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Carleton shouldn’t ban student accused of murder

What happened to innocent until proven guilty?


 

Sam Tsega, 22, has been accused of a crime for more than three years but Carleton University, where he is a student and lacrosse player, only recently chose to suspend him from campus, classes and extra-curricular activities.

In a letter signed by the university’s president last week, Tsega was told he is banned from all activities and university grounds until he can provide satisfactory evidence he does not pose a threat to the safety of others. What type of evidence he might provide remains unclear.

The university is wrong to get involved in Tsega’s day-to-day life. Here’s why.

The shooting death of Ottawa man Michael Swan, 19, took place three years ago. Police said it was likely drug-related and arrested three men by tracking a cell phone stolen from Swan’s house. Tsega was originally accused of manslaughter, then second-degree murder, and, as of last week first-degree murder.

Although the preliminary hearing concluded there was enough evidence for trial, the court recognized Tsega should be able continue at university and therefore didn’t see him as dangerous. Last week the judge specifically extended his bail so he can travel to play lacrosse.

The situation leaves Tsega few options. He can’t release too many details because of a publication ban to prevent the jury from being swayed. But if he doesn’t provide some, he can’t go to school.

A Carleton spokesperson told the Ottawa Citizen their decision makes “zero assumptions” about guilt or innocence, but that’s not what it looks like. Carleton is acting almost like a vigilante by imposing on freedoms granted by a judge. Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?

If acquitted, he will have missed classes and will have a harder time finishing his degree. After being allowed to keep attending for three years, the suspension is even harder to swallow.

Carleton should let Tsega back on campus.


 

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