Northeastern canceled a speaker in Nahant due to protesters

Keep Nahant Wild protesters stand outside Northeastern University Marine Science Center in Nahant.
Keep Nahant Wild protesters stand outside Northeastern University Marine Science Center in Nahant. (Courtesy photo)

NAHANT — Northeastern University cancelled a lecture planned for Tuesday night out of fear it would be disrupted by ongoing protests against the Marine Science Center’s expansion project. But protesters said the intent was never to interfere with the scientist’s program.

At issue are two separate projects proposed by the school. One would include the construction of an additional building on the 23-acre site for research and classroom space and the other would result in a five-fold increase of the amount of seawater taken in to feed research needs.

Earlier this week, residents opposed to the expansion project began holding signs outside the center’s gates in protest of the proposal.

Volunteers have been taking shifts holding signs and passing out informational materials outside the property all week, according to Diane Monteith, one of the leaders of Keep Nahant Wild, a group of more than 400 residents against the expansion. They plan to continue to stand outside the property on a regular basis.

The “Nitrogen: Friend or Foe? Effects of Fertilization on a New England Salt Marsh” lecture was set to be given by a PhD student on Tuesday night, said Mike Armini, Northeastern’s senior vice-president of external affairs.

The lectures are public and given monthly, said Armini, who called it “hugely disappointing” to have to cancel.

“While we fully respect the right of individuals to protest the proposed expansion of teaching and research space at Northeastern University’s Marine Science Center, recent activity and social media posts suggest the potential for a hostile environment at this lecture,” The Marine Science Center said in a statement. “We are committed to the advancement of science and research to promote environmental sustainability. While these events provide opportunities for important scientific conversations, we do not want to put our speaker and guests at risk. We hope to reschedule the talk at a later date and apologize for any disappointment this may cause to those who had planned to attend.”

But the protesters said they only planned to hand out materials from outside the gate.

“Folks are there to educate and inform,” said Monteith. “We certainly respect science and have no problem with the curriculum. We are against this action that they’re taking to expand and add a 60,000-square-foot building and parking lot and the seawater exchange project they are working on now. The footprint is too large for the location and the town itself. It’s a tipping point for the town.”

More than 300 signs have been printed by the group and are being posted around town, according to Monteith.

“Being disruptive is not the intention,” she said. “The intention is to be consistently providing information to whoever participates with Northeastern University.”

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