MYNORTHWEST NEWS

Group agrees to disband UW encampment after reaching deal with administration

May 17, 2024, 3:14 PM | Updated: 4:38 pm

Photo: UW Seattle students set up an autonomous Liberated Zone for a "Free Palestine." It features ...

UW Seattle students set up an autonomous Liberated Zone for a "Free Palestine." It features a library, but no free speech rights. (Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

Protesters who had set up an encampment on the campus of the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle say they’re packing up and going home.

The United Front for Palestinian Liberation, leaders of the encampment known as the Popular University for Gaza liberated zone, announced Friday they have reached an agreement with the administration and will disband by 3 p.m. Monday. The encampment has been set up for weeks at the Liberal Arts Quadrangle, more commonly known as the Quad.

In a written statement obtained by The Daily, the university’s student-run media outlet, United Front leaders say the administration has agreed to concessions for the protesters.

In a separate piece, The Daily outlined five key points of the agreement from the United Front’s document.

Among them, the university will waive tuition for at least 20 displaced Palestinian students from Gaza. It also commits to fundraising to cover additional costs for these students.

Another one of the five points is that UW will “establish a faculty committee to recommend and solicit changes to study abroad programs, that exclude participation from students from specific countries or communities, including Palestinian or other Arab students,” The Daily reported.

The university also stated it will be “transparent about its investment holdings and fund managers.”

Protesters from the United Front have said they’re “not satisfied” with the concessions. However, they also stated this was the right time to disband the encampment.

The group’s press statement explained they “are under no illusions that this agreement is a win.”

“Many of our demands remain unfulfilled as the UW has shown clear reluctance to make even the smallest progress towards reducing our complicity in the ongoing genocide in Palestine,” the United Front statement reads.

More from Seattle: Pro-Israel march at UW comes face-to-face with liberated zone encampment

UW confirms agreement to end the encampment

UW President Anna Mari Cauce issued a statement through the UW Presidential Blog Friday confirming the administration and the people running the encampment came to an agreement on a resolution.

I shared how I and other University leaders continued to engage in dialogue to achieve a resolution that would result in the encampment’s voluntary departure in order to avoid the need for police interventions like those we have seen at other universities.

I’m writing to share that through serious and constructive conversations we have reached just such a resolution. It is consistent with our University’s values, shared governance, and state and federal law.”

Cauce’s statement also says that in addition to agreeing the encampment will disband by 3 p.m. Monday, a future encampment will not be re-established. In addition, the university will forgo referrals for citations or conduct violations for camping. However, Cauce stated, “any other violations of law and policy, such as for vandalism, harassment or discrimination, will continue to be investigated and acted on accordingly.”

The university president’s statement also links to a document that outlines what the administration plans to do going forward. The list includes what the United Front noted in its statement released, plus multiple other issue agreements. (A PDF of the document released as part of Cauce’s statement can be viewed here.)

Notably, the document Cauce links to says the university’s active task force on Islamophobia is “assessing the extent to which students, faculty, and staff are experiencing discrimination or harassment due to their identities, with an emphasis on those who identify as Palestinian, Muslim, Arab or of Middle Eastern/North African origin.”

Once that work is complete the university said it has “set aside funding to invest in educational strategies, including potential hires, to promote cultural competence at the university.”

KIRO Newsradio has reached out to the UW administration for a comment but has not yet heard back.

Agreement comes after group escalated its behavior with vandalism

UW faculty, staff and students arrived on campus in Seattle Wednesday morning and found just about every building surrounding the pro-Palestinian encampment covered with graffiti.

There’s no word on who was responsible for the graffiti. But Cauce said representatives from the encampment told administrators “the graffiti is an intentional escalation to compel the university to agree to their demands.”

Image: The University of Washington community arrived on campus in Seattle on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 and found many buildings surrounding the pro-Palestinian encampment covered with graffiti.

The University of Washington community arrived on campus in Seattle on Wednesday, May 15, 2024 and found many buildings surrounding the pro-Palestinian encampment covered with graffiti. (Photo: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio)

UW coverage from James Lynch: Buildings covered with pro-Palestinian graffiti

Cauce issued a lengthy statement through the UW Presidential Blog that day addressing multiple topics, including the graffiti seen on campus and the tent encampment.

“The university’s response to students’ calls for change will not be based on an encampment — there are many ways for voices to be heard that don’t require tents, violent rhetoric and vandalism,” Cauce said in the previous statement.

The university president also used the statement Wednesday to call on campers to dismantle the encampment and leave the Quad voluntarily.

Cauce concluded her statement Friday by noting she was happy to come to a resolution and she is eager to move on to the future.

“I’m pleased to reach this resolution so that our campus can begin to heal – including by coming together for Commencement next month – and so that once again all UW community members, regardless of religion, race or national origin, can live, learn and work without fear,” Cauce said.

Contributing: James Lynch, KIRO Newsradio

Steve Coogan is the lead editor of MyNorthwest. You can read more of his stories here. Follow Steve on X here and email him here.

Charlie Harger is the news director for MyNorthwest and KIRO Newsradio. Follow Charlie on X here and email him here.

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