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‘Unacceptable’: Top uni moves on Palestine camp

Written by on May 13, 2024

One of Australia’s top universities is moving to impose controls on pro-Palestine students, commencing disciplinary action for potential breaches of student conduct codes.

Australian National University deputy vice-chancellor academic Professor Grady Venville has

warned of further interventions if the behaviour of the students doesn’t change.

In a letter to activist students connected to the university’s pro-Palestine encampment, she warned the rolling protest action was “causing members of our community harm”.

“I am informally letting you know that I have received multiple reports and complaints that the encampment in which you are participating and your behaviours are potentially in breach of the student code of conduct,” Professor Venville said.

“The encampment is dividing our community and causing members of our community harm.

“I urge you to reflect on your behaviours and consider how you can respectfully protest without causing harm to other members of our community and to our campus.”

She said the University was willing to work with the encampment participants to find

ways to enable the protest to continue in “more respectful ways.”

“I strongly encourage you to participate in these discussions,” she said.

An ANU spokesman confirmed with NCA NewsWire the university had launched multiple investigations into alleged comments and actions of students and disciplinary action in at least one case had begun.

“ANU is a place of respectful debate that values inclusion and diversity,” the spokesman said.

“Racism, discrimination or hate speech is unacceptable at ANU.

“The university acts swiftly if such behaviour occurs.”

Details of the investigations and the alleged misconduct are not clear, but footage from an online student meeting appears to reveal the stark fury and passion roiling the top-tier university.

At one moment, a student appears to make a Nazi salute during the meeting.

In an email to staff and students from Friday, ANU vice-chancellor Professor Genevieve Bell said the university supported peaceful protest and “contested debate” but would not tolerate discrimination of “any kind”.

“I want to be clear that ANU does not support or endorse the terrorist organisation, Hamas,” she said.

“We condemn the atrocities committed on October 7, 2023.

“We also share in the global concern about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. This has affected people from around the world, including here on our campus.

“To members of our community who are feeling vulnerable or unwelcome in this moment, I see you, I hear you and I hope to find the best ways to support you.

“ANU must be a place where we can hold hard conversations. Where debate has shifted to causing hate and hurt, we are stepping in.

“I have received multiple reports and complaints about the behaviour of some participants of the encampment at Kambri and there may have been breaches of the student code of conduct. Where we have received formal complaints, we have initiated investigations.

“Today, I have reached out to organisers of the current encampment to discuss ways to enable the protest to continue in more respectful ways.”

She said she was also deeply concerned by reports of the conduct of some students at the ANUSA Annual General Meeting held earlier this week.

“As I have said, the university takes breaches of our student and staff code of conduct very seriously,” she said.

“We have taken disciplinary action following this event and will continue to take action where it is necessary to ensure our campus remains a safe place to learn and work.

“In previous years, we have undertaken multiple investigations which have resulted in suspension or exclusion.”

Students for Justice in Palestine has been contacted for a response, but could not be reached by the time this article was published.

Pro-Palestine camps have mushroomed across Australia in recent weeks as anger around Israel’s campaign in the Gaza continues to mount.

Protesters descended on the Boeing centre at the University of Queensland last week, denouncing the university’s ties to the US aerospace giant and weapons manufacturer for its alleged support for Israel.

At one point federal Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather led the protest and said the company’s products were “taking lives”.

“Standing behind us is Boeing, Boeing is Boeing planes, Boeing missiles and Boeing weapons that are tearing apart human flesh and that are destroying and taking lives, Palestinian lives,” Mr Chandler-Mather said as reported by The Courier Mail.

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Students for Palestine have established a camp at the university and Boeing is a central target of their fury.

Video from Thursday shows a smashed classroom window at the Boeing centre.

It is not yet clear who smashed the window but a UQ spokeswoman told NCA NewsWire the behaviour of one individual at the protest was “completely unacceptable”.

“There was an active police and security presence on site to ensure the safety of staff, students and those involved,” the spokeswoman said.

“We are in daily contact with police and are making a formal report, which will include CCTV footage.

“This behaviour is completely unacceptable and we have written to protest organisers to raise this with them as a matter of urgency.”

Victoria Police also established a new mobile surveillance unit at Melbourne’s Monash University after hard line pro-Palestine protesters appeared to block students from walking freely around the campus this week.

Video captured by a Monash student shows heated, expletive-laden exchanges with a pro-Palestine camp set up at the university.