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Harvard students end protest as university agrees to discuss Middle East conflict

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Protesters against the war between Israel and Hamas voluntarily dismantled their tents at Harvard Yard on Tuesday after university officials agreed to discuss their questions about staffing, bringing a peaceful end to the type of scattered protests . by police on other campuses.

The Harvard student protest group Out of Occupied Palestine said in a statement that the encampment “has outlived its usefulness in relation to our demands.” Meanwhile, Harvard University’s interim president, Alan Garber, agreed to continue a meeting between protesters and university officials regarding student issues.

Students on many college campuses set up similar encampments this spring, calling on their schools to cut ties with Israel and the businesses that support it.

The latest war between Israel and Hamas began when Hamas and other militants stormed into southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage. Palestinian militants still hold around 100 prisoners and the Israeli army has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Harvard said its president and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Hopi Hoekstra, would meet with the protesters to discuss the Middle East conflict.

Protesters said they reached an agreement to meet with university officials, including the Harvard Management Company, which oversees the world’s largest university endowment, valued at about $50 billion.

The protesters’ statement said the students will set an agenda that includes discussions on disclosure, divestment and reinvestment, as well as the creation of a Center for Palestine Studies. The students also said Harvard offered to rescind the suspensions of more than 20 students and student workers and waive disciplinary action against 60 others.

“Since its inception three weeks ago, the camp has both broadened and deepened Palestine solidarity organizing on campus,” said a spokesperson for the protesters. “It moved the needle on disclosure and divestment at Harvard.”

Rotem Spiegler, a Harvard alumna, said she was happy to see the protest dismantled, but thinks it is inappropriate to partially reward students for their disruptive behavior.

“This should have happened some time ago and they should have suffered the consequences for what they did here, violating everyone’s space and not respecting any of the university rules that have been adjusted even while they were leaving,” Spiegler said.

Professors who supported the protest at Harvard Yard said the students had taken “an important step toward divestment from Israel and the liberation of Palestine.”

“We honor the courage of our students, who took risks to amplify the global call for Palestinian liberation that world leaders have attempted to suppress,” Harvard Justice for Palestine faculty and staff said in a statement. communicated.

Chloé Gambol, a student at Harvard University, said the biggest achievement of the protest was shining a spotlight on the situation in Gaza.

“The purpose of a protest is to attract attention, to create a sensation and to take a stand and, I think, I have achieved that without a doubt based on what we see in all the news. A lot of people are talking about it,” she said.

But Howard Smith, a senior researcher at Harvard, said he was glad to see the encampment disappear.

“I think the students were very misguided and fundamentally historically incorrect and morally out of line,” he said. “But I’m glad the situation at Harvard isn’t as crazy as other places.”

Protesters also voluntarily took down their tents Monday evening at Williams College in Massachusetts after its board of trustees agreed to meet later this month. Williams President Maud Mandel said dialogue is the solution.

“In a year where personal, political and moral commitments are tested, I have seen the diverse members of our community – including people in the encampment and those who question or challenge it oppose – trying to engage with each other across differences, looking for ways to exchange views without trading insults,” Mandel said in a statement.

In Western New York, the University of Rochester also emptied a camp Tuesday ahead of Friday’s commencement ceremony. Most protesters dispersed voluntarily, but two people unaffiliated with the university were arrested for damaging a graduation tent, university spokeswoman Sara Miller said.


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