Pro-Palestine encampment set up at Hamilton university


Published May 6, 2024 at 10:28 am

McMaster encampment

Supporters of an encampment erected Sunday afternoon at McMaster University are calling on the university to “disclose and divest” from firms arming Israel in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

Some two dozen tents sprung up in the centre of the campus grounds in front of Burke Science Building, with nearly 70 pro-Palestine protestors on site.

University leaders met with students over the weekend to continue conversations that have been ongoing since October, with Provost Susan Tighe expressing “disappointment” the students chose to set up the encampment.

“We have always had constructive relationships with our student groups which has allowed us to discuss even the most difficult issues,” said Tighe. “Despite our willingness to continue exploring the topics the group has raised, it is disappointing that instead they have chosen to establish the encampment.”

“The safety and security of anyone who participates is very concerning.”

The encampment is so far peaceful and university activities are continuing as usual, including classes, added school president David Farrar.

“The university’s role is not to constrain free thought, censor the views and positions some choose to take, or adopt the position of one group over another,” he said.

Campus is a shared space and ensuring it remains that way is why McMaster’s campus safety team is closely monitoring the situation and sharing information on the fire and safety risks of encampments and the rights and responsibilities for all students involved, he added.

“One of the fundamental purposes of a university is to build a community committed to freedom of expression,” Farrar said. “While the goal is to enable thoughtful exchanges to occur and different perspectives to be aired, this becomes extremely complex in situations where opinions and beliefs are diametrically opposed.”

The war in the Gaza, which began October 7 after a surprise attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel, marks seven months on Tuesday, with U.S. President Joe Biden currently trying a negotiate a cease fire of some permanence.

“Universities have a long history with protests, which, when peacefully done, reinforce and support our culture of freedom of expression,” Farrar noted. “McMaster is committed to an environment where this can be achieved within our codes of conduct and without compromising the safety and security of students, faculty and staff.”

Hamilton Centre MPP Sara Jama threw her support behind the protest, saying she was “super proud” of the students for launching the “indefinite” encampment and calling on the school to “divest and join the global calls for academic boycotts in solidarity with Palestine.”


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