Breaking updates on the “People’s University” encampment on Welch Field

This is a breaking story. The Foghorn will provide updates regarding the encampment on this page. Check frequently to stay up to date. 

May 22:

@USFCAStudents4Palestine revealed that “at least 22” students are facing disciplinary charges, including interim suspension, due to their involvement with the encampment. The organization is utilizing Instagram to mobilize community members and supporters to call University administration on their behalf and demand that the chargers be dropped. 

“We will not be silenced!” the organization wrote in the caption of the same Instagram post. “We will return!” 

May 21: 

Provost Eileen Chia-Ching Fung, Vice President of Student Life Julie Orio and Assistant Vice President of Student Engagement Lester Deanes released a statement explaining the removal of the encampment. They stated that “some of our community members” would be facing Code of Conduct Violations for their participation in the encampment. 

Further, they reiterated the changes the University will be making following the People’s University and their demands. The following text is directly from that statement. 

Socially responsible investing

We are committed to establishing a new socially responsible advisory investment task force composed of a representative group of students, faculty, and staff. We understand the complex nature of this request and believe that our community understands that asset allocation is complicated. We look forward to working together with this new task force in balancing our fiduciary responsibilities, including preserving the existing endowment principal over time, generating positive investment returns, and minimizing risk, with ensuring our endowment is in alignment with the university’s mission and values as well as with principles of socially responsible investing.

We are committed to continuing a respectful dialogue, including holding educational sessions on the university’s investment policies and working through what was outlined in ASUSF’s resolution by fall 2024. We look forward to advancing the work of this campus group.

Defining and naming genocide

All members of USF’s community — faculty, librarians, staff, and students — are free to engage in advocacy and debate, taking whatever position they wish. However, as an institution, USF will not take an advocacy position. USF must be a place where all are free to express their individual views consistent with established community standards.  

USF is committed to fostering conversations among scholars, academic experts, and others regarding the definition of genocide and the nature of U.S. support of Israel’s military operation. It is the university’s role to create spaces for civil discourse and critical analyses in the spirit of academic freedom, respect for human dignity, and critical engagement with the most important questions of the day.

Academic programs

While USF does not have academic partnerships with Israeli institutions, we underscore our commitment to programs that open critical dialogue, share multiple perspectives, and seek mutual understanding. We will continue to respect and support the academic freedom of faculty who may choose to study Israel and partner with Israeli scholars and institutions.  

We are committed to consulting with academic units regarding strengthening the curriculum and the academic study of Palestine and Palestinians. This work has already begun. We will also work to provide opportunities for research focused on Palestine studies and support for Palestinian students.”

@USFCAStudents4Palestine still reiterates that “Fitz[gerald] refuses to give us any of our demands,” according to a May 22 Instagram post

May 20: 

By the morning of May 20, the majority of the tents at Welch Field had been abandoned and rope around the perimeter had been removed. USF staff removed what items were left behind, as protestors attempted to stop them. Video documentation of this can be seen on @USFCAStudents4Palestine’s May 22 Instagram post. The Foghorn received a tip stating the encampment would be cleared just hours before this incident. By the end of the day, the encampment had fully been removed. 

May 19: 

At 3 p.m. a People’s University graduation ceremony took place, honoring the graduating members of the encampment. 

Later that evening, approximately 20 protestors marched from the encampment on Welch Field up to the Rossi Wing of Lone Mountain. There they raised the Palestinian flag, established a couple tents, unveiled a large tarp sign reading “Let God’s People Go” and affixed pro-Palestinian signs upon the entryway. They left later that evening, and facilities removed all of the materials protestors left behind. 

May 16 – 18: 

The People’s University encampment engaged with, but did not fully disrupt commencement ceremonies. Students and other community members representing the People’s University held posters at some commencement ceremonies, waved Palestinian flags and refused to shake hands with President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J. 

The People’s University encampment created a photo booth at the perimeter of the encampment, sharing both pro-Palestenian sentiment and congratulations for the class of 2024. 

Additionally, students living in on-campus housing moved out of their dormitories during this time period, which caused the number of students at the encampment to dwindle.

May 14: 

At 3 p.m. numerous USF and San Francisco community members gathered for an “All out for USF People’s University Rally.” Neither University administration, Public Safety nor the San Francisco Police Department appeared at this rally. While the number of students staying overnight at the encampment dwindled, more USF alumni and other community members camped out overnight than in previous days. 

May 13:

At 8 a.m.,President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J. continued negotiations with representatives of the People’s University encampment. 

Later that day, he sent out an email to the USF community regarding a change in the administration’s stance on enforcing student conduct codes. Members of the encampment have until 3 p.m. on Tuesday May 14 to vacate the encampment without academic repercussions. If students stay past this time, “For those students who do not vacate the field by 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 14, there will be no amnesty and the code of conduct process for time, place, and manner violations will commence immediately. A reminder with more information will be sent Tuesday morning by the dean of students.” The email can be read here

However, Samson previously stated to the Foghorn that, “Simply being associated with the encampment itself is not necessarily cause for sanctions or penalties by the University.”

The Foghorn has received information that a rally is planned at the encampment at 3 p.m. on Tuesday May 14. 

May 8:

On May 8 at 5 p.m., President Paul Fitzgerald, S.J. visited the “People’s University” and spoke with organizers. This marked the first time Fitzgerald has stepped foot into the encampment and engaged with the participating students. Accompanying him were other members representing the USF administration, including Provost Eileen Chia-Ching Fung, Vice President of Student Life Julie Orio and Assistant Vice President of Student Engagement Lester Deanes. The administration representatives sat down with the negotiation team of the People’s University in the center of the encampment, with a group of more than 75 USF community members and students spectating. The negotiation team went through each of the encampment’s demands to which the administration responded with their thoughts and intentions to meet the demand or not. 

Fitzgerald and the administration representatives responded to the majority of the demands, mostly reiterating the same responses they gave to the Foghorn, as found in our May 9 reporting on the encampment. Before reaching the end of the list of demands, the conversation had to be paused due to one of the organizers passing out from heat exhaustion. 

After the organizer was attended to and relocated indoors of Kalmanovitz Hall, Fitzgerald sat back down and the conversation continued. Whereas the majority of the conversation was more neutral, in the last 10 minutes of the interaction the negotiation team became more accusatory of Fitzgerald, leading him to walk away from the conversation and leave the encampment. The Foghorn recorded this moment. 

Later the same day Fitzgerald sent out an email to the USF community responding to the demands. It can be read here.

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