Earlier, Palestinian students requested that their flag be represented alongside the other flags at the W.A. Murphy Centre. The petition form also garnered signatures in support of this cause from students of various nationalities. However, it is disheartening that there has been no further action on this matter from the UPEI Administration.
In addition, UPEI does not keep a record of the number of students from Palestine or any other country, even though international students make up 30% of the student body. This was confirmed by the UPEI International Office, which directed us to inquire with the Registrar’s Office. The Registrar’s Office chose to ignore our multiple requests for this data. It is absurd that UPEI charges each international student $17,000/year yet fails to maintain a database system that tracks the origin of these students.
Recently, a group of 16 Palestinian students was asked to comment on whether UPEI has any support systems in place to help them feel included and cope with mental stress.
However, all 16 Palestinian students declined to provide any remarks. While this group of students was glad to anonymously sign up for the Palestinian flag to be raised at the Murphy Centre, they were reluctant to have their comments and names featured in this student-led UPEI Newspaper. This underscores the significant vulnerability and intimidation these students face at UPEI, leading them to refrain from expressing their comments publicly.
Given the current situation at different universities in Canada, these students’ feelings are understandable. Recently, Dr. Eva Lonn of McMaster University faced criticism for her harsh comments on people supporting Palestine, suggesting they should be “deported to where they came from.” Additionally, some students were injured and arrested when pro-Israel and pro-Palestine students clashed at Concordia University last week. Globally, former U.S. President Donald Trump pledged to deport all immigrants who support Pro-Palestine protests within the U.S., compromising their freedom of expression. Under such conditions, Palestinian students at UPEI seek to maintain peace, choosing not to provoke any violence, but this comes at the cost of feeling excluded and enduring emotional distress as they watch their family and friends suffer while they feel helpless in Canada.
On October 10th, 2023, UPEI President Greg Keefe released a message expressing gratitude for being part of a community like PEI, given global issues such as Israel-Palestine tensions, the situation in Ukraine, and earthquakes in Afghanistan. The message coincided with the upcoming Thanksgiving event. However, did he consider how students from Palestine, Ukraine, or Afghanistan might feel, enjoying their turkey dinner in Canada while their families back home plead for help?
Why doesn’t UPEI have support systems relevant to students coming from such troubled nations?