Harvard protesters voluntarily withdraw after administration agrees to discuss endowment concerns

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Protesters against the war between Israel and Hamas were voluntarily taking down their tents in Harvard Yard on Tuesday after university officials agreed to discuss their questions about the endowment, bringing a peaceful end to the kinds of demonstrations that were broken up by police on other campuses.

The student protest group Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine said in a statement that the encampment “outlasted its utility with respect to our demands.” Meanwhile, Harvard University interim President Alan Garber agreed to pursue a meeting between protesters and university officials regarding the students’ questions.

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

The latest Israel-Hamas war began when Hamas and other militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking an additional 250 hostage. Palestinian militants still hold about 100 captives, and Israel’s military has killed more than 35,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants.

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

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

The protesters’ statement said the students will set an agenda including discussions on disclosure, divestment and reinvestment, and the creation of a Center for Palestine Studies. The students also said that Harvard has offered to retract the suspensions of more than 20 students and student workers and back down on disciplinary measures faced by 60 more.

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

Rotem Spiegler, 37, a Harvard alumnus who opposed the encampment, said she was glad to see it coming down Tuesday, but she thought the students were being rewarded in part for being disruptive.

“It just should have happened a while ago, and they should have suffered consequences to what they’ve been doing here violating everybody’s space and not respecting any of the university rules that were adjusted even while they were going,” she said.

In western New York, the University of Rochester cleared out an encampment there on Tuesday ahead of Friday’s commencement ceremony, university officials said.

Most protesters dispersed voluntarily, but two people who were not affiliated with the university were arrested for damaging a commencement tent, university spokesperson Sara Miller said.

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