N.S. university approves academic amnesty for students in pro-Palestinian encampment

The pro-Palestinian encampment on the Dalhousie University campus as seen in May. (Julie Sicot/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Dalhousie University will grant academic amnesty to students participating in the pro-Palestinian encampment on campus.

In a motion originally proposed by the Dalhousie Student Union, the university's senate has voted to allow students to miss one class or assessment per course to participate in activities related to the encampment until the end of August.

Students must give professors at least 24-hours notice in order to attend "the event" that does not include final exams or assessments.

Dozens of tents were erected in May on Dalhousie's Studley campus, organized by the Students for the Liberation of Palestine. The organization is a coalition of students from Dalhousie, Saint Mary's, The University of King's College and NSCAD.

Organizers and participants plan to stay on campus until the university completely divests from Israel.

Mariam Knakriah, the student union president, said in a statement that the union is "proud of our achievement in securing the passage of the academic amnesty motion through the Dalhousie Senate."

Knakriah says the union also urges the university to be more proactive in listening to what the students want.

"We urgently call on Dalhousie University to listen, engage, and act in accordance with its strategic objectives of social responsibility and community engagement," Knakriah said. "It is crucial that we address the horrible crimes that force our students to sleep outdoors under harsh conditions, and we must act swiftly and decisively."

More than 37,0000 Palestinians have been killed since October, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Israel land and air attacks on Gaza followed after events on Oct. 7 when Hamas-led militants stormed the Israeli border, took 250 hostages and killed around 1,200 people, according to numbers from the Israeli government.

While the Students for the Liberation of Palestine welcomed the academic amnesty on Instagram, the group also criticized the motion that limits students to only miss one class or assessment per course. Their post specified that the "academic amnesty also does not mention why the encampment is occurring."

Calls for more academic amnesty motions

The organization also calls on King's College, Saint Mary's, NSCAD and Mount Saint Vincent University to adopt academic amnesty motions.

Ajay Parasram, an associate professor at Dalhousie and part of a group of professors who have supported the students, called the university's approval a good first step.

"What all of us want more is the university to commit to divesting — boycotting and divesting," Parasram said. "That's the stuff that's going to actually make a material difference, we think, in terms of putting pressure on the Israeli government to end its genocidal activities."

Israel has repeatedly denied accusations of genocide, saying it is attempting to protect civilians in its military operations.

Although the academic amnesty expires on Aug. 31, Students for the Liberation of Palestine vows to stay on the campus "until Dalhousie University adopts all of our demands."

These demands include the institution's complete divestment from Israel.