Auckland University staff appeal over Gaza protest in solidarity with students

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NZ's University of Auckland
NZ's University of Auckland . . . academics urge urge the vice-chancellor to "reverse your decision and to offer your full support to students and staff who may choose to exercise their right to protest by establishing a peaceful encampment on campus grounds". Image: Wikipedia Commons

Asia Pacific Report

A group of 65 Auckland University academics have written an open letter to vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater criticising the institution’s stance over students protesting in solidarity with Palestine.

They have called on her administration to “support” the students who were denied permission to establish an “overnight encampment” by students over Israel’s war on Gaza, and criticised her for “minimising” the seriousness of the seven-month war that has been widely characterised as genocide.

They have also criticised the vice-chancellor’s announcement for failing to acknowledge that “our students were planning to establish an encampment to urge the University of Auckland to divest from any entities and corporations enabling Israel’s ongoing military violence against Palestinians in Gaza, where at least 34,535 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s military operations since 7 October 2023″.

Their open letter said in full:

“Tēnā koe Vice-Chancellor Dawn Freshwater,

“As members of staff of the University of Auckland, we are deeply concerned by your announcement of 30 April 2024 advising students and staff of your decision to not support the establishment of an overnight encampment by students protesting in solidarity with Palestine.

“Firstly, we are concerned that your announcement failed to acknowledge that our students were planning to establish an encampment to urge the University of Auckland to divest from any entities and corporations enabling Israel’s ongoing military violence against Palestinians in Gaza, where at least 34,535 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s military operations since 7 October 2023. Importantly, UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese recently found that there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to determine that this violence by Israel amounts to the commission of the crime of genocide. Rather than acknowledging this cause, your announcement disappointingly mischaracterised and minimised Israel’s violence as a ‘conflict’ and the resulting humanitarian crisis as a ‘heightened geopolitical tension.’

“Secondly, we are concerned that in making your decision, you sought advice from the New Zealand Police rather than from your own students and staff. We believe that this approach to such an important matter falls short of the ‘values which bind us as a university community’ you mentioned in your announcement.

“Thirdly, we are concerned that the reason you have provided for your decision is that the University of Auckland needs to avoid ‘introducing the significant risks that such encampments have brought to other university campuses.’ We believe that this reasoning erroneously places the blame for any safety risks in overseas campuses on students and staff who established peaceful encampments, rather than on university administrators who decided to seek unnecessary police intervention to break up these encampments, which has then led to the unjust arrests and detainments of students and staff.

“Finally, we are concerned that your decision to seek the advice of the New Zealand Police and blame peaceful encampments for safety risks in other campuses suggests that you intend to call the New Zealand Police on your students and staff who decide to exercise their right to protest with a peaceful encampment on campus grounds. We believe that making such a suggestion to students and staff also falls short of the ‘values which bind us as a university community’ you mentioned in your announcement.

“Accordingly, we urge you to reverse your decision and to offer your full support to students and staff who may choose to exercise their right to protest by establishing a peaceful encampment on campus grounds.

“We also urge you not to discipline or penalise students and staff who may choose to participate in peaceful protests and encampments in any way, and to engage with them in good faith and in accordance with the ‘values which bind us as a university community’.

Ngā mihi nui,

Auckland University Staff in Solidarity with Students

Fuimaono Dylan Asafo
Associate Professor Rhys Jones
Professor Papaarangi Reid
Professor Emeritus Jane Kelsey
Dr Suliana Mone
Professor Emeritus David V Williams
Professor Andrew Jull
Associate Professor Donna Cormack
Dr Nav Sidhu
Associate Professor George Laking
Mia Carroll
Ankita Askar
Caitlin Merriman
Dr Rebekah Jaung
Dr Eileen Joy
Sione Ma’u
Arin Hectors
Dr Ian Hyslop
Dr Fleur Te Aho
Associate Professor Treasa Dunworth
Professor Nicholas Rowe
Dr Emalani Case
Emmy Rākete
Kendra Cox
Zoe Poutu Fay
Kenzi Yee
Niamh Pritchard
Associate Professor Lisa Uperesa
Eru Kapa-Kingi
Daniel Wilson
Kate Jack
Dr Karly Burch
Sean Sturm
Campbell Talaepa
Professor Liz Beddoe
Erin Jia
Emily Sposato
Fahizah Sahib
Dina Sharp
Dr Murray Olsen
Dr Cynthia Wensley
Sasha Rodenko
Gabbi Courtenay
Atama Thompson
Professor Paula Lorgelly
Jess Kelly
Amelia Kendall
Abigail Siddayao-Ramos
Bianca Parker
Georgia Nemaia
Muhammad Bazaan Ghaznavi
Erica Farrelly
Dr Vivienne Kent
Morgan Allen
Carrie Rudzinski
Thomas Gregory
Lauren Brentnall
Lily Chen
Awhi Marshall
Max Stephens
Dr. Charlotte Toma
Sonia Fonua
Benjamin Kauri Doyle
Kyrin Bhula
Isobel Rist
Kelly Young
Ngahuia Harrison
Briar Meads
Emma Parangi
Mai AlSharaf
Dr Anita Mudaliar
Dave Henricks
Maryam Madawi
Yeray Madroño
Marnie Reinfelds
Maizurah Maidin
Nida Zuhena
Professor Virginia Braun
Bridget Conor
Amani Mashal
Anastasia Papadakis
Ayla Hoeta Lecturer, Assistant Associate Dean Maaori
Associate Professor Elana Curtis
Professor Nicola Gaston
Nina Dyer
Renz Alinabon

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