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AASUA and others push for third-party investigation on encampment removal

Campus organizations met with U of A administration on May 22. AASUA vice-president says the organization's “focused on the forceful removal” of the encampment, but has “not taken a position on any of the contents of the protest itself.”

On May 22, the Association of Academic Staff of the University of Alberta (AASUA) gave an update on its demands for a third-party investigation into the removal of a Palestine solidarity encampment at the U of A.

According to a press release sent on May 22, AASUA, along with several other campus organizations, is pushing for the U of A to commit to a third-party investigation “to assess the decisions, statements, and actions made by senior leadership officials that led up to the police being called to forcefully remove protesters.”

During the morning of May 11, the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) dismantled the encampment on Main Quad. The response from EPS was requested by university administration. U of A students, faculty, and community members were present at the encampment.

Kristine Smitka, vice-president of AASUA, spoke alongside Lisa Glock, president of the U of A Students’ Union (UASU).

Third-party investigation will allow the U of A community to “move forward and heal”

Earlier on May 22, representatives from AASUA, the Graduate Students’ Association (GSA), the Non-Academic Staff Association (NASA), the Postdoctoral Fellows Association (PDFA), and the UASU met with university administration.

Present at the meeting were U of A President and Vice-provost Bill Flanagan, Provost and Vice-president (academic) Verna Yiu, Vice-president (university services and finance) and Interim Vice-president (facilities and operations) Todd Gilchrist, and deputy provost (students and enrolment) and vice-president (academic) Melissa Padfield

Smitka said that in the meeting, AASUA followed up on its previous request on May 13 for a third-party investigation. Smitka added that although the university has indicated it will comply with the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team’s (ASIRT) investigation, ASIRT focuses on the actions of police once they arrive on campus. 

“There continues to be discrepancies between senior leadership and the protesters’ account of what happened on May 11,” Smitka said. She added that a third-party investigation will allow the U of A community to “move forward and heal.”

According to Smitka, university administration is “overwhelmed” by trying to meet with different parties. 

“We have been told once again that they will continue to consult. We have another meeting scheduled for two weeks from now. We’re hoping in that meeting that we’re going to receive a firm commitment to the third-party investigation.”

AASUA is “focused on the forceful removal” of the encampment

According to Smitka, AASUA wants clarity on why the encampment was deemed unsafe by the university, and what evidence supported the decision to ask EPS to intervene.

“One great concern to us is that no senior leadership official walked into the quad to engage in dialogue with the protestors,” Smitka said. “We would like to better understand what avenues were explored to de-escalate the situation.”

The Gateway asked if the encampment’s demands for the university, which have been supported by U of A faculty and staff, have come up in AASUA’s discussions with university administration. Smitka replied that AASUA is “focused on the forceful removal” of the encampment, but has “not taken a position on any of the contents of the protest itself.”

Glock added that the UASU is “working on creating a mechanism for that dialogue to proceed … making sure the actual structures of those discussions are fruitful, safe, and beneficial to everyone.”

Glock was asked if the UASU is supportive of demands for the U of A to disclose its investments with Israeli institutions and divest from such investments. Glock replied that the UASU “is supportive of demands of students,” and will continue consulting with students and student groups across campus. 

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2024-25 Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 Managing Editor, 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science.

Dylana Twittey

Dylana Twittey is the 2024-25 Managing Editor at The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 News Editor. She is a second-year student studying history. In her free time, she enjoys watching 90s Law and Order, cooking, and rereading her favourite books for the fifth time.

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