University of Toronto gives pro-Palestinian protesters 24 hours to consider new conditional deal

University of Toronto gives pro-Palestinian protesters 24 hours to consider new conditional deal

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Protesters have called on the University of Toronto to disclose its investments and divest from companies linked to the Israeli military, and for the university to sever ties with Israeli academic institutions operating in the occupied territories.Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press

University of Toronto President Meric Gertler has given student protesters 24 hours to consider a proposal to end their pro-Palestinian encampment, which has been in place since May 2.

Protesters have called on the university to disclose its investments and divest from companies linked to the Israeli military. They have also demanded that the university cut its ties with Israeli academic institutions operating in the occupied territories.

The university’s offer would allow student representatives to present their divestment demand to the business board of the university’s governing council on June 19. The university said it would expedite a review of the divestment request, which would still have to overcome several hurdles in the university’s management. structure.

The university has also offered to create a working group of experts that would consider options for greater transparency in university investments. He rejected the students’ demand to cut ties with Israeli universities, saying it would be at odds with his commitment to academic freedom and promoting understanding through dialogue. He offered to expand opportunities for Palestinian academics.

In exchange for those concessions, students would have to agree to end the camp immediately, not resume it on any U of T campus and agree not to disrupt convocation ceremonies.

The university’s offer was presented at a meeting with student protest leaders Thursday afternoon.

The U of T protest camp is one of several on Canadian campuses, part of a broader movement that has spread across the continent, sparking debates about freedom of speech and assembly and how universities should respond.

“It’s time to end this camp,” Dr. Gertler said. “Students have been given 24 hours to consider this offer.”

The university said if the settlement is rejected, it will issue an encroachment notice and pursue its legal options. When asked if that included calling the police, Dr. Gertler said he was not ruling out any options.

“We are hopeful that the people inside the camp will respect the law, including our invasion order,” he said.

Dr. Gertler said the administration took a patient approach and sought a negotiated solution. But protesters have taken over part of the campus for their exclusive use, and some community members are distressed by the encampment and feel unsafe, Dr. Gertler said. He said approximately six incidents had been reported to Toronto police since the camp began.

“After hearing these complaints from our community, after recognizing how long other members of our community have been denied the use of this space, we feel now is the time to act,” he said.

Protesters have previously said they will not leave until their demands are fully met.

Speaking on behalf of the camp, Mohammad Yassin, a fourth-year student, said the administration had taken the students by surprise with its deadline and was laying the groundwork to violently clear the camp.

“Despite our willingness to negotiate, the U of T administration has consistently abused our trust,” Yassin said. “Unlike the administration, we are committed to a peaceful resolution.”

According to organizers, between 120 and 150 people will spend the night at the camp.

Elsewhere, police forcibly removed protesters at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary earlier this month. McGill University administrators have asked for police assistance to set up an encampment on their campus, but it remains in place. McGill was in Quebec Superior Court earlier this month defending an injunction that would require police to remove protesters, but the request was rejected.

Student protesters said U of T administrators told them at a May 12 meeting that they did not want police to clear the camp.

Tensions related to the war in Gaza continue to impact universities across the country.

Last week at the University of Manitoba, a speech by the medical school’s valedictorian sparked condemnation from a donor whose last name is linked to the medical school.

Ernest Rady said in a letter to the university administration that he was hurt by comments made by valedictorian Gem Newman. In his speech, Dr. Newman described Israel as a country that is waging a genocidal war and attacking hospitals in Gaza. He called for an immediate ceasefire.

Dr. Peter Nickerson, dean of the Rady School of Medicine, said the comments were “divisive and inflammatory” and contrary to the purpose of a valedictory address. In a statement posted on social media, Dr. Newman defended his comments.

The University of Toronto has sought to divest in the past after student protests over fossil fuels and apartheid in South Africa. Dr. Gertler said Thursday that considering divestment would take time, requiring analysis and consultation within the university community.

The students’ divestment demands have primarily focused on weapons manufacturers that do business with the Israeli military or financial institutions that invest in those weapons manufacturers, as well as companies related to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Dr. Gertler said the university fund has no direct investments in any company.