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Encampment Protesters Set Monday Deadline for Harvard to Begin Negotiations

Pro-Palestine protesters set up an encampment in Harvard Yard. Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine gave the University a Monday deadline to begin negotiations on their demands.
Pro-Palestine protesters set up an encampment in Harvard Yard. Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine gave the University a Monday deadline to begin negotiations on their demands. By Julian J. Giordano
By Michelle N. Amponsah, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine — the pro-Palestine student group staging an encampment in Harvard Yard — gave the University a Monday deadline to begin negotiations for their demands that Harvard disclose and divest from investments and companies in Israel and the West Bank.

HOOP wrote in a Friday press release that the University has until May 6 at 5 p.m. to commence negotiations with the group. The release also stated that the University has failed to meet with students and “engage in good-faith negotiation.”

The group did not specify what would happen if the University did not begin negotiations by the deadline. Harvard administrators have repeatedly opposed a policy of boycotting Israeli institutions.

“Harvard has sought to deal with mass mobilization — part of a growing national and international movement for Palestinian liberation — by systematically repressing and punishing protestors and ignoring their demands,” a HOOP representative said in the release.

“Instead of listening to its community of students and educators, it has cravenly submitted to pressure from donors, extremist politicians, and right-wing agitators. In so doing, it has proven itself, yet again, to be beholden to a small, powerful, and loud set of outside voices,” the representative said.

A University spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Though some universities called in police to break up encampments on their campuses, including at Columbia University, Yale University, and Emerson College, other administrations — at Brown University, Northwestern University, and Johns Hopkins University — have negotiated agreements with protesters in exchange for the encampments being voluntarily dismantled.

At Brown, the university’s corporation agreed to hold a vote on divestment from companies affiliated with Israel, while Northwestern leadership said they would reconvene an advisory committee on the university’s investments. The Northwestern agreement, however, drew backlash, as some Jewish organizations accused Northwestern President Michael H. Schill of caving to the protesters’ demands and called for his resignation.

The negative reaction at Northwestern suggests that engaging in negotiations could be politically risky for interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76, who has largely succeeded at keeping Harvard out of national headlines despite the ongoing encampment.

The HOOP press release also states that the encampment, which has occupied the center of Harvard Yard for more than a week and grown to more than 50 tents, has expanded to both sides of University Hall — which holds the offices of many top Harvard administrators, including College Dean Rakesh Khurana.

The encampment’s expansion to the Tercentenary Theatre on the other side of University Hall raises the possibility that protesters could remain in the Yard past the end of finals period — which ends May 11 — in an attempt to disrupt the University’s May 23 Commencement ceremonies.

It is unclear when the encampment will end, but some organizers chanted “no divestment, no Commencement,” at a pro-Palestine rally on Wednesday.

The release criticized Harvard’s disciplinary crackdown against students in the encampment, which they said threatens the students’ “wellbeing, immigration status, and academic standing.”

More than 30 undergraduate students were called to appear before the Harvard College Administrative Board — the administrative body responsible for the enforcement and application of Harvard College policies — on Monday.

Harvard administrators visited the encampment almost daily to conduct Harvard University ID checks of protesters in the encampment. Administrators, including Khurana and Dean of Students Thomas Dunne, also spoke with organizers in the encampment multiple times.

Harvard history professor Walter Johnson, a former faculty adviser to the Palestine Solidarity Committee, wrote that it is of “the utmost importance” that the University immediately begin negotiations with students in the encampment in an emailed statement to The Crimson on Wednesday.

“I think that the administration is mistaken if it believes that the sprinklers in the Yard and ad board sanctions are a sufficient response to the students’ demands,” Johnson wrote. “The students are raising important issues that demand a full hearing and consequential response from the university, and I don’t see them choosing to just pack up and leave without that happening.”

—Staff writer Joyce E. Kim contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Michelle N. Amponsah can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mnamponsah.

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