Protesters removed from Harris lecture

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By Emma Prestwich

A professor at the Ted Rogers School of Management is questioning why Ryerson security doesn’t have a full-time presence at the business school after protesters disrupted a guest lecture Thursday.

Avner Levin, a law and international business professor, said that he realized the need for security after protesters disrupted a guest lecture in his LAW 722 class on Thursday Jan. 26.

Former Ontario premiers Mike Harris and David Peterson had been invited to speak as part of a special speaker series in Levin’s Law in Canadian Business class. In the middle of the lecture, several non-community members stood up to and started shouting profanities at Harris during the event. The former premier’s time in office has been seen as controversial due to his sweeping reform of social services.

The lecture was open to the public.

Manager of security and emergency services Tanya Fermin-Poppleton said the protesters cooperated with Ryerson security once personnel were called, but Levin said he wonders why security wasn’t on-site already.

“Let’s say those protesters wanted to physically attack the [former] premier… security should be there for us,” he said.

Levin said he figured Harris’ presence might draw controversy, and spoke with the business school’s building manager about asking security to attend.

“We figured that Mike Harris’ name would draw attention of that sort, and had a conversation with security, given the protests he’s gotten in the past.”

He said his understanding was that security personnel would be at the lecture.

Fermin-Poppleton said security completed a risk assessment for the event, which involves analyzing the potential risk of the situation to the speaker and those attending. She said the risk assessment team decided the event didn’t warrant a security presence.

Harris said he wasn’t expecting a negative response, but protesters occasionally show up when he speaks in public.

“Once in a while [it happens]. 19 times out of 20, everything is fine.”

Levin said while he doesn’t expect any of the future speakers in his class to be as controversial, he has asked security to be present for the rest of the lecture series.

“I’d rather be safe than sorry going forward,” he said. But he said he thinks the business school is big enough to have its own security staff. “[We have] one-third to one-quarter of the students at the university, and no permanent security presence,” he said. ”It seems to me, I think, we’re big enough to have someone there.”

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