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Update on the tent encampment in the Quad

This message was sent to all students, staff, faculty and academic personnel at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza — especially the extraordinary loss of lives and widespread starvation of civilians, including children — is heartbreaking. We join the calls by national and international leaders for a ceasefire that will include an end to military operations, the release of the hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, and a surge of humanitarian aid for Palestinians and all people in Gaza — with the goal of achieving a lasting peace.

As you may be aware, groups of student and non-student protestors set up an unauthorized tent encampment in the Quad on our Seattle campus more than two weeks ago. The encampment involves a small fraction of our 50,000 students and of our 700-acre campus. The space initially did not substantially disrupt the learning, activities and operations of our University. Some of our largest events, including a night market, Engineering Discovery Days and a Meany performance for elementary and high school students from across the city and state, were joyously celebrated on campus. Nonetheless, some of the rhetoric and language used in chants and signs within the Quad and at protests, while protected speech, was and is vile and antisemitic.


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I strongly support the right of protected free expression and understand that protest by its very nature is structured to be uncomfortable and bring attention to a cause. Institutions of higher education have been at the center of important social and political movements through the course of history. I also know that this issue is deeply personal to many in our community and, in many cases, is not only a matter of political perspective but of their core identity.

Consistent with our long-standing commitment to dialogue with students during protest actions, we believe that engaging in dialogue is the most productive path to a resolution that can see the encampment voluntarily depart. Indeed, even before the encampment started, we were meeting with a cross section of students who are deeply moved by the humanitarian crisis.

University leaders, including myself, have held multiple, ongoing discussions with representatives of the encampment to find common ground with the expectation that the encampment peacefully and voluntarily disband. We have been consistently clear we will not engage in an academic boycott of Israel or “cut all ties” with Boeing. Both run counter to academic freedom, a core value of the academy. We’ve made clear there is an established Board of Regents process for endowment divestment decisions. We had them meet with a member of the University of Washington Investment Management Company (UWINCO), and we let them know that we have no direct investments in Boeing or weapons manufacturers. We’ve also heard their concerns about support for Palestinian and other Muslim and Middle Eastern students, and offered tangible actions to improve our campus culture and deepen our commitment to their education.

We have engaged sincerely and openly. The representatives of the encampment have presented a series of changing and escalating demands, including most recently demanding the creation of a new department that would have an “anti-Zionist” litmus test for faculty hiring; granting a student group oversight of awarding new, religion-based University scholarships; and a blanket amnesty for all violations of the law and student code, including not solely camping, among other demands. Many of these demands, especially the most recent, are contrary to academic freedom and/or to state or federal law.

This morning our campus community arrived to their classrooms and work spaces to see offensive graffiti across multiple buildings all over campus, some quite clearly both antisemitic and violent, creating an unwelcome and fearful environment for many students, faculty and staff, especially those who are Jewish. Much to my dismay, given the relatively cordial tone of many of our discussions, the representatives also said the new graffiti is an intentional escalation to compel the University to agree to their demands.

While I strongly support free speech and peaceful protest, I also strongly support the rights of all our community members to live, learn and work without fear. I want to thank our Office of Campus Community Safety, UW Facilities and state and local partners for supporting our community despite challenging circumstances, including two very tense counter-protests. But every day the encampment remains, safety concerns escalate for our UW community and for the people in the encampment itself. We again call on members to dismantle the encampment voluntarily for everyone’s safety, end the vandalism to our campus and continue constructive engagement with us on the issues of concern.

I have been a member of this community for nearly forty years. This is my home and my extended family. I have always led through engagement. The situation now is untenable. I’ll reiterate: The University’s response to students’ calls for change will not be based on an encampment — there are many ways for voices to be heard that don’t require tents, violent rhetoric and vandalism. Change will be through constructive engagement on issues that are important and meaningful to our students and broader campus community.


Ana Mari Cauce
Professor of Psychology