Say what you want but not all the time

With David Bernans’ North of 9/11 public readings only days away, Concordia students seem to be the only ones that will lose out in a situation that involves censorship, self-promotion and the anniversary of the infamous 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In July, Bernans, a former part-time political science professor, Concordia Student Union activist and past president of the Graduate Students’ Association, filled in an application to book one of Concordia’s rooms for a reading of his novel, North of 9/11. According to Bernans and a press release issued by Cumulus Press, the event was cleared by security on July 20 but later declined on July 24 without an explanation.

In the month that followed, Bernans says that he tried to track down the reason why his public reading was rejected, including filing an access to information request on July 26. The university maintains that Bernans did not properly fill out his application nor did he have the support of a sponsoring organization, a must-have if you plan to run an event at Concordia.

North of 9/11 was released May 1 and is a fictional tale that deals with the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the ramifications they had on Concordia students, especially those active in the Muslim community. Despite being a fictional work, Bernans has said that the novel’s backdrop is based on real-life events.

This past week, Bernans announced that he would have his public reading on the fifth anniversary of the attacks at McGill University instead. In a fictional confession posted on on Aug. 30, Bernans wrote he had “secretly been plotting.”

“My evil plan would have brought an explosion to the downtown Sir George Williams campus of Concordia University in Montreal,” he wrote. “And to add insult to injury, the terrorist act was to occur on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York.”

On Monday, Bernans confirmed that he would do a second public reading of his novel at the Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore, thus evading the University Risk Assessment Committee’s refusal of his application.

Despite the fact that Bernans will now have two public readings instead of just one, Concordia students can’t help but feel that they got the short end of the stick in this debacle. For one, Concordia University will no longer have to worry about Bernans’ public reading, about what he says, how much security is present and so on, because he won’t be on university grounds. Yay ConU!

Secondly, Bernans and Cumulus Press are huge marketing winners in this situation. Not only is Bernans getting two public readings instead of the one he applied for, but he has also gotten immense media coverage in the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, National Post, The Globe and Mail, Montreal Mirror, and La Presse. Let’s not forget that his name has also graced the pages of The Concordian and The Link. Yay Bernans and Cumulus Press!

Thirdly, McGill students will now have the opportunity to see Bernans’ public reading in the comfort of their own university, simply because Concordia and Bernans couldn’t come to a civil conclusion. Yay McGill!

And then there’s Concordia’s students, a group that must, for the umpteenth time, go see a speaker at an off-campus location. Perhaps I’m too much of a hopeful romantic, but one day wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sit down at your own university and listen to the words of the speaker of your choice? Isn’t that what the university experience is supposed to be all about? Maybe, maybe not, but what this experience has taught us is to always double-check the applications you send in because if you don’t, you just might have to give in and go to McGill instead.

Happy orientation week!

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