Disciplinary action taken against 10 students since ANU pro-Palestine encampment began, Senate estimates hears (2024)

The Australian National University (ANU) has revealed 10 university disciplinary proceedings have been sparked since a pro-Palestinian protest began on campus more than a month ago.

During Senate estimates hearings on Thursday night, ANU vice-chancellor Genevieve Bell said that some incidents had been referred to police and two students had been "excluded" from campus, which the ABC has confirmed to mean expelled.

"Five of those [10 disciplinary matters] have had decisions rendered, two of those decisions have included exclusions from our campus," Professor Bell told an estimates committee.

The ABC yesterday confirmed that one student, Beatrice Tucker, was expelled over comments they made about the militant group Hamas on ABC radio, which the university believed could have been construed as supporting a terrorist organisation.

Professor Bell told the hearing she would not comment on individual cases.

"Part of the provision for us doing that has to do with duty of care and privacy laws and partly because in our disciplinary hearings this case would now be in the state of appeals," she said.

It is not clear who the other student is or why they were expelled, but Professor Bell said any exclusion required a "quite clear violation of our code of conduct".

"Over the arc of the period of time that we have had conflict on our campus related to the Middle East, which for us begins last October, there have been two expulsions," she said.

Four cases referred to police

Professor Bell said the university had referred four separate cases to police.

"Two who were interviewed on that radio interview, including one of the students who has been expelled," she said.

"[And] the two who were involved in the online meeting."

The online meeting refers to alleged anti-Semitic behaviour, which occurred during an ANU Students' Association meeting on May 8.

Professor Bell said the cases were referred "on the basis that they constituted, or at least could be seen as being various forms of violations of Australian law".

"We thought the AFP should see them," she said.

Professor Bell said the ANU had not heard from police since the reports were made.

ANU waited to tell protest camp to move

Disciplinary action taken against 10 students since ANU pro-Palestine encampment began, Senate estimates hears (1)

The pro-Palestinian encampment began on April 29 on the ANU's Kambri lawn but later moved after the university called in police over safety concerns.

Professor Bell told the estimates hearing that the original encampment had expanded into a fire evacuation zone, so other plans were made.

She said on May 21, a fire alarm was triggered and the evacuation was "chaotic".

Professor Bell said an investigation was commenced and on Friday, May 24, she received an email that "made clear" the encampment was in a "primary fire evacuation zone".

"I took the position that not being able to evacuate all of our students and staff and people was an intolerable risk and frankly became a problem in terms of fire laws and fire codes," she said.

She said the university consulted with ACT Policing, who could not assist until the following Monday, May 27.

Professor Bell said the ANU rostered additional staff over the next 72 hours and provided them with additional information, but only notified the encampment at 8am on the Monday morning, when students were told to leave or risk further action, including arrests.

The encampment participants eventually moved the site to an alternative venue on University Avenue.

'Irate' phone call from Josh Frydenberg

Disciplinary action taken against 10 students since ANU pro-Palestine encampment began, Senate estimates hears (2)

When asked by independent senator Lidia Thorpe about how many times she had met with ministers to talk about the encampment, Professor Bell said she had had discussions with a number of politicians.

"I have had meetings with [Liberal MP] Julian Leeser, [independent MP] Allegra Spender, [Labor MP] Josh Burns, I have talked to [Education] Minister [Jason] Clare," she said.

"[And] I have had at least one quite irate call from former politician Josh Frydenberg on the matter."

Professor Bell did not elaborate on the conversation with Mr Frydenberg and was not pressed about it further.

Encampment is a 'peaceful protest'

Responding to questions from Liberal senator Sarah Henderson, Professor Bell said she was not seeking to dismantle the protest.

"At this moment in time, Senator Henderson, we believe the encampment is a peaceful protest," she said.

Professor Bell said the university had been in extended correspondence with some encampment members to try and have a "conversation" about their concerns.

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Disciplinary action taken against 10 students since ANU pro-Palestine encampment began, Senate estimates hears (2024)
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