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University of Toronto says students have 24 hours to consider latest offer to end encampment

The University of Toronto says students involved in a pro-Palestinian encampment have 24 hours to consider its latest offer that it made public on Thursday in a bid to bring an end to the demonstration.

School says it won't cut ties with Israeli universities but will explore disclosure of investments

A pro-Palestinian encampment is pictured here in King's College Circle on the main campus of the University of Toronto on May 23, 2024.

The University of Toronto says students involved in a pro-Palestinian encampment have 24 hours to consider its latest offer that it made public on Thursday in a bid to bring an end to the demonstration.

In a news conference on Thursday afternoon, U of T President Meric Gertler said the university will issue a trespass notice if the students do not accept the offer within the time provided, adding he hopes they will obey the law.

"The encampment must end," Gertler said in a statement posted on the school's website.

"Should an agreement not be reached, we will issue a notice of trespass and pursue any subsequent legal steps," he added. "We have made it very clear that they have 24 hours to consider our offer but we are happy to continue talking."

Gertler said in the statement that the university will not end partnerships with Israeli universities — one of three demands made by demonstrators — because it is committed to academic freedom.

"Our approach remains guided by our effort to balance our shared values, people's foundational rights and freedoms, and a desire for a peaceful resolution. We hope that the representatives will accept our offer."

WATCH | U of T president explains terms of latest offer:

U of T president gives encampment 24 hours to consider latest offer

10 hours ago

Duration 1:15

University of Toronto President Meric Gertler said Thursday students involved in a pro-Palestinian encampment have 24 hours to consider the school's latest offer. If the group does not accept that offer, the university will issue a trespass notice.

Offer includes working group on disclosure

The offer includes an invitation to the students to attend the university's business board of governing council's meeting on June 19 to present their demands, as well as a working group to consider options for disclosure and increased transparency of investments. Gertler said the working group will have the power to make recommendations.

Once the students present their demands to the university's business board of governing council, the university "will engage in — and expedite, where possible — a review of the divestment request under the terms and process of the university's policy on social and political issues with respect to university divestment," he added.

The president said the university will establish an advisory committee on divestment with the goal of issuing a report and recommendations no later than October this year.

As part of the offer, students have been told they can recommend people they feel are qualified to sit on the advisory committee and disclosure working group, but the ultimate decision would be the president's.

Gertler said the offer is conditional on the encampment clearing and not resuming at any campus of the university. The students must also refrain from disrupting convocation, he added.

Demonstrators stage a protest at a pro-Palestinian encampment, set up at the University of Toronto, in Toronto, on Thursday, May 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Dozens of students, staff and faculty have been occupying a green space at King's College Circle on the university's St. George Campus in downtown Toronto around the clock since May 2. They've set up tents and canopies in solidarity with other encampments at universities throughout North America, calling for an end to Israel's war in Gaza.

The demonstrators have said they want the university to disclose its financial investments, divest from companies that "sustain Israeli apartheid, occupation and illegal settlement of Palestine" and cut ties with Israeli academic institutions that operate in the occupied territories or support Israel's military efforts.

The president said he has been patient with the encampment but that patience is "wearing thin." He also said at least half a dozen reports of hateful speech and acts have been reported to the police that occurred at the encampment entrance or on its perimeter.

University of Toronto President Meric Gertler speaks to media during an announcement at UofT in Toronto, on Thursday, May 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

School determined to proceed with convocation

Gertler said convocation, which is a formal celebration of graduation, begins on June 3 and the university is determined for the ceremonies to proceed as planned.

"We will proceed with convocation no matter what," he said.

When asked if the university is considering calling the police to clear the encampment, Gertler said the school has not ruled out any options.

"We are pursuing all legal options available to us," he said. "We are hopeful that the people inside the encampment will abide by the law, including our trespass order."

A pro-Palestinian encampment set up at the University of Toronto is photographed in Toronto, on Thursday, May 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Student leaders expected to respond Friday

A crowd gathered outside the president's office during his news conference but there has been no official response from student representatives of the encampment yet.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the UofT Occupy for Palestine, organizers of the encampment, said Thursday marks the start of the fourth week of the "People's Circle for Palestine."

"There is nothing peaceful or sustainable about investing in genocide," the group said in the post.

Mohammad Yassin, a demonstrator, told reporters that encampment leaders are preparing a response. He said the issue is personal to him because he has family in Gaza.

The administration's threat of a trespass notice, in addition to claims of hate speech, lays the "groundwork for a violent clearing" of the encampment, he said.

"Unlike the administration, we are committed to a peaceful resolution," Yassin said.

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