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Our messages to our community regarding peaceful protests on campus

24 April 2024
Maintaining a tolerant, peaceful and safe environment for our community is our priority
The University of Sydney is communicating with students and staff regarding protest activity on campus.

Update: Friday 24 May 2024

Today Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mark Scott, wrote to students and staff with an update on protest encampment discussions. 

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Dear colleagues,  
 
I’m pleased to say that today the Provost, Professor Annamarie Jagose, and I met with nominated representatives from the protest encampment including representatives from the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) to discuss their views. This followed a positive meeting with the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) earlier this week.  
 
We listened to the claims put forward by representatives and had discussions around academic freedom and free speech. The parties have agreed to meet again early next week and I look forward to continuing our conversations.  
 
As always, the safety and wellbeing of our community remains our highest priority and and I'll keep you updated on our ongoing discussions of these important concerns. 
 
Kind regards,
Mark 

Mark Scott
Vice-Chancellor and President


Update: Wednesday 16 May 2024

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mark Scott, wrote to students and staff today with an update on the protest encampment, alleged instances of unacceptable conduct and resulting actions taken. 

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Dear students/colleagues

Like you, I continue to be horrified by the conflict and loss of life occurring in the Middle East. As I said last October, the University abhors violence and any breach of human rights, and we unequivocally condemn racism in all its forms, including antisemitism and Islamophobia. Like you, we watch the international situation unfolding with collective hope for an immediate cessation of hostilities. These issues are deeply distressing for many of us, and the profoundly polarised debates about the conflict encourage further division rather than constructive dialogue. I extend my sympathies to everyone affected and encourage you to reach out for support if you need it.   
 
Unacceptable conduct

Since the protest encampment on our campus began, we have been focused on the safety and wellbeing of our community, ensuring our campus remains peaceful and our University activities can continue uninterrupted. 
 
Where instances of alleged unacceptable conduct occur, we have acted decisively. We will continue to take a reasonable and proportionate approach to any alleged misconduct and deal with unacceptable conduct on a case-by-case basis, consistent with our approach of de-escalation.  
 
We have repeatedly directed protesters not to share their student or staff ID cards with visitors to campus. Individuals who have been found to have shared their ID cards have had their cards confiscated and will be subject to misconduct proceedings. 
 
We have become aware that some individuals have allegedly gone beyond the bounds of acceptable political announcements before the commencement of classes by:

  • deliberately covering their faces in a manner intended to conceal their identity and, in contravention of University policy, not identifying themselves upon request 
  • interrupting classes or not allowing classes to commence at the scheduled time 
  • acting in a way that can reasonably be considered to be intimidatory of staff and/or students. 

The University has an obligation to provide a safe learning environment for our students and a safe workplace for staff, and we will be taking disciplinary action against identified individuals involved in these incidents.  
 
Equally, we are aware of an instance of counter-protesters allegedly engaging in intimidatory behaviour towards the encampment overnight earlier this week, and we are co-operating with police in their investigations of this behaviour.  
 
Our expectations

As we have stated repeatedly, we do not tolerate any form of racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, threats to safety, hate speech, intimidation, threatening speech, bullying or unlawful harassment, or breaches of privacy including photography in classes without permission. As previously communicated, the following is unacceptable conduct:  

  • disruption of lectures and classes, preventing other students from learning  
  • entering buildings without authorisation 
  • harassing or intimidating staff and students who may hold a different view or simply do not wish to engage in protest or debate  
  • preventing free movement around campus  
  • damage to property
  • creating and/or refusing to control a serious safety risk.

If you witness or experience an incident, I encourage you to lodge a complaint via our online form. If you are feeling unsafe on campus, you can call protective services on 9351 3333.  
  
Working towards a resolution

I know that many in our community have passionate and long-held views on Israel and Palestine and are legitimately concerned about what is taking place, and the University upholds the right of our community to express these views provided they do not unreasonably infringe on the rights of others to come to campus and engage in their usual activities. 
 
Senior University representatives have had productive and open conversations with representatives from the Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association (SUPRA), and the student-led University of Sydney Union (USU).  
 
I’m disappointed we haven’t yet been able to have constructive engagement with the Students' Representative Council (SRC) and Sydney University Muslim Students' Association (SUMSA) organisers to discuss their views, and I have written to them today inviting them to meet with me and Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Annamarie Jagose in a private and neutral place where meaningful discussions can take place.  
 
Likewise, the Sydney Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), one of our staff unions, recently passed a motion outlining concerns similar to those of the encampment, and I’ve written to them today inviting them to meet with me and Annamarie next week.  
 
Around the world, we have seen universities and encampments come to mutually-acceptable agreements following good-faith dialogue. The concerns of the encampment and the NTEU are worthy of consideration, but we can only progress towards any resolution through genuine two-way discussions and I hope that both the students and the NTEU will accept our offer to meet next week.   
 
In these troubling times, I encourage you to be thoughtful and considerate when expressing your views and have empathy for others who may be affected in different ways by current events. 
 
Kind regards,
Mark 

Professor Mark Scott
Vice-Chancellor and President


Update: Wednesday 1 May 2024

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Mark Scott, wrote to students and staff today with an update on the protest encampment and expectations of conduct. 

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Dear students and colleagues,  
 
Recently I wrote to remind our community that at the University we have a long tradition of understanding peaceful protests and freedom of expression can be important demonstrations of free speech. 

Today, I reaffirm our commitment to freedom of expression and our zero tolerance for any form of racism, threats to safety, hate speech, intimidation, threatening speech, bullying or unlawful harassment, including antisemitic or anti-Muslim language or behaviour.

Expectations of conduct

Last week the Provost, Professor Annamarie Jagose, wrote to all students and all staff to make clear the principles that would guide our response to and actions regarding the protest encampment set up on our front lawns. 
We made very clear that we would not hesitate to take firm and decisive disciplinary action if a student or staff member engaged in unacceptable conduct including: 

  • disruption of lectures and classes, preventing other students from learning
  • harassing or intimidating staff and students who may hold a different view or simply do not wish to engage in protest or debate
  • preventing free movement around campus
  • damage to property.

I regret to say that in recent days we’ve become aware of a number of alleged instances of unacceptable conduct associated with the encampment including:

  • Slogans being graffitied on the walls of the Quadrangle
  • A truck driver making an unauthorised delivery to the encampment spitting at and engaging in other offensive and abusive behaviour directed to University staff
  • Protesters entering buildings and harassing staff
  • Protesters blocking City Road and endangering the health and wellbeing of students and staff

I want to assure you the University considers these alleged behaviours completely unacceptable and that we take violations of our Student Charter (PDF, 219 KB) and our Code of Conduct very seriously. We are investigating these violations of our policies in the usual way, including cooperating with police investigations where alleged unacceptable conduct might have broken the law. The University is actively engaging with protesters and we will continue to monitor the behaviour at the encampment. From time to time, in the interests of safety, some buildings may be placed in secure mode meaning a valid student or staff card will be required to enter.

Support

I encourage everyone to act with empathy for each other in these challenging times.

Kind regards,
Mark

Mark Scott
Vice Chancellor and President


Wednesday 24 April 2024

The University's Acting Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Annamarie Jagose, wrote to students and staff today about a protest encampment near our Quadrangle on our Camperdown-Darlinghurst campus. 

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Dear students and colleagues,  

Some of you may be aware that last night a protest encampment was set up on the University’s front lawns on our Camperdown-Darlington campus.  

A wide range of views and perspectives exist among our community and, as always, we remain committed to the right of protesters to assemble peacefully and express their views. We strongly believe that as a university our role is to serve as a forum for respectful and deliberative debate and discussion in line with our Charter of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech.

Equally, we have zero tolerance for any form of racism, threats to safety, hate speech, intimidation, threatening speech, bullying or unlawful harassment, including antisemitic or anti-Muslim language or behaviour. 

Unacceptable conduct 

As the Vice-Chancellor said in February, in these times of conflict and division the University is focused on fostering a culture of civility and disagreeing well, where everyone feels welcome and included. 

The University will not hesitate to take firm and decisive disciplinary action where appropriate if a student or staff member is found to have breached the Student Charter, Code of Conduct or University policy. The University has developed additional guidance to support students to understand our Student Charter, and what the University considers unacceptable conduct that may lead to disciplinary action. 

Unacceptable conduct includes: 

  • disruption of lectures and classes, preventing other students from learning 
  • harassing or intimidating staff and students who may hold a different view or simply do not wish to engage in protest or debate 
  • preventing free movement around campus 
  • damage to property. 

It is our expectation that all members of our University community will express their views in a thoughtful and considered manner. 

Support 

Protecting the safety, health and wellbeing of our students and staff – as well as any visitors to campus – is always the University’s highest priority.  

If you need support, visit our student life, wellbeing and support webpage or  talk with one of our University counsellors

Unacceptable conduct can be reported via our online complaints form

As always, please look after yourselves and each other and make use of the support available to you here at the University.  

Take care, 

Annamarie 

Professor Annamarie Jagose
Acting Vice-Chancellor and President