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Keith (above) and Steven Pridgen won their fight for freedom of speech.
Gauntlet file photo

Pridgen brothers' case dismissed by court

Students acted within freedom of speech after criticizing professor

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The Alberta Court of Appeal has sided with Keith and Steven Pridgen's plea for freedom of speech after being disciplined by the University of Calgary for criticizing a professor for inaccuracies of information.

On May 9, 2012, the Court upheld that the students acted within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

After the Pridgens were put on non-academic misconduct, their appeal was dismissed by the university's appeals process.

According to former U of C student Keith Pridgen, who was a first-year law and society student at the time, issues came up with one of their professors, which led Pridgen, his twin brother and other students to bring their issues to attention by speaking with a teacher's assistant, the professor, associate dean and other faculty heads.

When their issues weren't resolved, they posted comments on a Facebook page, which led the members of the group to be charged with non-academic misconduct by the U of C administration.

According to the U of C website concerning the policy, "complaints are the subject of disciplinary hearings between individual students and the university's manager of student conduct," in which "students can request an appeal of a disciplinary decision."

"Ten or 12 of us were charged, and we were all found guilty of misconduct," said Keith Pridgen. Four of them, including Keith and Steven Pridgen, appealed the punishment before the Court of Queen's Bench in 2010. "There were mixed emotions in the whole group -- some people were very upset."

Pridgen said they continued the appeal because they did felt they did nothing wrong. This led to a back and forth of appeals from the U of C and the Pridgen brothers. The U of C administration believed the discipline to be within the students' freedoms of speech according to the Charter.

The administration also questioned how the case would impact other Canadian universities, according to utoday on Nov. 17, 2011. However, the case was dismissed by the appeals process.

"The Court of Appeal has now decided that the university's decision to discipline the students should be set aside on the basis of administrative law principles," said Peter T. Linder, the U of C's external legal counsel for the case, in utoday on May 10, 2012.

The U of C will be revising their disciplinary policies to avoid such cases, and to act in unison with other Canadian universities' misconduct procedures.

Keith Pridgen, who graduated from political science last year from the U of C, and his brother Steven, who graduated from Mount Royal University in criminal justice, are relieved by the court's decision.

"It's fantastic to know that we were in the position of right from the get go, and hopefully this decision by the Court of Appeal will ensure that other students don't have to be put through the same process," said Pridgen. "Be confident in your rights as a student."

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