Armed with a guitar and singing his own songs, David Bernans stood in front of a crowd at Concordia’s Co-op Bookstore on Monday night and shared his views on capitalism, terrorism and “justice for the rich.”
The Canadian author is a Concordia graduate and former GSA president, and has just published his first book, North of 9/11.
The crowd listened intently as he read from his article “Confessions of a 9/11 terrorist”. One section humorously depicts the author as a terrorist in Concordia’s eyes and reads: “Since the events of September 11, 2001, I have been secretly plotting. My evil plan would have brought an explosion to the downtown Sir George Williams campus of Concordia University in Montreal.” People cheered and sang along to politically-fuelled satirical tunes, written by the man described by The Montreal Gazette as a ‘political gadfly.’
The book reading has been the subject of controversy ever since Concordia approved his request to book a room for the reading and then subsequently reversed their decision four days later without explanation. It has been followed by newspapers as far away as the UK’s The Guardian.
Bernans started the evening by discussing his summer experience with Concordia’s risk assessment committee and Michael Di Grappa, Concordia’s Vice President Services. He asked aloud why his reading would be considered a security problem. He spoke of the confusion that followed his request: a long list of emails, confusing responses and deadlines apparently ignored by the university.
Bernans was unable to resolve his booking issues with the university’s administration in time for his reading and was offered the use of the Co-op Bookstore’s new space, which is public ground.
He described the experience with the university as “dangerous.” He said he is worried about the future of student-administration relationships and feels his “job is to make things clear and precise [but] I don’t want to be the only one making noise.”
Chris Mota, Director of Media Relations for Concordia, said she believes it was all just a misunderstanding.
“We had no problem with the event. It was human error.” She pointed to missing information in the documents David originally submitted. “I understand his frustration. He has every right to be annoyed,” she said.
Bernans contacted PEN Canada, an association of writers and supporters dedicated to protecting their freedom of expression within Canada as well as internationally. PEN representative David Cozac said the “human error” explanation given by Concordia administration is dubious.
Despite the fact that the subject of David’s reading is grounded in 9/11 mythology, the evening’s reading was thoughtful and upbeat. “These are tough questions to the administration. I am promoting what is great about the University. In fact I am a great supporter of Concordia,” he said.