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Canisius College student alleges mistreatment, violation of rights

A Canisius College student says she was physically mistreated by campus security, threatened with arrest and had her freedom of speech abridged while taking part in a question-and-answer session at a campus symposium Sept. 9.

The campus police action followed questions from Morgan Dunbar, a senior who is president of Animal Allies Club of Canisius College, to speaker James Ha of the University of Washington about documented laboratory violations at a primate breeding center he oversees.

The group had organized a protest against animal experimentation, with some in costume, before the event.

"My whole reason for making this public is that I have a moral obligation here. If I don't do anything, they're going to feel that this is what happens when you ask a difficult question. This is an institution of learning, and a Jesuit institution no less, where our tradition as Jesuits is one of social justice," Dunbar said.

But college spokeswoman Eileen Herbert said security was called only after Dunbar refused to relinquish the microphone. She said Terri Mangione, dean of students, was conducting an internal investigation of what happened.

Ha, the speaker, answered Dunbar's concern about a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report, which had found 40 unapproved primate surgeries at the facility. But before he answered a second question on why a primate died from starvation, Michael Noonan, the facilitator, indicated Dunbar's time was up.

She persisted in telling the audience of an anti-vivisection speaker her group was bringing to Canisius, and it was at that point -- about eight minutes after Dunbar began to ask questions -- that her mic was turned off and campus security summoned.

Dunbar says that once in the foyer she was pushed against a wall, handcuffed and put under arrest for criminal trespassing. She said the charge struck her as odd since the sponsor of the program invited her in an email to take part.

Dunbar said the charges were dropped and her release came only after it was realized she was a Canisius student, and her mother, Sandra Dunbar, agreed not to press charges against the college.

Dunbar said the physical encounter left her with a sprained wrist, a shoulder injury and bruised arms and legs.

Richard Schlick, a former New York State Corrections officer from Alden in attendance, said he believed excessive force was used. "I thought I was watching a news clip from a Third World country," he said.

Noonan, director of the Institute of Human-Animal Relations and sponsor of the program, declined to discuss specific details of what occurred that night.

"The story is, we had this great event, and a student disrupted an otherwise civil conversation," Noonan said. "People have to take turns when people ask a question, and she wasn't letting anyone else take a turn."

College spokeswoman Herbert, who was on hand as a graduate student in an anthrozoology program created by Noonan, said it appeared security was needed to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control.

"It was my sense that Dr. Noonan felt it was getting out of hand. It was becoming a safety issue. It was getting to the point where she wasn't going to leave the microphone, and a couple of people were shouting from their seats. It was getting disrespectful and disruptive," Herbert said.

Dunbar, a philosophy major with a minor in ethics and justice, said she wants the school to admit wrongdoing.

email: msommer@buffnews.com

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