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Pro-Palestine students at UVic disrupt board of governors meeting

Protesters called on the university to divest from companies linked to Israel’s military and police
Jamie Cassels Centre at the University of Victoria, where the the board of governors meets. UNIVERSITY OF VICTORIA

University of Victoria students disrupted a board of governors meeting on Tuesday to ask the university to take a stronger stance on the conflict in the Middle East and to divest from companies that have dealings with Israel’s military and police.

A video of the protest shows the board attempting to continue with the meeting while a protester loudly addresses UVic president Kevin Hall, asking him to respond to the students, who tried unsuccessfully to enter the university’s administrative offices on Friday following a student walkout in support of Palestinians.

The Martlet, UVic’s student newspaper, reported in a livethread that the board adjourned the meeting within 10 minutes of starting, shortly after protesters arrived and began to disrupt proceedings.

UVic Students in Solidarity with Palestine, a student collective that had warned on social media that members would be at the meeting “to demand answers” from university administration, declined to comment on the protest.

The group, which has organized multiple student walkouts, is demanding that the university divest about $15 million invested in companies it says have links to Israel’s military and police apparatus, such as BlackRock, an American asset-management company.

UVic’s first public statement on the conflict from Hall came on Oct. 13, when he expressed horror at the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel and the violence unfolding in Gaza, while offering condolences and support for all those caught up by the violence.

Hall published another statement Oct. 30 to express “growing heartbreak” for the suffering and loss of life in the Middle East crisis.

“We at UVic condemn all forms of hate, violence and intolerance and any form of intimidation or discrimination,” he said. “Please look out for one another and seek support if you need it.”

But the UVic Students in Solidarity with Palestine says Hall’s statements don’t go far enough. In one statement, the group urged Hall to address “matters of global justice with clear intentions, honesty, and responsibility.”

The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has become a divisive subject on campuses.

UVic’s undergraduate student union has said in a statement that it’s aware of multiple incidents of Islamophobia and antisemitism on campus, including physical harassment and hate speech.

Yahya Odatallah, president of UVic’s Muslim Students Association, said in a previous interview with the Times Colonist that he’s seen posters advertising pro-Palestinian rallies torn off and scratched out and that an unknown group attempted to halt poster printings on campus last month.

With the increased tension on campus, the location of an upcoming panel on Palestine held by UVic professors is being kept secret until the day of the event. Organizers are in talks with campus security to provide additional protection at the event due to safety concerns.

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