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UW leaders reach agreements with students to end pro-Palestinian encampments • Wisconsin Examiner

Pro-Palestinian student encampment protests have ended at UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison after student protesters and university administrators reached separate agreements at the two institutions.

Protesters set their encampments on April 29, joining a wave of campus protests across the country against Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza, which has killed over 34,000 Palestinians. Protesters urged their schools to cut financial and social ties with Israel. UW students launched their protests despite warnings that the encampments violated a state law that bans camping on university grounds. 

Students at UW-Madison removed their encampment on Friday after a deal was announced, while UW-Milwaukee students agreed to begin the removal process on Sunday and finish by Tuesday. As a part of their agreements, protesters received concessions from the universities, including commitments that the schools would work to facilitate conversations with the Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association (WFAA) and the UWM Foundation. Protest organizers have said that the agreements are just the beginning of work towards divestment.

UW-Milwaukee agreement includes call for ceasefire 

UWM Popular University for Palestine Coalition said in a statement it had obtained “all possible benefits from our encampment,” but this doesn’t mean they have “ended our struggle.” The coalition called on community members and allies to help with ongoing efforts to negotiate with the UWM administration and the UWM Foundation. 

“For the benefit of the people of Gaza and Palestine, we strongly believe in the need to divest from the Israeli regime, and we believe that many of our efforts will be directed at the UWM Foundation. We will not stop applying pressure and we refuse to back down until we are granted complete disclosure and divestment,” the coalition of student groups said. 

As a part of the agreement, UW-Milwaukee officially called for a ceasefire in Gaza, acknowledging in its statement that more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 80,000 more have been injured in the war on Gaza. The university also acknowledged that the war has been called a “plausible genocide” by a United Nations (UN) expert and the International Criminal Court. 

In its statement, UW-Milwaukee also condemned Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, 2023, in which 1,200 people were killed and 240 were taken hostage, and called for the release of the remaining Israeli and international hostages held by Hamas and the release of Palestinian men, women and children held as hostages in military detention in Israel in the agreement. The university also denounced ‘scholasticide’ — or the systematic destruction of education — in Gaza. 

“Innocent civilians, especially children, must not be the targets of war,” UWM said. “We condemn all violence and call for it to end.” 

As a part of the agreement, UWM Foundation leadership has also agreed to meet with four students representing the UWM Popular University for Palestine Coalition to discuss their concerns and requests. UWM administrators will help facilitate the meeting to ensure that students will be given the opportunity to express their requests for disclosure and divestment. 

Student protesters said that they “recognize that divestment is not an overnight process” but expect to come out of the first meeting with a timeline for disclosure. 

The university acknowledged that it is prohibited by law from cutting ties with private companies and organizations that do business in Israel under a state law that was adopted under former Gov. Scott Walker. However, it said that it supports protesters making their concerns known to state lawmakers. 

Students said that they are “focused on exploring all avenues of legislative and judicial pressure or litigation to change this law and revisit this issue.” State Rep. Ryan Clancy (D-Milwaukee) said in a statement commending the agreement that his office is willing to work with students to draft legislation that allows divestment. 

UW-Milwaukee also agreed to review its study abroad policies and programs to ensure compliance with discriminatory conduct policy.

At the urging of UWM Chancellor Mark Mone, the Water Council, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit, has ended its relationships with Mekorot and Israel Innovation Authority, two Israeli-government-owned water companies that have been accused by international aid organizations of cutting off access to drinking water for thousands of Palestinians in Gaza.

Unlike the UW-Madison protest where police forcibly removed the encampment and arrested protesters on the third day of the protest, the encampment at UW-Milwaukee is ending without any police interference. 

Mone said in a message to UW-Milwaukee students, faculty and staff that he recognized many had criticized UW-Milwaukee for “not forcing the removal of the camp earlier,” and said the most common question asked was when police would be sent in to force the removal of the encampment. 

“Our consistent answer: UWM leadership prioritized the safety of everyone involved, which meant seeking resolution through dialogue with our students,” Mone said. 

UWM agreed to forgo citations or conduct violations for students who participated in the demonstrations as long as the encampment is removed by Tuesday and students agree not to disrupt upcoming commencement events. 

UW-Madison agreement announced Friday

The agreement at UW-Milwaukee came just days after the encampment at UW-Madison was ended by student protesters following an agreement with their university administration. 

Student protesters agreed to remove the encampment, to not disrupt commencement over the weekend (a handful of students quietly protested by turning their backs on Chancellor Jennifer Mnookin, but there was no audible disruption) and to follow university policies in the future. 

“We remain committed to the cause of Palestinian liberation, and we hold firm that the strongest way to fight for Palestine as members of the broader UW-Madison community is to end our university’s complicity in the ongoing genocide through divestment,” UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine said in a statement. “This agreement does not achieve that. However, this agreement does achieve material gains for Palestinians both in Palestine and on this campus, which should not be discounted.” 

Under the agreement, UW-Madison administrators said they would facilitate a student meeting with Wisconsin Foundation and Alumni Association and the Universities of Wisconsin by July 1. 

The university also said it will work to support scholars and students affected by war, violence, occupation and displacement, including in Gaza and Ukraine. Those efforts will include inviting at least one scholar from a Palestinian university for each of the next three academic years, adding a staff member who will focus on supporting students affected by war, violence and displacement and conducting a review of opportunities available at the university to engage with places and people affected by war, violence and displacement. 

The administration also committed to requesting that the UW-Madison Police Department use its discretion in its review of cases related to law enforcement efforts to remove the encampment on May 1.

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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2024%2F05%2F13%2Fuw-leaders-reach-agreements-with-students-to-end-pro-palestinan-encampments%2F by Baylor Spears

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