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An update on dialogue with the encampment

Dear U of T community,

Over the last four weeks, the University has met roughly twice a week and spent more than 20 hours with representatives of the encampment on the St. George campus, with the aim of achieving a resolution through dialogue. On May 28, we commenced a legal process to end the encampment. Since then, we have pursued these two avenues in parallel.

On Thursday, June 6, the University sent its latest proposal for a peaceful resolution to encampment representatives. It offers expedited processes for considering the protesters’ divestment and disclosure demands, following an approach that adheres to existing University policies. We have also confirmed that the University holds no direct investments in any companies, including any that produce armaments. We have steadfastly maintained that we will not boycott partnerships with other universities. We have also said, consistent with our policies, that we will review human rights issues which may be relevant to international partnerships.

The proposal we have made is commensurate with or more comprehensive than the agreements that have resolved encampments at peer institutions. Unfortunately, the encampment participants have rejected this proposal.

Throughout our dialogue, and in all our efforts to find common ground, we are guided by four principles. We remain firmly committed to these principles in seeking a resolution:

  • Neutrality on issues of scholarly debate, including the war between Israel and Hamas. The University’s role is not to choose sides, but to create the environment for the community to debate even the most difficult and pressing issues.
  • Adherence to U of T’s policies and procedures in all our activities, including the Policy on Social and Political Issues with Respect to University Divestment and the Procedures for the Human Rights Review of International Projects, Agreements and other International Activity. Encampment participants have sought pre-emptive assurances that their demands will be met outside of our policy framework. The University is not willing or able to set aside the policies and procedures that protect the rights of all community members to participate.
  • Inclusivity and democratic principles regarding the membership of University committees. Encampment participants have demanded guaranteed representation on the committees that would be created under the above policies.The University must appoint members of the community who have diverse viewpoints to its committees, working groups and other bodies to make important decisions in line with open, accessible, and democratic values, and to avoid conflicts of interest. 
  • Recognition of the fundamental right to protest. The University recognizes community members’ right to protest, assemble, and express themselves; an end to the encampment does not preclude or suspend those rights. As stated in my message on June 6, peaceful protest does not include erecting tents or structures or otherwise occupying a common space on our campus for more than a month and denying access to those with differing views. We need to see an end to the current unauthorized encampment, and a commitment to no future unauthorized encampments on any of our campuses or at other locations affiliated with U of T.  

The encampment participants have raised concerns that cannot be addressed without full consideration and consultation with our entire community. The University’s latest proposal provides a reasonable and timely pathway to achieve this, while staying true to the values, principles, and processes of the University.

We have given encampment participants every opportunity to resolve the situation voluntarily and we remain open to meeting with representatives of the encampment when there are productive reasons for doing so. In the meantime, the court process continues.

Finally, we are growing increasingly concerned about escalations in online rhetoric and imagery, vandalism, and other disruptive behaviour related to the encampment. We deplore this behaviour. Individual instances have been, and will continue to be, investigated and reported to the Toronto Police Service.

Members of the U of T community can find updated answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the encampment on UTogether. Thank you for your patience. I will continue to keep you updated.


Meric S. Gertler