U of T students occupy president's office for Palestine

Apr 3, 2024

U of T students occupy president's office for Palestine

Student-organizers secure meeting with school president to discuss divestment from Israel's military

A two-day occupation at the University of Toronto (U of T) ended late on Apr. 2 after the students secured a meeting with University President Meric Gertler on Wednesday, Apr. 3. Students have been pushing for the university to divest from companies supporting Israel’s military and to cut ties with Israeli universities complicit in its apartheid. 

“Our action was the first multi-day occupation of the Office of the President since 1972, and we don’t plan to stop anytime soon,” the group @occupyuoft tweeted late Tuesday evening. “This is only the first step of many to end UofT’s complicity in the occupation of Palestine. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

According to the group, all students have safely exited with no academic or legal repercussions so far.

A group of more than 20 students had occupied Simcoe Hall, just outside the president’s office, since Monday, Apr. 1, at noon. About 17 of them slept in tents and makeshift beds overnight. 

The group, identified in a piece by The Varsity as  UofT Occupy for Palestine (O4P), had three demands outlined in an online petition

  1. Divest the university’s endowment, pension fund, and other financial holdings from all companies that provide Israel with military goods or services
  2. Terminate all partnerships with Israeli academic institutions that operate in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, or sustain the apartheid policies, occupation and illegal settlement of these territories; 
  3. Publicly disclose all investments (including names of holdings and portfolio shares) from endowments, the pension fund, short-term working capital assets, and other financial holdings of the university.

There have been many efforts across the country to call attention to Canada’s role in making, exporting and investing in Israeli weapons. The government of Canada has been pressured to limit but not completely cut off its arms trade with Israel.

On Monday afternoon, three administrators met with some of the student-organizers to hear their demands and agreed to acknowledge it in writing later. Gertler, who wasn’t at that first meeting, would later issue a letter to the group officially acknowledging their demands, giving them a one-week timeline to meet with them, and asking them to leave Simcoe Hall.

But just before 9 p.m. Tuesday, the group tweeted that they had succeeded in pressuring Gertler to meet with them the following day.

“Bc of continued student pressure & restless organizing from those involved in @occupyuoft & the broader Palestinian liberation movement at @UofT, we have secured a meeting tomorrow at 3PM w/ @UofT Pres Gertler to begin addressing our demands. As such, we are ending our occupaiton [sic],” they wrote on social media platforms. 

“We will be setting the agenda & working tirelessly to ensure that our demands are not only discussed but substantively addressed.”

The University did not address specific questions as to whether students would face any repercussions, whether the school publicly defended any of their continued investments with companies supporting Israel’s military, or why campus security had not allowed food or supplies to be delivered to the protesting students. 

In an email statement, a university spokesperson acknowledged that Gertler and the vice-provost of students “are scheduled to meet with protest representatives on Wednesday to continue their dialogue.”

This is a developing story.

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