U of M encampment disbanded after protesters reach agreement with school officials

U of M encampment disbanded after protesters reach agreement with school officials

U of M encampment disbanded after protesters reach agreement with school officials

The University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus was quiet Thursday after protesters urging the school to cut financial ties with Israel reached an agreement with the university.

Pro-Palestine demonstrators marched through campus on Monday before setting up a tent encampment on Northrop Mall. Those tents came down Thursday morning, and at noon, the school reopened 12 academic buildings that had been closed all week.

Members of the UMN Divest coalition met with interim U of M President Jeff Ettinger on Wednesday for an hour and a half to discuss their demands, and cheers rang out in the camp when university officials sent a letter outlining a compromise.

As part of the agreement, members of the student coalition will meet with the Board of Regents on May 10. Students add another item being promised to them is biweekly meetings between some of the protest organizers and university leaders.

The student coalition also said they will not organize disruptions at upcoming finals and commencements.

“They have agreed to allow students for Justice in Palestine and the UMN Divest coalition to continue to be a part of negotiations until divestment occurs. That means they are committing to a path to divestment with us having a seat at the table to ensure they do not back down,” said Fae, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, and a member of the Students for Democratic Society.

Students who organized the protest are calling this a win, saying they are cautiously optimistic the university will follow through on their promises to divest from Israel, though the extent of their financial ties overseas remains unclear.

A university spokesperson said Thursday that the school “has very little direct business or investments in Israel or Palestine.”

“While there is more work to do, and conversations are still planned with other student groups affected by the painful situation in Palestine, I am heartened by today’s progress,” Ettinger said. “It grew out of a desire among those involved to reach shared understanding. While we do not condone tactics that are outside of our policies, we appreciate student leaders’ willingness to engage in dialogue. I value the challenging and healthy conversations we’ve had.”

Not everyone was happy about the agreement. After their own meeting with U of M administrators, members of Hillel and the Jewish Community Relations Council say they haven’t been invited to speak to regents and expressed their concern about hate speech on campus.

“Something that was thoroughly discussed was an education program, educating students about the thin line between free speech and hate speech,” said Halle Wasserman, a sophomore at the U of M.

The JCRC issued a statement on Thursday saying it’s “frustrated” with U of M leadership’s lack of dialogue with Jewish student groups and urged Ettinger to use “his voice to condemn and confront campus antisemitism, within and outside the classroom.”

“The University’s capitulation sends a message that students who violate UofM policy, openly celebrate violence, and shut down campus are rewarded with time before the Regents and ‘regular meetings moving forward’ with the President’s office,” the organization wrote. “By contrast, students targeted by antisemitism are apparently supposed to suffer silently, while their University appeases those very same activists who demonize Jews and Israelis.”

The tents are gone for now, but at yet another rally Thursday evening, protesters say they’ll be keeping the U accountable.

“If the university somehow worms its way out of the agreement, we’re going to be right back with our tents. We’re going to escalate even further,” said Sasmit Rahmin, a former U of M student.

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The protest held at the U of M was one of multiple protests being held at universities across the country. At the University of California Los Angeles, hundreds of protesters defied orders to leave, with some forming human chains while police removed barricades and tore down an encampment at the school. More than 130 people were arrested at the school, according to officials with the California Highway Patrol.

Other protests were held at the University of Texas at Dallas, Yale, Portland State University in Oregon, Northwestern university in Chicago and Brown University in Rhode Island.

President Joe Biden sounded off on the protests late Thursday morning, saying “order must prevail” and rejecting calls from student protesters to change his approach to the war in Gaza.

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Last week, nine protesters were arrested at the U of M for trespassing after they put up tents and refused to take them down when asked by police.