Protestors hold vigil, call on UBC to cut ties with Israeli universities during Senate meeting

At last night’s Senate meeting, protestors from the Palestinian solidarity encampment held a vigil and read statements calling on UBC to cut ties with Israeli universities.

The meeting, which was originally planned to be held in the Life Sciences Building, was moved online and pushed back 30 minutes to 6:30 p.m. without any public announcement.

At the start of the meeting, which was live-streamed over Facebook, UBC President Benoit-Antoine Bacon said there was a “safety plan” for the meeting, but because “safety” was called to another protest on campus, the Senate was “no longer confident” the meeting could proceed in-person.

At around 4 p.m., protestors entered the Walter C. Koerner Library to protest near the UBC President’s Office. This is the third building occupation done by People’s University UBC, the encampment organizers, to put pressure on the university to meet its demands.

Outside an entrance of the Life Sciences Building, protestors set up a vigil with photos of people killed by the Israeli army and Palestinian flags placed into the ground. The group was protesting UBC’s partnerships with Israeli universities like Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

The vigil outside of the Life Sciences Building.
The vigil outside of the Life Sciences Building. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

Statements were taped to the doors which read “UBC Funds Scholasticide.” According to UN experts, there is a scholasticide in Gaza.

The Vancouver Senate is the governing body which decides and approves all academic matters including academic university partnerships at UBC.

During the meeting, protestors sent messages in the livestream chat which said “academic boycott” and “protect Palestinian academic freedom by academically boycotting Israeli universities.”

Student Senate Caucus Co-Chair Jasper Lorien said that they, along with Co-Chair Kareem Hassib and 16 other senators, have submitted a letter to call a special meeting of the Senate to discuss “the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine and discuss a motion regarding suspending academic ties with Israeli government entities, including public universities.”

Clerk of Senate Chris Eaton said they will be reviewing the letter “to ensure that it meets the requirements.” If it does Eaton said they’ll “organize a special meeting to discuss the proposed resolution.”

A sign on a door to the Life Science Building that reads "UBC, divest from the Israeli occupation."
A sign on a door to the Life Science Building that reads "UBC, divest from the Israeli occupation." Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey

At the end of the meeting, two protestors read statements to the Senate. Eaton said they had received 2,174 emails from community members asking for the speakers to be allowed to read these statements.

The first speaker said UBC "has been and continues to be, in many respects, a colonial institution."

The student said UBC regrets complicity in the genocide of Indigenous peoples, but has not said the same for the genocide in Palestine.

According to a report issued by a United Nations-appointed expert, there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

“There is no Truth and Reconciliation day with no Nakba day … shame on you all,” said the first speaker.

The second speaker spoke about their family’s history of displacement.

“I come here today not in my own name, but in the name of … my grandmothers, who were both expelled from their lands multiple times since their adolescence,” they said.

“Remember this in 400 years, when settlers in an unrecognizable Palestine pat themselves on the back for performing land acknowledgments and vigils commemorating our missing and murdered men, women and children,” concluded the second speaker.

Bacon thanked both speakers. He said “the violence in Palestine is awful and has been hard to watch for everyone” and “the history is also extremely complex and evokes complex and difficult emotions.”

The meeting was adjourned at 9 p.m.

Protestors gathered outside of the Life Science Building, listening to the online Senate meeting.
Protestors gathered outside of the Life Science Building, listening to the online Senate meeting. Iman Janmohamed / The Ubyssey