's AGM at the university. Does the closing mean that this "dangerous" event will be cancelled too? St. Michael's and U Vic's residences are solidly booked. What on earth is the university thinking? Or perhaps the administration, totally out of touch with what's actually happening, actually isn't . . . thinking that is. Ah, corporate culture, having snuck its way into the university (and the Pride parade, and . . .) is doing its level best to strangle us again.

St. Michael's college has joined the list of UofT colleges forcing their residents to move out from Wednesday June 23rd to Sunday June 27th. The students were offered a place in residence at the University of Totonto Mississauga, approximately 40 minutes away, or a small refund if the student can find alternate housing. The students were given one day's notice of the closure and are scrambling to find alternate options if moving UTM is too much of an inconvenience. The refund being offered does not compensate for the wages that may be lost by students who are working full time in or around the city. So far, the university has not kept the students well informed. The situation seems to have been dealt with in an unorganized and inconvenient fashion.

Ellen, can you provide me with info as to how much is being refunded to the students who are being moved out of residence?

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