University of Toronto encampment protesters reject school’s final request to disband

Anti-Israel protesters encamped at the University of Toronto have rejected the school’s final agreement offer.

The university’s president gave protesters until 4 p.m. Friday to accept a deal that would create committees to facilitate potential disclosures and divestments of their assets connected to Israel and begin dismantling the encampment.

The offer was conditional on protesters clearing and not resuming encampments on the university’s campuses. Participants were also told not to disrupt the upcoming convocation ceremonies for school graduates.

The university stated that if protesters did not accept the offer, it would take further action to remove the protesters.

At a Friday morning press conference, demonstrators said they viewed the university’s proposal as an opening to negotiations rather than a final offer.

They rejected the deadline and raised grievances about the time they had been given to agree to the demands.

The protesters indicated that they are still committed to their goals of having the school cut ties with academic institutions in Israel, and for the school to disclose and divest from all investments linked to the Jewish state.

“We are not interested in committees. We are interested in commitment,” one protest representative said. “This is the administration’s idea of a good faith negotiation. We have asked the administration for this document for several days.”

The university clarified that some of the protesters’ demands were entirely off the table.

“The university will not terminate any partnerships with Israeli universities or attempt to curtail scholars’ academic freedom in any way,” the statement said. “These actions would be at odds with our commitment to academic freedom, the unfettered global circulation of people and ideas.”

The press conference speaker, who did not provide her name, said protesters are counting on the school continuing negotiations rather than sending in police to clear the encampment.

Multiple reporters asked the protesters if they would refuse to leave after the deadline, but they refused to give a clear answer.

The offer, which could still be accepted before then, would allow protesters to attend the next Business Board of Governing Council meeting on June 19 to present their disclosure and divestment demands.

The university also promised to review the divestment request and expedite the process where possible. The school affirmed that this would be done in accordance with the school’s policy on social and political issues regarding divestment, which maintains the school “will not consider any proposals for restrictions on its investments that require the institution to take sides in matters that are properly the subject of ongoing academic inquiry and debate.”

The rules also state that the school will remain neutral when asked to take a position on a social or political issue that isn’t “directly pertinent to higher education and academic research.”

“The fundamental principle of inclusion – one that extends to physical spaces on our campuses – has been violated,” the university said in its deal announcement. “Discrimination and harassment have been experienced on campus by members of our community since the encampment began, with incidents being reported to Toronto Police Service in some cases, and the University addressing concerns directly with student organizers in others.”

Like a deal struck by Ontario Tech University in Oshawa, Ont., earlier this week, the school would establish an advisory committee to the president to review the divestment process and briefing that will facilitate any potential divestment from Israel.

The Executive Committee of the Governing Council would choose the students, staff, and faculty who would sit on the committee but the school would take recommendations from protesters.

The committee would issue its report and recommendations to the president of the school.

An “expert working group” would also be formed to consider disclosure and transparency of the school’s investments.

Student representatives at the encampment could also suggest qualified individuals for membership in the working group.

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