Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Education Policy | Post Primary | Preschool | Primary | Tertiary | Search


University of Auckland Staff call on Vice-Chancellor to reverse decision against encampment for Palestine

A new open letter penned by staff members at the University of Auckland calls for the University's Vice-Chancellor, Dawn Freshwater, to reverse her decision to not support the establishment of an encampment by students protesting in solidarity with Palestine. 

The letter firstly expresses concern that the Vice-Chancellor's announcement failed to acknowledge that students were planning to establish an encampment on campus grounds to urge the University to divest from any entities and corporations enabling Israel’s ongoing military violence against Palestinians in Gaza, where at least 34,535 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s military since 7 October 2023.

The letter also points out that in making her decision, the Vice-Chancellor sought the advice of the New Zealand Police rather than her own staff and students, and that such decision-making falls short of the “values which bind us as a university community” that she mentioned in her announcement.

The reason the Vice-Chancellor's provided for her decision was that the University needs to avoid “introducing the significant risks that such encampments have brought to other university campuses.”

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

However, the letter criticises this reasoning, stating that it "erroneously places the blame for any safety risks in overseas campuses on students and staff who established peaceful encampments, rather than on university administrators who decided to seek unnecessary police intervention to break up these encampments, which has then led to the unjust arrests and detainments of students and staff."

Dylan Asafo, senior lecturer and signatory to the letter, says: “The Vice-Chancellor and all New Zealanders need to understand that the unrest we see on campuses in the USA right now is being caused by the actions of university leaders and police forces, not by the students and staff who set up encampments to protest peacefully against the complicity of their universities in what UN experts have found can be reasonably determined to be an ongoing genocide in Gaza.”

The letter also expresses the signatories' concern that the Vice-Chancellor's announcement suggests that the University will call the police on students and staff for exercising their right to protest with a peaceful encampment.

“The Vice-Chancellor's decision undermines the University's own values such as respect and integrity, and its stated commitment to supporting the freedom to express controversial opinions and ideas without retribution, as well as the fundamental human right to protest peacefully,” adds Asafo.

Accordingly, the letter urges the Vice-Chancellor to reverse her decision and to offer her full support to students and staff who may choose to exercise their right to protest by establishing a peaceful encampment on campus grounds. It also urges the University not to discipline or penalise students and staff who may choose to participate in peaceful protests and encampments in any way, and for the Vice-Chancellor to engage with them in good faith.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland

Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.