Skip to content

UVic faculty and students refute university’s protest encampment accusations

Public statements don’t align with reality on campus, faculty members say
University of Victoria faculty members are concerned about what the school administrators are saying about the protest encampment on campus. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

As people walked by the protester encampment at the University of Victoria or sat in a lounge chair nearby, faculty members gathered on Friday (May 17) to say the situation on campus is markedly different than what’s being communicated.

Protesters have been camped on the quad since May 1 and their several demands include UVic divesting from companies that are contributing to “the genocide of Palestinian people.”

UVic president Kevin Hall has released a series of statements, with recent ones directly linking protesters to “challenges” on campus and saying the encampment’s presence has enabled those issues.

Hall claimed protesters yelled at high school kids who were touring campus, encampment members vandalized and spray painted UVic property and that the demonstrators rode bikes inside the library.

Both faculty and encampment members took issue with how the president directed blame for those incidents, with the former saying it could hinder meaningful dialogue and the latter saying they’re being scapegoated.

“We’ve been a witness to this peaceful, amazing space that’s been created for dialogue,” said ann-elise lewallen, a professor of Pacific and Asian studies. “We have not seen any kind of behaviour that would match these claims.”

A man sits in a chair beside the Palestinian solidarity encampment at the University of Victoria on May 17. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

The faculty group on Friday said they’re around the encampment almost 24/7 and they’re concerned the information coming the university “does not align with what most of us have seen first hand at the encampment.”

The UVic employees said the president’s campus descriptions differ from the quad where people are playing Frisbee or soccer, while protesters noted that kids involved in summer camps have continued to play in the grass right beside them.

“That distance between what we’ve seen and what we’ve been told is not conducive to good-faith negotiation,” a faculty member said.

The instructors, who are among 75 faculty members who signed a letter calling on Hall to meet directly with demonstrators, said they’d be “extremely surprised” if someone was biking in the library or engaging in the other cases outlined in the statements.

A graduate student who’s part of the encampment said the group hasn’t spray painted anything or biked in the library. UVic could show them a video of the alleged incidents or evidence of them inside the library, but it hasn’t, said the protester, who didn’t want their name used out of fear of retaliation.

“There’s also no reason that we would do that, we’re not here to goof around and have fun, we’re not here on a camping trip, we are here in solidarity and we are here in devotion. So to frame us as doing that is a very clear attempt to delegitimize what we’re doing here and to build a case to criminalize what we’re doing,” the student said in an interview on Friday.

Faculty members expressed concern over Hall saying the encampment has asked the public to join them. The instructors pointed to how protesters discouraged that when flyers unaffiliated with the encampment were distributed around town.

“It is incredibly irresponsible for encampment organizers to encourage other members of the community who are not affiliated with the university to occupy parts of our campus,” the UVic president said on May 15, linking the alleged invites to a man with a knife who was arrested on campus.

A Palestinian solidarity encampment at the University of Victoria on May 17. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)

The student protester said the encampment had nothing to do with the person who was arrested and noted that was reflected in Saanich police’s statement on the incident. Students aren’t responsible for people assaulting and threatening them, faculty members said.

“We really are not a threat to the campus community, what we are is a threat to their business as usual and I think that’s actually what (the university) is reacting to,” the protester said. “We hope that they engage with us in good faith and stop lying about what we’re doing.”

Hall’s statements have also said the university is open to dialogue, but said protesters have refused. The student said their group attended one formal meeting with two UVic officials, including one from the athletics department, who said they were unable to discuss the demands.

Faculty member Audrey Yap said students are standing up “for the Palestinian people who are being killed in massive numbers and at the end of the day, (students) want that to stop.”

READ: Man with knife arrested at University of Victoria’s First Peoples House

READ: Individual barred from UVic after protesters alleged repeated assaults

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
Read more