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UC Berkeley Encampment is Packing Up for Merced. Here’s What Admin Agreed To

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The pro-Palestinian protest encampment on UC Berkeley's Sproul Plaza is dismantled on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, after an agreement between students and the university. (Matthew Green/KQED)

Pro-Palestinian activists at UC Berkeley ended their weekslong encampment on the campus’ central plaza following last week’s commencement ceremonies and a letter from the university detailing steps it had agreed to take based on protesters’ demands.

Ria Raniwala, the executive news editor of the Daily Californian, told KQED that as of Wednesday morning, all that remains on Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza is a large sign reading “Off to Merced,” where Berkeley activists are gathering with other UC campus coalitions to protest as the Board of Regents meets there this week.

University Chancellor Carol T. Christ said she was greatly relieved to “bring this protest to a peaceful end.” The camp was set up on April 22 to put pressure on the university to divest from companies with ties to Israel.

Christ agreed to take steps to review the campus’ investments and develop a transparent process for assessing whether any of its global exchange and internship programs are out of step with the UC’s Anti-Discrimination Policy, according to a letter Christ sent Tuesday to the Free Palestine Encampment detailing the agreement between the university and encampment representatives.

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Christ said in her letter that the campus is committed to ensuring investments are aligned with the UN Principles of Responsible Investments and will be “investigating the alignment of UC Berkeley’s investments with our institution’s core values,” including respect for equality, human rights, and abhorrence of war, although she noted that the University of California Office of the President has stated that “divestment from companies on the basis of whether or not they do business with or in Israel is not supported.” She also said that the decision to sell direct investments is decided by the UC regents, not the university chancellor.

“We realized a lot of the power lies with the regents. A lot of this … is not as local as UC Berkeley,” Yousuf, a student organizer who gave only his first name for fear of retaliation, told KQED. “These tents are going down, but, you know, people are going to be here — today, tomorrow, the next day after that, and next semester especially.”

As regents hold their bimonthly meetings at UC Merced — including committees related to investment and finance — activists are setting up a joint encampment on the campus, according to Raniwala.

“A lot of these tents have packed up and gone to Merced,” Raniwala told KQED. “The California regents have been meeting there yesterday, today and tomorrow to discuss investments, academic policy, and a lot of other things, and I guess the protests across UC campuses plan to congregate there.”

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Another of the UC Berkeley encampment’s demands was an academic boycott of Israel, which Christ said she did not support. However, the university agreed to review its global exchange and internship programs to ensure they are not violating the UC’s Anti-Discrimination Policy, Christ said in her letter, adding that any programs found in violation will be remedied or terminated.

Future programs will also be evaluated on a continuing basis, and the campus will develop a transparent process for reviewing complaints about academic programs by December. Christ said the UCB Divest Coalition and the Academic Senate Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Campus Climate will be invited to participate in the development of this process.

Christ also said she would make a public statement “by the end of the month sharing my personal support for government officials’ efforts to secure an immediate and permanent cease-fire. Such support for the plight of Palestinians, including protest, should not be conflated with hatred or antisemitism.”

While other universities have called in police or seen violence at similar protests, Berkeley’s camp has been largely peaceful.

The UC Office of the President, meanwhile, confirmed that the building in Oakland was damaged by vandalism on Saturday and was working with law enforcement to investigate. According to an anonymous post on Indybay.org, a Bay Area independent media collective, people acting “in solidarity with the Palestinian Resistance” said they smashed seven windows, used a fire extinguisher to spray red paint on the building and released hundreds of cockroaches inside.

Matthew Green of KQED News contributed to this report.

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