Editor’s note: The Current publishes the following letter from Dr. Christine Schintgen, interim president of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College. In it, she refers to “calls … to expel students for having participated in the demonstration.” We point out that no such call has come from either The Current or our writers. Dr. Schintgen is referring to readers’ comments and comments on social media.
10 February 2021
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College has been receiving bad press both in the Madawaska Valley Current and in subsequent Facebook discussions because of student participation in a recent demonstration against certain COVID-19 regulations. I would like a chance to respond as interim president of the college.
First, I would like to say that the vast majority of our students are law-abiding citizens who do wear masks when they go grocery shopping or otherwise give their custom to the local establishments. They are the quiet ones who go about their business without attracting attention, and so they go unnoticed and unmentioned. I would like to thank those students for being good ambassadors in our community.
Second, I have, as interim president, on numerous occasions, urged all of our students to be law-abiding and respectful of the protocols in our community. That is our official message both inside and out, and as an administration we uphold this in word and in deed. Of our approximately 25 staff and faculty, I can only think of one who does not wear a face covering when he goes grocery shopping. (That person does in fact have a serious medical exemption, though I admit that he is also ideologically opposed to having to cover his face.) The rest of us comply with the face-covering requirement in shops without a fuss, no matter how the various members of staff and faculty might feel about it as individuals—and I want to point out that we are a diverse community with a wide range of opinions on all sorts of subjects.
Third, I would like to respond to calls from certain parties for me to expel students for having participated in the demonstration. To this I respond, “On what basis would I expel them?” I look at the photos in the press, and I only see three actual Seat of Wisdom College students. One of them is alone in the photo, and two of them (Gabriel O’Brien and Viktor Lemke, as identified by The Eganville Leader) are housemates, and so in the same social bubble, so the fact that they are standing fairly close together is fine. As far as I can tell from the photos, they have not violated any law, as masking is only required outdoors if social distancing is not possible.
Should I expel them for the views they express on their signs? Gabriel O’Brien’s sign says, “End the lockdown: stop the spread of depression.” Is this view so threatening that we cannot tolerate it in a free society? Perhaps one could argue that it was pointless, as we were all fairly certain that Premier Ford was going to announce the end of the lockdown in our area the following day. But worthy of expulsion from a liberal arts college? I think we are getting into troublesome territory here.
I’d also like to commend the protestors for keeping the protest peaceful.
In closing, to the students I say, obey the laws. Let your views be known through proper, legal channels, but respect the laws and protocols while you do so. Wear your masks in the shops, and in all other indoor public places. But to critics of the College I say, let’s all try to keep the conversation fair, rational, and civilized. The future of our society, I would argue, depends on it.
Christine Schintgen, D.Phil.
Interim President and Associate Professor, Department of Literature
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, Barry’s Bay