Update to the community July 3

campus arial

July 3, 2024 - 4:15pm

Dear VIU community, 

We are disappointed to inform you that on Friday afternoon, a group of approximately 25 protesters from the Palestine Solidarity Encampment occupied Building 255. Their actions disrupted an ongoing exam, blockaded several entry doors, and caused damage to flags in the International Centre. Despite requests from Campus Security to leave and warnings that non-compliance would result in the involvement of the RCMP, the protesters initially refused to vacate the premises. Security advised that failure to vacate by 4 pm would necessitate RCMP intervention and subsequently at 4:15 pm, just before the RCMP's arrival, the protesters left the building.

Additionally, over the weekend, the protesters vandalized the entry to the Human Resources office. Security is currently reviewing activity logs to identify how individuals gained access to the secure area of the library (Building 305), where Human Resources is located.

Throughout the protest and encampment, VIU has and continues to remain steadfast in supporting peaceful protest and upholding the rights to freedom of expression and assembly. However, these incidents are part of a troubling pattern, including the occupation of the Provost’s office on June 11 and the Campus Store on June 14. 

Such actions, which violate university policies, jeopardize the safety and security of our staff, infringe upon private and secure areas, and cannot be tolerated. We firmly condemn the disruption of academic exams, as our primary mission is to provide an optimal learning experience for our students. Ensuring the safety and well-being of our entire campus community, including the participants of the encampment, is paramount, and we will take all necessary measures to maintain a secure and respectful environment for all.

VIU acknowledges the demands outlined by the Students for Palestine Committee (SPC)/Palestine Solidarity Encampment (PSE). The settlement proposal we made on June 19 reflects the commitments VIU can make within the constraints of our governance structure. Policy decisions at VIU must follow proper channels, adhering to the bicameral governance model established by the University Act. Therefore, policy decisions cannot be made unilaterally by the administration.

Moving forward, we are committed to pursuing the three elements outlined in the settlement proposal:

  1. Investment Working Group and Committee: VIU will convene a working group with equal representation from students, faculty, and staff. This group will develop the terms of reference for an ongoing committee tasked with advising on ethical and sustainable investment and sourcing at Vancouver Island University.

  2. Protest Activity and Security on Campus: VIU will form a committee comprising faculty, students, and administrators to review policies and procedures related to protest activity and security protocols. The committee will make recommendations to help VIU adopt a more modern and inclusive framework for managing protest activities, campus security, and student interactions.

  3. Protection of the Right to Protest: In the spirit of reaching a peaceful resolution to the ongoing encampment, we reaffirm our commitment that students will not be sanctioned for participating in the encampment. Vancouver Island University upholds the values of peaceful protest and the rights to freedom of expression and assembly on our campus.

The fact that the proposal was recently rejected by SPC/PSE, coupled with the latest protests and acts of vandalism, demonstrates that the encampment participants are unwilling to engage in good-faith dialogue with VIU administration. We are monitoring similar encampments at other campuses nationwide and are aware of the legal measures taken by other institutions to address such situations. VIU is exploring similar legal avenues taken by other institutions.

VIU administration is reviewing and considering its next steps to address the occupation of Building 255 and other disruptions. 

We urge all involved in the encampment and protests to adhere to VIU’s policies and engage in constructive and respectful forms of advocacy. VIU remains dedicated to fostering a safe, inclusive, and supportive campus where all voices can be heard in a manner that respects the rights and safety of our entire community.

We have communicated to the employees in the areas impacted by the recent disruptions the supports that are available to them. Finally, we know that demonstrations like this can impact people in different ways. We encourage members of our community to reach out for support if they feel they need it. Support, counselling, and wellness information for employees can be found on our Employee and Family Assistance Program homepage. Supports for students including counselling, wellness, and information for students in distress can be found on the VIU Counselling website. 

We will continue to update the campus community.

Tags: Announcements

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