More support for students at encampment from senate, faculty and alum

Since May 12, support for the encampment on Dalhousie’s front lawn organized by the coalition Students for the Liberation of Palestine-Kjipuktuk(Halifax)–or SLPK–has continued to grow as its space has expanded with tents, teach-ins, banners and gardens.

Although it flanks the steps at Dal, the SLPK represents students from five universities across Halifax: the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design–NSCAD, Mount Saint Vincent University–MSVU, Saint Mary’s University–SMU, and Dal’s closest neighbour, the University of King’s College–King’s.

On Thursday, June 13 the coalition held a press conference on the steps, with the start of their vegetable garden in the foreground and ranks of supporters in the background. Three speakers reiterated the overall group demands for disclosure and divestment, as well as school-specific calls made to all five schools. They confirmed that all five administrations know their students have been sleeping at Dal for the past five weeks in protest of university investments tied to Israel’s occupation of and war on Gaza, Palestine.

“Palestine is our red line–we will not rest until all the represented universities divest from

all companies funding the Zionist entity,” said one of the students at the press conference.

SLPK speakers said Thursday that none of their five universities have committed to disclosure or divestment, despite scattered meetings taking place with school administrations in varied forms.

The students said they are “dissatisfied with the responses of our institutions, who are dragging their feet as Palestinians in Gaza continue to face manufactured famine, torture, agony, massacre and murder,” and said “every day that the universities in Kjipuktuk continue to delay or refuse to divest is another day our universities directly fund the war machine,” and said the “complicity of our universities and their administrations demonstrates institutional endorsement of the war crimes and genocide in Palestine.”

Yet outside groups–such as Labour for Palestine, the Jewish Faculty Network and Independent Jewish Voices–along with inside groups like university faculty, student unions, alums and, most recently, the Dalhousie Senate have gone on record supporting students involved with the SLPK. However university administrations, aside from Dal, have yet to publicly acknowledge their students’ actions.


On May 31, Dalhousie alumni sent an open letter to Dal’s administration and governance groups, including president Kim Brooks, the school’s senate and the board of governors, writing “We, the Alumni…unequivocally support the Dalhousie student encampment on Mi'kmaq lands in solidarity with Gaza and the Palestinian people…pressuring universities to disclose their investments and divest from Israeli genocide.”

The letter continued by offering “voices in support of the encampment’s urgent and ethical demands in solidarity with Gaza.”

Those demands include divesting from companies “complicit in Israeli atrocities,” cutting ties with Israeli institutions and arms manufacturers, condemning “Israel’s assault on the academic community in Gaza,” maintaining academic freedom for students and faculty, and making the Dalhousie library and other resources available to Palestinian scholars and students to continue their studies.

King’s alumni also wrote an open letter to school president Bill Lahey, vice-president Sarah Clift, and other members of the board of governors, administration and senate published June 12. They write “we stand in solidarity with the Students for the Liberation of Palestine Kjipuktuk (SLPK) in the Al-Zeitoun University student encampment on Dalhousie campus, voicing opposition to the University’s complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza.” Letter writers call for the public disclosure of investment assets, the divestment from any companies “playing active roles in the military occupation in Palestine and the ongoing genocide in Gaza” and for King’s to release a statement calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

On June 10, the Dal senate, which is a cross-university group responsible for changes to academic programs and setting academic regulations, voted on a motion brought forward by the Dal Student Union–DSU–to offer limited academic amnesty for students participating in the encampment for the entire summer semester, which ends Aug. 31. The motion passed, allowing Dal and King’s students enrolled in Dal courses an extra self-declaration of absence “for one class or assessment per course,” not including final exams or final assessments.


This is a small but significant win in recognition of the ongoing involvement of students at Al-Zeitoun University. This is the name the SLPK has given the encampment at Dal, meaning “olives” in Arabic.

On June 11, the Dal Faculty Association–DFA–passed a third motion brought to vote by membership on disclosure, divestment and reinvestment related to Israel’s war on Gaza, Palestine. All three motions were presented to the DFA based on the premise that “faculty associations at several Canadian universities support the boycott and divestment of Israeli institutions that are complicit with Israel’s war crimes.”

The third motion passed as originally written, with the DFA demanding that Dalhousie University support Palestinian students, scholars, and universities by providing Palestinian students with scholarships, administrative and financial supports, and supporting Palestinian educational institutions “through virtual instructions, exchanges, library sharing” and more.

The DFA had previously passed the first two motions at their first reading on May 16.


The SLPK thanked their supporters in their conference held Thursday June 13 and reiterated the motivations behind their demands, saying “we stand firm in our demands for disclosure, divestment, and reinvestment.”

On reinvestment, the SLPK are clear: “Dal's endowment fund is currently invested in the genocide of Palestinians.” They reiterated that, if the university commits to providing increased financial support to Palestinian students to match the DFA motions and their own demands, that support would currently come from “an endowment fund that directly invests in weapon manufacturing and other parties upholding an apartheid state,” if divestment doesn’t come first.

The SLPK lists two problematic investments, specifically: $706,079 in Israel Chemical Ltd., “the sole provider of white phosphorus to the IOF,” and $335,429 in Boeing, “the top American manufacturer of missiles for the Zionist entity.”

Dal students will be presenting on divestment at the next board of governors meeting and are requesting to form an ad hoc investment committee to implement divestment and reinvestment made of school administrators and governors but with a 50% plus one student-held majority.


Negotiations between students and university administrations have continued to be mixed across all five schools, however the coalition is a part of the conversation at each university.

SLPK members have interrupted board of governors’ meetings at NSCAD and SMU.

Speaking on behalf of SMU students, an SLPK member said Thursday that students have met with administration several times but that these conversations are still stuck on disclosure. “Saint Mary’s St. Mary's has not disclosed any of their finances,” says the student. “Our primary focus…is to get them to even disclose their finances–and from there we can start talking about divestment.”

SLPK members have also met with the MSVU president Joël Dickinson and hosted a first meeting with Dal’s president Kim Brooks in an encampment tent. Students from MSVU have finalized a motion for disclosure of the endowment fund they will present at the next board of governors meeting on June 25.

King's president William Lahey held a first meeting with King’s students on the campus a few hundred metres from Al-Zeitoun University. They have not had further discussions, however there is an upcoming board of governors meeting on June 20.

Support from within–from student unions, alumni and faculty–has varied, too. NSCAD, MSVU and King’s faculty associations have so far not issued statements of support for their students at Al-Zeitoun University, although the MSVU Faculty Association held an emergency meeting last week to decide whether they will. Dal and SMU have already done so and SMU faculty have made their own demands for disclosure and divestment to administrators, as well.

Student union support is also inconsistent. MSVU is silent. Student unions at King’s, Dal and NSCAD, however, have been actively engaged in supporting the SLPK from the beginning.

DSU student union president, Mariam Knakriah, spoke about the divestment movement at Dal with demands predating the student encampment in an interview on campus radio station, CKDU, on Friday May 17 at 9am, alongside SLPK member and Palestinian student, known as “Y.”

NSCAD’s student union president, Owen Skeen, has tabled a motion with demands for disclosure and divestment for the upcoming board of governors–BOG–meeting on June 27.

Skeen also said at Thursday’s press conference that he’s been having private discussions about school-wide tuition strikes with a number of student unions “both within the province of Nova Scotia as well as nationally.”

Lauren Phillips, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Coast