U of T submits offer to camp organizers, plans to take ‘additional action’ if deal not reached

Sonja Puzic, The Canadian Press

Published on Thursday, May 23, 2024 4:42 pmEDT

Last updated Thursday, May 23, 2024 6:54 pmEDT

The University of Toronto, where students set up a pro-Palestinian camp weeks ago, has given protesters 24 hours to consider their offer to end the demonstration.

The offer includes forming a working group to consider options for disclosure of the school’s investments, but the university says it will not end any partnerships with Israeli universities as protesters have demanded.

University President Meric Gertler said Thursday that an invasion notice will be issued if an agreement is not reached with camp organizers.

The camp set up on the downtown Toronto campus on May 2 to call on the university to cut ties with Israel over the ongoing war in Gaza.

The protesters had joined students from other universities in Canada and the United States in calling on their schools to reveal their ties to the Israeli government, divest from Israeli companies, and end their associations with Israeli academic institutions that operated under parameters to which they they were opposed.

U of T camp organizers said they will address the offer at a news conference on Friday, while expressing frustration with how negotiations with the university have unfolded.

Gertler said at a hastily called news conference that the offer, which also includes students having the opportunity to present their demands about divestment, is conditional on the camp being cleared and no university campuses being reopened.

When asked if the university is willing to call police to clear the encampment, Gertler said “they’re not eliminating any options.”

He said at least half a dozen incidents of “hate speech and acts” on campus have been reported to police since the camp began and that the U of T community’s patience is wearing thin.

“Many members of our community are increasingly distressed by the presence of the camp,” Gertler said. “They feel unsafe, they have reported feelings and experiences of discrimination and harassment.”

After Gertler’s news conference, some protesters gathered outside the camp perimeter, chanting “We will not rest until U of T divests itself of its investments” and other slogans.

Mohammad Yassin, a fourth-year economics and statistics student, said protesters came to the negotiating table in good faith, but the university “consistently abused our trust.”

He said students are upset because the university’s offer came “under threat of an invasion notice,” which he said sets the stage for a “violent cleanup” of the camp.

Yassin also said that allegations of hate incidents related to the camp are “lies.”

“This is a farce,” he said, adding that protesters are committed to a peaceful resolution. As a Palestinian student with family members murdered in Gaza, he said the protest has been very personal for him.

Gertler said the university is hopeful that people inside the camp “will comply with the law” and said the school will proceed with planned convocation ceremonies in early June “no matter what.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2024.

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