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RMIT Vice-Chancellor still yet to comment on student encampments

Updated: May 23

RMIT’s Vice Chancellor Alec Cameron is yet to personally comment on the RMIT Gaza Solidarity Encampment three weeks after it was established.


Despite other Victorian universities' efforts to disband encampments on their campuses, RMIT remains the only university to have not commented on their encampment. 


Students entering Gaza Solidarity Encampment at RMIT, photo: Tye Wilson.

Monash Gaza Solidarity Encampment was dismantled last week after the university threatened nine members of the camp with suspension or expulsion if they attended the camp again. 



Students in Mohmoud's Hall at the University of Melbourne, photo: Tye Wilson.

Deakin University has issued a statement requesting the dismantlement of their pro-Palestine encampment. The university created barricades limiting access to Morgan’s Walk where protesters were located. 


La Trobe University began misconduct proceedings against those involved with their encampment on Sunday afternoon arguing it  “poses a risk to student’s safety”. 


The University of Melbourne has two camps at its Parkville campus. 


UniMelb for Palestine has set up their Gaza Solidarity Encampment on the South Lawn and an autonomous group of staff and students established ‘Mahmoud’s Hall’ in the Arts West building. 


The University of Melbourne has informed those occupying ‘Mahmoud’s Hall’ that the police will become involved if the building is not vacated.  

Students camping on campus in solidarity with those in Gaza at RMIT, photo: Alexandra Mulcaster

The RMIT Gaza Solidarity encampment invited Vice-Chancellor Alec Cameron to an “open discussion with RMIT students concerning the University’s ties to weapons manufacturers and the Israeli government”. 


Vice-Chancellor Cameron received the invitation but did not attend the talk at 2:30 pm today. 


RMIT issued a media release on May 6 to all students regarding the encampment. 


The Swanston Gazette reached out to Vice-Chancellor Cameron for comment but did not hear back.


Co-Convener of RMIT Students for Palestine Shan Sinclair said the group want RMIT to “ disclose, divest and shut down the Sir Lawrence Wackett Defense & Aerospace Centre”. 


The Sir Lawrence Wackett Defense & Aerospace Centre develops detection, tracking, propulsion and other systems used by the Australian Military.


Messages left by students at RMIT on steps of encampment, photo: Tye Wilson.

“We need to be part of that to stand on the right side of history,” Sinclair said. 


In a statement, the University said, “RMIT does not design, develop or manufacture weapons or munitions in the university or as part of any partnership.”  


Despite this claim, Students for Palestine Co-Convener James McVicar said, “RMIT boasts being an industry leader, a leader in the sector when it comes to collaboration with the so-called defence industry or the arms industry.”


“They deny that they produce weapons based on this loophole in international [law] which says if you’re not producing the entire weapon that can be produced at the endpoint, it’s not a weapons product,” said a member of Students for Palestine, who travelled from New South Wales for the May 6 protest.


The Swanston Gazette could not find evidence of this loophole when cross-referencing this statement. 


The Jewish community and other world leaders have condemned protests at universities. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned demonstrators at Monash University where there was a confrontation between the pro-Palestine camp and Israeli counter-protesters.


Albanese said that the encampments and other pro-Palestinian activities meant the Jewish Community was "suffering from the rise in anti-Semitism".


Students waving Palestine flags at the University of Melbourne, photo: Tye Wilson

Arguing against claims such as this, McVicar labelled them as “a right-wing smear”.


“There’s nothing anti-Semitic about protesting against a genocide.”


He said the claims “totally ignore the fact that many many Jewish people are horrified their identity is used to justify a genocide…that’s why there are so many Jewish people in the movement for Palestine.”


The encampment at RMIT does not have an end date. Students say they will see “what kind of response we get and will just take it day by day.”


“There’s a genocide happening in Palestine,” said McVicar.

 

“I think it's our responsibility as students, [and] as citizens of a country that's actively participating in the genocide, whose leaders have lent support; military, moral, financial support to the regime that's carrying out, I think we have a responsibility to do something about it, and specifically at RMIT.” 


Three weeks on and there is currently yet to be any change regarding RMIT’s stance on the matter. 


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