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Update on student protest

Memorial shares commitments and response to student protest

Campus and Community

By Memorial University

Memorial University fully supports the right of people to advocate for change and engage in peaceful protest.

Throughout the last number of weeks, there has been an encampment at the St. John’s campus and an occupation of the Arts and Administration building by MUN students for Palestine.

Members of Memorial’s leadership team have met on three separate occasions with protest organizers. The last meeting included representatives from the Board of Regents.

After hearing from protest organizers, and members of the community who have both supported and disagreed with the protest, Memorial’s leadership team has been working diligently to identify the best path forward for our university.

We have carefully considered how Memorial can best uphold the principles of freedom of expression, academic freedom, the requirements of the university’s fiduciary obligation, and the university’s core mission of teaching, research and public engagement.

Our responsibility is to maintain an environment where all students, faculty and staff feel comfortable and can thrive. We must create the conditions in which diverse perspectives can be respectfully shared and explored—even if these perspectives challenge prevailing political or social norms. This ensures a vibrant academic environment where ideas can be freely expressed and critically examined.

In practical terms, this means that university administration should not and will not take a political position that inhibits freedom of expression or academic freedom by directing staff, faculty members or students to conform to specific ideological viewpoints or limit their research, study or scholarship opportunities.

The work the university has done over the last number of weeks has led to the creation of three overarching commitments. Memorial leaders have shared these with the protest organizers and are now sharing them with the wider university community.

Commitment to enhanced transparency

  • Annually disclosing all direct investments and the names of pooled funds held in endowment and pension funds. That list is now available online.
  • Requesting the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ratings of its investment firms and disclosing them annually.

Commitment to responsible investing

  • Reviewing the Statements of Investment Policy and Objectives. These statements already recognize the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations.
  • Evaluating investment firms’ commitment to ESG as it relates to investment strategies for endowed, non-endowed and pension funds.
  • Working only with investment management firms that are signatories to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing.

Commitment to support for students displaced by war

  • Establishing, in consultation and collaboration with students and employees, a bursary program to support at-risk students.
  • Waiving application fees for Palestinian students for the 24/25 academic year, and longer if necessary. In consultation and collaboration with students and employees, this initiative may be expanded to include students from other regions experiencing war.
  • Continuing to offer enhanced supports for current Palestinian and Israeli students of Memorial.
  • Collaborating with students on a joint public statement that affirms our support for peace, freedom of expression and academic freedom. Initial drafts have been exchanged.

The Board of Regents, which includes faculty, alumni, students and appointed representatives, has also committed to reviewing the documentation shared by the students in the June 18 meeting.

Student protesters are referring to their meetings with Memorial as a negotiation. A negotiation, however, requires both sides to be willing to listen and respond to the concerns that the other has raised. The commitments outlined above represent tangible changes that Memorial is making in good faith to improve transparency, continue its commitment to responsible investing and support students, scholars and staff.

Students cannot continue to live in a building or camp on grounds that are meant for work and study. This aligns with the decision released on Tuesday, July 2, by the Ontario Superior Court in U of T v. Doe et al.

We expect protesters to respect this court decision and to end the occupation of the Arts and Administration building and the encampment on the St. John’s campus.

This occupation is increasingly disruptive to members of our community and is in no way supported by Memorial University. Some members of our community have reported not feeling safe on campus. This is not acceptable.

We continue to support peaceful protest. Our focus is on maintaining a safe environment for all: those who are protesting, those who disagree with the protest and those who remain neutral.

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