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Wesleyan students, administration reach deal to end pro-Palestinian protest encampment

With over 300 students in attendance and 60 students who camped overnight, Wesleyan students have created an on campus encampment called the “Wesleyan Liberated Zone” in protest of the ongoing war between Israel and Palestine. Student organizers have created a list of demands asking the university to “divest any and all investments from companies and institutions that profit from Israeli colonization, occupation, and apartheid fueling the genocide of Palestinians,” and will not leave until the demands have been met.
Ayannah Brown
/
Connecticut Public
FILE: In late April, with over 300 students in attendance and 60 students who camped overnight, Wesleyan students created an on campus encampment called the “Wesleyan Liberated Zone” in protest of the ongoing war between Israel and Palestine

Students at Wesleyan University voluntarily took down their pro-Palestinian protest encampment Monday morning, as a result of negotiations between the demonstrators and school administrators.

Student organizers said they were glad they were able to reach an agreement with university officials without the need for police involvement in taking down the encampment, which first went up at the end of April.

“You know, we had been seeing police violence in reaction to student protestors” at other universities, said organizer Uday Narayanan, a Wesleyan senior. “That was something we were preparing for. So I think ultimately we are glad that we were able to come to an agreement.”

The encampment comes down less than a week before the university’s commencement, scheduled for Sunday. According to the university, as part of the agreement, student organizers have pledged not to disrupt commencement events.

Among other demands, the students wanted Wesleyan to share information about its investments, and sell off any investments in companies playing a role in the war in Gaza.

“We were able to get the university to say the word ‘divest’ and get them basically to agree to that process,” Narayanan said. “I think that’s going to kind of set the stage for what’s to come and to put this to a vote.”

As part of the agreement, the university disclosed it invests 1.7% of its endowment into aerospace and defense companies, but said none of those companies manufacture weapons. Wesleyan says all of its investments in Israel are in software companies, which account for .4% of the endowment.

In an open letter to the university community, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth said the agreement was the result of “meaningful engagement” between his administration and the students.

“I am hopeful that soon we can redirect our collective efforts to urging our lawmakers, both here in Connecticut and in Washington DC, to do everything in their power to create a resolution in Israel and Gaza that will result in the return of the hostages, an end to the fighting, and a commitment to a process that will recognize the rights of all parties,” Roth wrote.

Among the students’ demands met by the university were disciplinary immunity for participating in the encampment and a vow for the Wesleyan Board of Trustees to vote on an investment/divestment proposal in the fall.

“Yes, protests are demanding for all constituencies of a university,” Roth wrote. “At their best, they help turn our attention to issues that really matter.”

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.
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