Pro-Palestinian protesters reach agreement with Harvard University to end encampment

A group of pro-Palestinian protesters maintaining an encampment at Harvard University have reached an agreement with the university and will end their encampment, the group said in a news release Tuesday.

Harvard has agreed to hold reinstatement proceedings “for the over 20 students and student workers suspended by the University for their alleged participation in the encampment,” the group said.

For 60 students and student workers facing disciplinary procedures, the university has agreed to expedite their cases “in line with precedents of leniency for similar actions in the past,” according to Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine (HOOP), the organization behind the encampment.

The agreement – which the Harvard Jewish Alumni Alliance described as an example of “mis-governance” by the university – comes as college officials around the country have called in law enforcement to clear pro-Palestinian encampments and quell demonstrations in recent weeks.

Alan Garber, Harvard’s interim president, in a message to the university community, said he has asked schools to “promptly initiate applicable reinstatement proceedings for all individuals who have been placed on involuntary leaves of absence.” Garber did not say how many students were involved.

Garber also said he has asked the “disciplinary boards within each School to evaluate expeditiously, according to their existing practices and precedents, the cases of those who participated in the encampment.”

Garber “will ask the schools to adjudicate disciplinary matters promptly,” according to a university spokesperson, adding that he will also request that reinstatement requests be processed expeditiously.

Harvard University has 12 graduate and professional schools, the undergraduate Harvard College, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

HOOP said the university will meet with the protesters “to begin discussions on disclosure, divestment, and reinvestment.” Harvard will also engage in conversations about creating a “Center for Palestine Studies at Harvard,” the group said.

Garber said he will “facilitate a meeting with the chair of the Corporation Committee on Shareholder Responsibility and other University officials to address questions about the endowment.”

The Harvard Crimson reported May 6 that Garber has repeatedly stated that the endowment will not be used as a tool for political means. The university has also repeatedly stated its position resisting calls for divestment.

The university president and the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will also meet with students “to hear their perspectives on academic matters related to longstanding conflicts in the Middle East,” according to Garber’s message.

“I acknowledge the profound grief that many in our community feel over the tragic effects of the ongoing war,” Garber said. “There will continue to be deep disagreements and strongly felt emotions as we experience pain and distress over events in the wider world.”

The encampment at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus lasted 20 days, according to the group.

Harvard began placing students connected to the encampment on “involuntary” leaves of absence, the Harvard Crimson reported Friday, citing an Instagram post from HOOP.

The move came after protesters rejected an offer from Garber to avoid being placed on leave in exchange for taking down the encampment.

The Harvard Jewish Alumni Alliance, in a message to members, described the agreement as “gross mis-governance” that “undermines the stated mission” of the university. The group accused the interim president of “giving preferential treatment to students, faculty and staff whose conduct not only targeted Jews but also disrupted and imperiled the wider Harvard community.”

The alumni alliance urged members to withhold donations to Harvard, and join a campaign to “donate one dollar, and no more, to the University for the foreseeable future — not in anger, but in sadness and in hope.”

The Ivy League school has experienced a period of historic turmoil in recent months.

Claudine Gay, the first Black president in Harvard history, stepped down in January amid a firestorm of controversy over her academic writings and disastrous performance at a congressional hearing on antisemitism.

Harvard is the nation’s oldest university, with over 25,000 undergraduate students, according to the university. Harvard commencement events start May 21, according to the university.

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