Pro-Palestine student activists reach deal with TRU

TRU is the first university in Canada to come to such an agreement, according to representatives from the People's University of Gaza at TRU.

Following a meeting between Thompson Rivers University executives and representatives from the local chapter of a pro-Palestinian demonstration group, the likelihood of a student-organized protest encampment popping up on campus appears to be low – for now.

As the number of encampments protesting the Israel-Hamas war continues to rise globally, representatives from the group known as the People’s University of Gaza at TRU (PUoG) recently announced they had met with the university to negotiate a deal. Days before the meeting, the PUoG had published a list of demands they had for the university, cautioning that if they were not met, “more assertive forms of peaceful action” could take place.

At the top of their list, the PUoG had requested information regarding the details of specific types of investments related to any companies “that are complicit in the surveillance occupation, human rights violations, and murder of Palestinians by the State of Israel” and further, that TRU agrees to “completely divest” from those same companies.

Additionally, the PUoG sought assurances from the university that it would guarantee the protection of all students, faculty and staff while affirming “their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and academic freedom.” 

The group also demanded that TRU “end the silence” by publicly condemning the Israeli government and demanding that it end the war and the “acts of genocide and scholasticide in Gaza.”

On the afternoon of May 3, several days after issuing their demands, the PUoG posted an update via Instagram touting that the two sides had come to an agreement.

“We are very pleased to announce that TRU is the first university in Canada to commit to their students that they will disclose their investments in companies that are complicit in the surveillance, occupation, human rights violations and murder of Palestinians by the State of Israel within 30 days and work with us to review a divestment plan,” The group said.

The following day, TRU issued its own statement, confirming the details of the discussion.

“The meeting was cordial and productive,” said Brian Daly, vice-president of university relations. “We discussed a wide range of issues and agreed on ways we can provide the information these students seek while respecting the needs and well-being of the TRU community as a whole.”

The remainder of the statement discusses the four demands previously issued by the pro-Palestinian group.

Firstly, the statement confirmed the university had agreed to release the investment information, albeit with a condition: it would have to be released following a Freedom of Information request.

Addressing the second demand that the university “[…] Completely divest from all companies that are complicit in the surveillance occupation, human rights violations, and murder of Palestinians by the State of Israel,” TRU appeared less committed in its response. 

“With the same consideration we would provide to any TRU student request, we will review proposals made regarding divestment. However, it is important to note that TRU already follows stringent guidelines and policies regarding our investments,” Daly said.

Responding to the third demand, TRU “confirmed its commitment to the right to peaceful student demonstrations,” expressing the university’s support for students’ rights to peaceful demonstrations.

In addressing the final demand, TRU reiterated its desire to remain neutral on “global political issues,” essentially paraphrasing a passage from a report written by President Brett Fairbairn and delivered to the university senate last month.

“The senior executive team generally believes it is not TRU’s role to issue statements about external events or take related positions. Instead, we must focus on people and supporting those who need care and attention,” Fairbairn’s report states.

Representatives of the People’s University of Gaza were contacted for comment but were unable to be reached prior to publication.