University Vice-Chancellor downplays hunger strike as “camping”
Today Caroline McMillen, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Newcastle sent an email to all staff in which she stated that they had a member of the community, “Camping on the Callaghan campus.”
Mr J. Chafil resumed his hunger strike yesterday (Wednesday) at 5pm. Prof. McMillen also expressed concern that NUSA released personal details about Mr Chafil, apparently his name, and sent NUSA a letter today requesting we sign a charter with the University committing to protecting the anonymity of students.
“I am on hunger strike. This is a serious measure to take and I am here on oval four,” said Mr Chafil.
Prof. McMillen also informed staff that, “We know that he has shelter and blankets, and has advised University staff that he has eaten.”
“One of the key elements of “restarting” a hunger strike is of course that the major protagonist has taken a break. It is true Mr Chafil had eaten during his break, but the Vice-Chancellor is clearly misleading staff into thinking he is not on a hunger strike now. I believe this is morally and ethically wrong and is not behaviour we should see from the leader of a public institution,” said Heather Richards, NUSA President.
“There are no other “campers” on my site and no University officials have come to speak to me about my case. My shelter and blankets are a blanket, clothes and the open sky,” said Mr Chafil.
Early this morning NUSA’s Grievance Officer left a message on the University Health Service answer phone requesting that they check on Mr Chafil. NUSA understands that a woman from the Health Service checked on him earlier today.
NUSA became aware of Mr Chafil’s actions yesterday at 5pm, when he came to us to inform us of his situation and that as the University had not responded to him he would resume his hunger strike.
“Dismissing a hunger strike as “camping” is inhumane,” said Ms Richards.
“This student is clearly on a hungry strike because he believes he has a message and wants to be heard. NUSA submits that Mr Chafil has a right to protest and right for his identity to be made public. The University has chosen to attack NUSA over disclosing his name. Why is the University not addressing the issues that led to the hunger strike, rather than reducing Mr Chafil to ‘John Doe’?” questioned Ms Richards.
“How can the Vice-Chancellor send out these communications without even visiting Mr Chafil? It is like she is laughing at his protest,” said Veronica Meneses, NUSA Grievance Officer.
“This hunger strike does not belong to the University, the Vice-Chancellor, NUSA or the media. It belongs to Mr Chafil,” said Ms Richards.
Media Contact: Heather Richards, NUSA President: (02) 4921 6006