May 17 President's message to campus community

campus arial

May 17, 2024 - 9:00am

The last few weeks have been some of our campus community’s most challenging in recent memory. I want to thank all the members of the VIU community and beyond who wrote to me recently expressing various opinions on the Palestine Solidarity Encampment at our Nanaimo campus and offering me advice on how to address the challenges related to the encampment.

There are many challenging discussions taking place on our campus in response to the encampment. These discussions reflect the deep divisions emerging from the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

From your letters, I know that many of you are deeply concerned and distressed about what is happening. I know many of you are personally (or have family or friends) affected. I also know that some of you support the encampment; others feel intimidated by it.

I see my job as hearing both perspectives, and I am appreciative that so many of you have felt free to express your perspectives to me. I encourage you to continue that and to find ways to engage in meaningful dialogue.

Our enduring commitment to you all – employees and students – is that we are listening and that we want to ensure your safety and that our campus remains safe.

Demonstrations and safety

As I have reiterated in each of my messages to our community, Vancouver Island University supports peaceful demonstrations on our campuses and the right to freedom of expression.

I am fully committed to the open exchange of ideas and perspectives, which is a core university value that must be protected. This is part of our essential contribution to society, and I honour and deeply value it. I will always encourage debate on issues – no matter how challenging.

I am troubled, however, by the increasing number of concerns, harassment, and other complaints to VIU and WorkSafeBC. I have also received reports by some of our campus community who feel the environment does not reflect our common values and our commitment to maintaining an environment free from discrimination, harassment, and hate speech of any kind. 

We have a deep responsibility to ensure the safety of our university community members – regardless of their position on this issue – but this is becoming increasingly challenging.

In the last few days, we have seen several behaviours that are not in compliance with University Policy, our Student Code of Conduct and rules to protect safety, including:

  • refusals to exit buildings and spaces such as patios at closing time,
  • the addition of wooden pallets further fortifying the encampment,
  • the expansion of graffiti and signage with messages that are deeply troubling to many campus members and contravene university policies,
  • harassment of several staff resulting in WorkSafeBC investigations,
  • mistreatment of security guards, and
  • using an extension ladder to gain unlawful access to the roof of Building 300 after hours, which poses a significant safety and security risk.

This university has been measured in our response to the Students for Palestine Committee and the Palestine Solidary Encampment: they have been allowed to remain in their encampment. We will continue to encourage peaceful and safe protest.

But we want to be clear: while we have not sanctioned those involved in the encampment, harassment and violation of the Code of Conduct will not be tolerated, and we will act within parameters of university policy, the student code of conduct, WorkSafeBC regulations, and the law against anyone failing to honour our expectations around harassment and safety.

We will also continue to be prepared to take necessary steps to protect the safety of all university community members.

Misinformation challenges

In an issue like this, accurate information can be challenging to find. To this end, I want to correct some misinformation:

  1. We have never, and will never, ask the protest to stop. We welcome it, but it must abide by the university’s policies and Student Code of Conduct and operate within the parameters of the law. Our rules include those to ensure the safety of everyone, including those at the encampment. As such, we have asked those responsible to remove the encampment itself.

  2. We have offered and continue to offer dialogue with the Students for Palestine Committee, but we expect it to be respectful and honest. As laid out as a condition of dialogue by the Students for Palestine Committee, we cannot withdraw our explanation of how our code of conduct or other laws of the land apply. We have outlined our expectations to the Students for Palestine Committee, including a request for a meeting to discuss guidelines for dialogue. VIU has set up a special email to open dialogue with the group and is hopeful that discussions will begin.

  3. The Palestinian Student Encampment has repeatedly accused VIU of calling RCMP and the use of drones as surveillance. This is not true. We will only invite the RCMP to the campus in cases of grave concern about health and safety. The RCMP knows of the encampment and may visit this site as part of their regular responsibilities.

Again, thank you for your messages of support. Thank you for the messages of concern and unease. This is a challenging time for all of us. Our community is strong because we can express these positions. Our diversity of views reflects our passion for our community. If you have a view or concern that you want to share, please email

As we navigate these challenging times, I want to remind you of the importance of kindness and empathy in our daily interactions. Our strength lies in our shared values of understanding, connection, and commitment. These principles are key to supporting one another and fostering a positive, inclusive community. Together, we can overcome any obstacles and emerge stronger, united in our dedication to the mission and values of Vancouver Island University. Thank you for your hard work and unwavering commitment.



Dr. Deborah Saucier, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor

Tags: Announcements

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