Head on down to the Neutral Ground for the ‘Profs in the City’ lecture series Tuesday, June 14th at 12:15. Emily Eaton’s topic for today’s lecture is entitled ‘Solidarity with Palestine: The Case for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Against Israel.’
Generally I would shy away from promoting a lecture topic that doesn’t have urban/Regina/city/environmental subject matter. In this case, however, the recent controversy about staging Dr. Eaton’s lecture is an important part of defining the vision of our downtown. I hope people attend this lecture (and the lectures to come) and interact with its issues in support of the downtown as a place of public discourse.
The ‘Profs in the City’ lecture series began as a partnership with the Faculty of Arts and the Regina Downtown Business Improvement District and was supposed to take place in Victoria Park. Some people had a problem with today’s topic and Regina Downtown (see the Leader Post article for more) asked for the topic to be changed or the lecture would be dropped. As a result the Faculty of Arts and participating lecturers pulled out of the then titled ‘Profs in the Park’ and, for the most part, relocated their talks to Neutral Ground.
This lecture series has unwittingly opened a conversation about free speech/academic freedom and its place in community spaces.
Right from the opening public consultation for the WOW project, I felt this tug and pull between visions for the park. It seemed clear to me some wanted to redefine or gentrify Victoria Park, removing the apparently unsightly hacky-sack kids and replacing them with…something. It was always slightly unclear what that something was but park renderings usually included families, balloons and mirth.
Others seemed fine with the users of the park but were concerned with the physical changes, like the large plaza on 12th Avenue or the loss of trees.
I am, despite some lingering doubts, in the wait and see camp. The changes being made should allow for greater use and comfort in the park. 12th Avenue will be a better place for the farmers market. Removing shrubs and opening up sight lines should increase safety or at least the perception of safety. Victoria Park’s redevelopment should provide spaces for everyone and enhance spaces already in use.
The events of last week, unfortunately, have reinvigorated some of those old concerns about whose vision matters most. To have two great partners like the U of R and Regina Downtown fallout on what’s appropriate in the park doesn’t bode well at the start of this redefinition process.