Dal and MSVU “Students for the Liberation of Palestine” release demands to divest and disclose at “Al-Zeitoun” university | The Coast Halifax

Dal and MSVU “Students for the Liberation of Palestine” release demands to divest and disclose at “Al-Zeitoun” university

Coalition of students across five Halifax universities reach week one at encampment

Dal and MSVU students release demands for their universities to divest and disclose from Israel, joining calls from students at other Halifax universities, NSCAD, SMU and King's.

Students from Dal and MSVU have released their own calls for divestment and disclosure Thursday, joining the student-led coalition with colleagues at King’s, SMU and NSCAD who have been camping on Dal’s front lawn since Sunday, May 12. They are calling for “Ceasefire Now,” “Free Palestine,” and to “Stop The War Machine.”

On Wednesday, May 15, Dal’s own student group, named Dalhousie Palestinian Society, published a list of demands to the university administration. Their demands echo calls from the other three original Halifax universities–NSCAD, SMU and King’s–who made similar calls last Friday, May 10. All four schools formed a coalition of students when the encampment opened Sunday. The Dal group has published their demands on Instagram.

The post opens with: “In the wake of over 8 months of ongoing genocide, silence is not an option. Dalhousie University, it’s time to acknowledge the urgency of this moment and take decisive action…”

The list of demands from Dalhousie Palestinian Society are as follows:
“We are calling on Dalhousie University to:

  1. Disclose to students and the public the full list of the university’s financial and academic ties, including those with the state of Israel.
  2. Completely divest from all companies on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) list, and establish a divestment committee made up of 50%+ students to oversee this.
  3. End all institutional ties to Israeli companies, goods, and universities at Dalhousie and on its premises. This includes ending the Israeli Exchange Program under the Faculty of Management.
  4. Issue a statement condemning Israel as per Motion 2024-03-22-7.3 passed at the Dalhousie Student Union on March 22, 2024, and acknowledge and implement the rest of the calls to action listed in that motion.
  5. Better protect Palestinian students by codifying protections against anti-Palestinian racism and distinguishing between antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
  6. Establish partnerships with Palestinian universities on research and student experiences, and to increase campus diversity and capacity building.
  7. Waive application and differential fees for students from Gaza, establish scholarships for them, and expedite the processing of applications from students in Palestine.
  8. Invest in education related to West Asia and Palestine, such as through establishing a Middle Eastern Studies Department and major.
  9. To expand the Indigenous Studies minor into a major.”

The group has released an open letter to Dal’s president Kim Brooks that is available to sign here. It reads, in part: “Dalhousie University is complicit in the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestine and Palestinians.

"When contrasted with Dalhousie’s clear messaging surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such an oversight only confirms the success of Israel’s decades-long campaign to systematically dehumanize the Palestinian people…It took over three weeks for the President’s Office to issue a statement that finally acknowledged the violence and loss experienced by Palestinians but still failed to recognize the fundamental structure of oppression and power underlying the violence in the region…”

Students from MSVU joined the coalition, with students on site at “Al Zeitoun” university encampment, and have published a similar statement and list of demands to their university administrators, as of Thursday, May 16.

Their demands:

  1. Disclose investments. We demand that the Board of Governors exercise transparency and accountability by immediately making information regarding its investments readily available to the community.
  2. Divest immediately from any groups that fall under the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions [BDS] list, with the eventual goal of complete divestment from any organization, industry, or entity complicit in the continued displacement and genocide of Palestinians as well as all forms of settler colonial projects. We also demand the implementation of a divestment committee comprised of at least 50% + 1 students. This committee will be actively involved in all Board of Governors investment decisions.
  3. Reinvest in scholarships for Palestinians, institutions, hospitals, and housing in Palestine. Additionally we demand the creation of a scholarship through reinvested funds for Palestinian students. This reinvestment is crucial as there are no standing Universities in Gaza due to the colonial actions of the so-called state of Israel.

Outside of Halifax, students have formed a Palestinian solidarity group at St. FX university in Antigonish, called St. FX Students For Palestine. They released a similar statement and list of demands addressed to their university administrators on Friday, May 10.

Their demands:

  1. St. FX discloses all investments held in endowments, short-term working capital assets and all other financial holdings
  2. Divest the university’s endowment, capital assets, and other financial holdings from all direct and indirect investments that support and sustain Israeli apartheid, occupation and illegal settlement of Palestine
  3. End all partnerships with Israeli academic institutions that either operate in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories or support or sustain the apartheid policies of the state of Israel and its ongoing genocide in Gaza

The Coast has reached out to the office of each university president for comment on this growing student action on Dal’s Studley campus in the month when every school is hosting their convocation ceremonies.

As of Thursday May 16, Dal is the only school to mention the encampment as such, which they did ahead of the students' release of demands directed at their administration on Wednesday May 15. Dal published a statement from president Kim Brooks and Dal’s vice provost of student affairs Rick Ezekiel here. It reads, in part: “We are committed to the safety and well-being of our entire community and, in alignment with our mission as a learning institution, to maintaining open lines of communication through respectful, non-violent dialogue and debate — even, and especially, when those conversations are hard.

“We are monitoring the peaceful protest and engaging with its organizers and participants with those principles in mind.

“The Henry Hicks Building is open as usual. If you have any questions or concerns, please bring them to your supervisor. Dal Security will be onsite and available to support [the] safety needs of our community, and those involved in the demonstrations.”

A spokesperson within the Dal administration told The Coast by email that “there are no active plans to remove the encampment,” and that “our senior leadership is engaging regularly with student leaders to understand their perspectives, share information, and identify processes through which the university might consider different actions requested.”

NSCAD, SMU, and King’s have not replied to requests for comment at the time of publication. MSVU replied to The Coast by email on Thursday evening, that they’re not aware of MSVU students’ demands, though they are “supportive of safe, peaceful protest and we believe that freedom of expression is important, particularly in a university context.” Further, they write that “we regularly review our investments, including to ensure that they’re in line with the mission of the Mount.

“We welcome students to be in touch directly with the university administration with any questions, concerns or ideas they have.”

On Dec. 1, 2023, student journalist Joud Ghazal published an article in the Dal Gazette, “Dal Keeps Failing Palestinian Students.”

In it, Ghazal writes that “according to the list of publicly traded securities published on the university’s website, Dalhousie invests millions of dollars in Israeli weapons manufacturers that supply the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) with weapons used to brutally murder thousands of innocent Palestinians,” and lists companies including: “Oshkosh Corp. which produces military vehicles for the IOF; ICL-Israel Chemicals Ltd. which has been found to supply the IOF with white phosphorus,” and “Mercury Systems Inc. who supplies chips and technology to RTX. RTX manufactures missiles for the IOF and has developed and supplied Israel’s Iron Dome.”

As if looking ahead to now, Ghazal ends the piece for the Gazette with: “Palestinian and pro-Palestine students, faculty, staff and community members must unite and demand real change. Calling for a ceasefire in Gaza is the first step, but the demand for change needs to include more…

“This must include demanding an end to all funding and support of the Israeli occupation – including the millions of dollars from Dalhousie.”

The Coast reached out to Dal, NSCAD, SMU and King’s to ask whether administrators had a plan for how to handle a potential campus encampment on Thursday May 9 before the tents went up Sunday May 12. None returned requests on this matter. Dal is the only university to issue a statement on the encampment, which they did Monday, May 13 here.

Dal convocation begins Tuesday May 21 on Studley Campus, where students in tents are visible with no plans to leave.

On Friday, May 17, NSCAD responded to The Coast by email, saying the administration “remains dedicated to hosting regular meetings and open communication with members of the SUNSCAD executive and that will continue throughout the next academic year,” and that “in 2021, NSCAD hired an investment firm that offered an ethical approach to investment and asset management. Understanding our investments and making informed decisions remains an ongoing process.”

The university further added that “NSCAD believes that protest is important and free speech is essential. Dialogue, however, will move us all forward. We are convening a small committee of student, faculty, inter-university, and staff reps to organize a series of discussions pertaining to war, divestment, university funding, conflict and de-escalation, peace, reconciliation, and diplomacy with the first discussion planned for the fall semester.”