Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 23, 2024

Palestine Solidarity Encampment at Hopkins Part 3 — live updates

By The News-Letter | May 5, 2024

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THE NEWS-LETTER

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. 

The News-Letter has been providing live coverage of the Palestine Solidarity Encampment. This is a continued live update thread beginning on May 5, 2024. For the previous thread of live updates from May 1-May 3, click here. For the thread of live updates from April 29-30, click here

May 12, 2024

11:00 a.m. HJC announces end to the Palestine Solidarity Encampment

On the morning of Sunday, May 12, HJC issued a press release notifying the Hopkins community of their decision to disband the Palestine Solidarity Encampment. This decision was reached after extensive negotiations with the Hopkins administration.

“While this agreement is in no way a total victory, it represents a step towards Johns Hopkins' commitment to divest from the settler colonial state of Israel,” HJC wrote. “Similar agreements that concluded other encampments, such as those at Brown and Northwestern University, achieved shifts in the divestment movement, but failed to reach total divestment or demilitarization.”

The University also announced an end to the encampment on Sunday morning in an article on The HUB

“Since the protest began April 29, the university has sought a peaceful resolution to the presence of the encampment, which violates university policies designed to protect freedom of expression and ensure campus safety,” the article wrote. 

The HJC statement drew attention to the current actions of the Israeli military forces in Gaza and the University’s role in the war.

“The only true victory is the liberation of Palestine and the end to settler colonialism everywhere,” HJC wrote. “Hopkins, with its war profiteering investments and its unique position in the development of weapons systems through the Applied Physics Lab, must remain a target of pressure in the pro-Palestine, anti-war, student movement.”

HJC then detailed the terms of the agreement. The University agreed to accelerate its Public Interest Investment Advisory Committee (PIIAC) process for divestment by five months — the Hopkins Board of Trustees will now consider the proposal in March or June 2025. 

HJC condemned this in its statement.

“Waiting nearly a year to consider divestment from an ongoing genocide is morally outrageous,” they wrote. “In this window of time, we will not be complacent. We will continue to pressure the University and further develop our base of support within the student body, faculty, and the greater Baltimore community.”

The administration also agreed to end student conduct proceedings for encampment members, excluding allegations involving violence, assault, property damage, discrimination, harassment, intimidation or threats. According to The Hub, this agreement is contingent on the protesters agreeing not to engage in further disruptions of university activities, including Commencement. 

However, according to HJC, for those protesters who were identified, their participation in the Palestine Solidarity Encampment may be brought up in cases of future violations of the student code of conduct. 

While HJC accepted these terms, they expressed dissatisfaction with the end of the encampment.

“In no way are we satisfied with this end to our demonstration,” they wrote. “This agreement is only a first step toward our demands in the longer struggle for decolonization. Palestinian liberation remains in our sights.”

The HUB article concluded with a statement by President Ronald J. Daniels.

“Hopkins is deeply committed to free expression, but it has to be done safely and in a manner that respects university rules and norms. We are grateful to the many members of our community—faculty, staff, and students—who helped us navigate this moment,” he said. “It is my fervent hope that at Hopkins, we can together continue our focus on the important work of a university—to engage in dialogue and learning with one another regarding challenging and complex issues such as these.”

HJC ended the press release by thanking those who supported the protest and added that all remaining funds for the encampment will be redirected to displaced Palestinians. They will hold a rally at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 12 at the Beach to conclude the encampment. 

Administration calls for end to encampment citing violation of University norms and rules

At 8:54 p.m. on Friday night, President Ronald J. Daniels sent the Hopkins community a broadcast email discussing updates regarding the encampment. 

Daniels began his letter by describing how the University has been attempting to reach a resolution with protestors since the beginning of the encampment on April 29. Daniels referred to his letter to the community from the previous week, in which he detailed the reasons for the University’s concern over the encampment, most of which were related to safety. 

According to the email, the administration has engaged in nearly 10 hours of direct discussion with representatives of groups involved in the protest and has spent the past 12 days regularly communicating with demonstrators, both formally and informally. 

Daniels highlighted that on the first day of the encampment student organizers agreed to end the encampment but reestablished it the next day. Following this, the administration attempted to talk with protestors again, but students delayed discourse. 

“Following its reestablishment, we repeatedly invited the protesters to meet with us on an urgent basis to discuss their demands and our call for an end to the encampment,” Daniels wrote. “Regrettably, they refused to do so until several days later on May 7.”

The letter also stated that student protestors who agreed to leave the encampment were offered conduct deferral. Encampment participants who did not agree to this and have been identified by administration continue to be part of the conduct process. 

Daniels criticized the protestors for continuing to sustain the encampment, despite the University’s efforts to reach an agreement. 

“Unfortunately, despite these efforts to move us toward a solution, the protesters now have enlarged the perimeter of the encampment to include a greater portion of the Beach,” Daniels wrote. 

Daniels stated that as the encampment continues, the risk of conflict grows. According to the letter, counter-protestors from outside organizations have planned to demonstrate in front of the encampment on Monday. 

“Against this growing backdrop of conflict, the encampment at Hopkins must end,” Daniels wrote. 

Though administration calls for an end to the encampment, they remain committed to addressing protestors’ demands through the Johns Hopkins Public Interest Investment Advisory Committee (PIIAC). 

Daniels described how student demands for divestment are not all it takes to change the University’s investment policy and that the protestor’s request will have to be discussed amongst members of the University community. 

“[Change to our investment policy], in turn, requires a generous set of conversations on the case for and against divestment,” Daniels wrote. 

Daniels ended the letter by stating that encampment participants must give up the encampment and move to a discussion-based approach now. 

“We reiterate: The time for protest and disruption that violates our rules and norms must end. The encampment must be dismantled,” Daniels wrote. “In its stead, we must return to respectful dialogue on difficult issues that is the work of the university.”

May 8, 2024

10:43 p.m

In a follow up email, Student Affairs stated that because some students were in exams when the initial email was sent and were unable to meet the 6 p.m. deadline, the deadline has been extended to 9 a.m. Thursday morning. 

6:45 p.m.

The encampment seems to have expanded.

THE NEWS-LETTER


6:33 p.m.

6:32 p.m.

The organizers continue to lead chants on the Beach. Here are a few of the chants:

  • “It is right to rebel!”
  • “Israel can go to hell!”
  • “Palestine will live forever!”
  • “There is only one solution: Intifada revolution!”
  • “Free Palestine!”

6:11 p.m.

The organizers continue to lead chants on the Beach. Here are a few of the chants:

  • “We want justice, you say how? End the occupation now!”
  • “End the seize in Gaza now!”
  • “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”
  • “Free free free Palestine!”
  • “Intifada, Intifada, long live Intifada!”

6:00 p.m. 

Editor’s Note, 2024: A previous version of this article misattributed a quote to an interview when it was said during a speech.

The News-Letter regrets this error. 

Amid sharing information on the letter from Student Affairs, a speaker lead a chant on the Beach: "We will not leave!”

"We are not intimidated by administration and their tactics," they said.

5:30 p.m. University asks participants to leave encampment by 6pm to defer student conduct proceedings

Editor’s Note, 2024: A previous headline of this update incorrectly stated that Hopkins threatened to sweep the encampment.

The News-Letter regrets this error.

According to a press release issued by HJC, the Hopkins administration is pursuing disciplinary action and sweeping the encampment.

“Today, at 3:12PM, the encampment received papers threatening individual students to reveal their personal identification and affiliation with the Palestine Solidarity Encampment. This was paired with an additional threat that the encampment would be swept at 6PM today,” the press release wrote.

The document of deferral conduct, sent to the rest of the Hopkins community at 4:34 p.m. today, asks that those participating leave the encampment by 6 p.m. and email confirmation of their departure to studentaffairs@jhu.edu. Further, students are required to go to Student Affairs in person on May 9 between 9 a.m.–1 p.m. to accept and sign the document. 

HJC stated that the administration failed to provide notice or reasoning for the threats in the letter.

“After yesterday's meeting with the administration, which produced a miserable offer to the encampment, this move from the University reads as despicable and fear-mongering,” the statement reads.

In an email to The News-Letter, a spokesperson for the University wrote that the letter was sent to end the encampment, citing serious risks of conflict and harm to the Hopkins community.

“Since the inception of the encampment, we’ve been in regular contact with students participating in the encampment and the Hopkins Justice Collective. We’ve extended multiple offers and engaged in negotiations to reach an end to the encampment,” they wrote.

According to the email, Student Affairs has offered this opportunity for students to leave the encampment with reduced disciplinary consequences, given that they agree to not return and not participate in further protests that violate the Student Code of Conduct. 

The departure letter notes that this offer to defer conduct action is not applicable to allegations of violence, assault or property damage, nor of discrimination, threats or harassment. 

For those who choose not to leave, the University will seek other options. 

“We are pursuing other avenues for those who remain and would remind everyone that participation in the encampment is a trespass. We remain seriously concerned by the safety risks of the encampment,” the email wrote. 

Further, the University clarified that although the circulating document was sent out to all Hopkins students, those who did not participate in the encampment do not need to complete it.

HJC’s press release signified that they may not adhere to the University’s demands. 

“The University is attempting to turn us against each other, spending a great effort to

scare us into submission rather than heed the violence in Palestine sustained by

Hopkins' endowment,” the press release wrote. “Our solidarity is stronger than their threats.”

May 7, 2024

4:48 p.m. HJC provides updates following meeting with Administration

On May 8, HJC published a press release, updating the Hopkins community on the meeting between protesters and the University. The meeting took place on Tuesday, May 7 and discussed HJC’s five demands: divestment, disclosure, boycott, demilitarization and denunciation.

The update stated that protesters expected the University to consider their demands in light of the Palestinian lives lost during the conflict and recent escalations in Rafah. HJC emphasized that Hopkins currently invests in weapons companies which aid Israel. The administration, however, responded differently, according to HJC, and did not take clear steps on the Public Interest Investment Advisory Committee (PIIAC) proposal HJC submitted regarding divestments. 

“The Administration did not approach the table with an offer that engaged our demands,” HJC wrote. “The University offered a timeline that would merely ‘consider’ our PIIAC proposal for divestment (which can be found in our Linktree) in October of 2025. This is unacceptable.”

HJC stressed the current death count and violence in the region and criticized the administration’s proposition of 18 months to consider their demands. They argued that the University’s suggested time frame was designed to placate protestors and delay a response to their demands. 

HJC then claimed that the University deflected HJC’s accusations that Hopkins is complicit in the conflict.

“The University deflected blame from their complicity in the genocide of Palestinians by

claiming that divestment would not produce a ‘demonstrable effect,’ and that it was a ‘complex issue,’” they wrote. “We reject their patronizing distractions and stalling tactics. We have clearly described the violence that Hopkins supports through the APL and its financial investments.”

The press release continued by arguing that the administration had sufficient time to consider and understand their demands, given that their formal request for divestment was submitted four days before and the encampment nine days before the meeting. Yet, the offer made by the administration did not engage the protesters’ demands, the Collective argued.

HJC then stressed that the University increased their threats of disciplinary action against the protesters during the meeting, urging them to permanently disband. 

“After six hours of negotiations, in which Daniels repeatedly yelled at negotiators and threatened to leave the room, the encampment was given two hours (until midnight) to accept the offer or face immediate discipline in the morning,” HJC wrote. “In exchange for accepting, students would receive a mere pause in disciplinary proceedings contingent on our continued ‘good behavior.’ When the administration is bargaining for our silence, there cannot be a free and open discussion.”

HJC emphasized that disbanding the encampment will only be considered when Hopkins has made an effort to meet their demands of divestment, disclosure, boycott, demilitarization and denunciation. 

The letter concluded by stating that the protesters will continue to urge the University to accept their demands. 

“We will not be threatened into submission,” they wrote. “We must continue to pressure the University towards urgent, actionable withdrawal from the occupation of Palestine. We will remain until our demands are met.”

3:23 p.m. Open letter from HJC 

On May 4, HJC released a letter to University affiliates about the Palestine Solidarity Encampment. They began the letter by remembering the 35,000 Palestinian people who have been killed in the war. They then voiced their appreciation for the support they have received thus far from the Faculty Senate and various student organizations on campus.

HJC stated that the purpose of their letter is to clarify the goals and efforts of the protest. While they acknowledged that the encampment may disrupt current affairs at Hopkins — namely senior graduation and finals week — they contrasted life at the University with life in Gaza. The letter urged Hopkins students to consider this dichotomy, calling them to join the effort to pressure the University to concede their demands.

“Gazan children cannot go to school, university students no longer have their campuses,” they wrote. “Their semesters are truncated by mass death. They don't have the privilege to study for finals. We stand with them, and against Hopkins while it funds and engineers this  incomprehensible loss of life.”

HJC continued by stressing the nonviolent nature of the protest, denouncing the administration’s claim that it may attract violent individuals. They emphasized that the encampment agreement is based on nonviolent principles and forbids all forms of hate, specifically Islamophobia and antisemitism.

“We have been nothing but peaceful,” they wrote. “If there is any threat to the health and safety of the Hopkins community, it will come not from the encampment, but from the administration's choice to weaponize the police against its own student body and community.”

HJC drew attention to the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. They stressed that they are not advocates for religious hate, but rather denounce Zionist political ideology. 

“Jewish solidarity has been central to Palestinian activism since before Israel's inception,” HJC wrote. “On Friday night, we kindled the lights of Shabbat with Rabbi Ariana Katz and held maghrib prayer side-by-side. We condemn Zionist political ideology and its right-wing ethnonationalist colonial project that founded Israel. Our anti-Zionism is incompatible with antisemitism.”

The letter then condemned the notion that Baltimore community participation in the encampment serves as a threat to the safety of Hopkins students, arguing that the University’s historical impact on the Baltimore community should not be overlooked. 

“It is inaccurate and unjust to claim that residents of the city of Baltimore have no right to weigh in on Johns Hopkins’s actions,” they wrote. “We aim to bridge the divide between the students of the University and the community of Baltimore, and we welcome the support of Baltimoreans.”

They concluded by emphasizing that while University administration has not yet seriously considered HJC’s demands, they have received considerable support from Hopkins affiliates, including students and faculty, and urged more to join their efforts.

May 5, 2024

9:25 p.m. HJC and administration statements

In an email to The News-Letter, a University spokesperson shared documentation that the University extended invitations to meet with HJC on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and expressed concerns about waiting until Tuesday to meet. 

In a press release, HJC responded to the University’s framing of their organization and their willingness to enter negotiations.

“Since the beginning of the encampment, we have repeatedly asked that the University send us negotiation offers by email, which they have consistently refused to do,” they wrote. 

HJC then described the reasons why they prefer to begin negotiations by email, including that negotiators can democratically discuss group actions and hold the University accountable to their written commitments.

“Beginning the negotiations via email is a way for our encampment to maintain a more

democratic structure and have room to discuss the administration's response, together,” they stated. “Email allows the exchange and negotiation process to be in written record, holding the University accountable for their commitments or lack thereof. After one round of bad-faith negotiations on Monday, in which the University published widely that we had reached an agreement where there was none, keeping the record straight is something we feel acutely.”

HJC further underscored that the administration’s requirement that the negotiation team be made of undergraduate students has made it difficult to meet on short notice.

“The Administration's insistence that the negotiation team comprise of only undergraduates means that while we have a team of students ready to ensure quick resolution, we also have finals, homework, volunteering, work, and other obligations to keep up with,” they wrote. “The encampment comes first, but it is an undue ask to respond to a request to meet at a scheduled time on Tuesday with ‘actually, let's do it now!’” 

HJC also stated that they had submitted a Public Interest Investment Advisory Committee (PIIAC) proposal on Friday morning, with no confirmation from University administration that the proposal had been read. They wrote that the encampment was not up for discussion, and that they would not negotiate unless the administration read their PIIAC proposal before meeting.

In emails to HJC from University administration, shared with The News-Letter by a University spokesperson, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Rachelle Hernandez and Vice President for Public Safety Branville Bard confirmed that the PIIAC request by HJC was received on Wednesday, May 1. 

Finally, HJC accused the administration of pressuring protestors into closed door negotiations, using the University’s actions at Garland Hall as an example of these tactics.

“What JHU is doing by pressuring us into closed door negotiations day-of is an intimidation tactic,” they wrote. “This is an age-old strategy that they have used before, including at Garland Hall, when the University extended an offer to negotiate the morning after threatening a police raid, knowing negotiators would walk into the room sleep deprived, anxious, and not at their best. The University knows we are on an uneven playing field behind closed doors.”

However, HJC reiterated that they were willing to meet the University on their terms as long as they received advanced notice before negotiations. They wrote that the University had not yet accepted their offer to meet on Tuesday.

In an email to The News-Letter, HJC provided documentation of an email to administration, in which HJC reiterated the proposed meeting on Tuesday and offered the University the option of beginning negotiations over email to expedite the process. 

3:00 p.m. Email from Administration 

On May 5, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Rachelle Hernandez and Vice President for Public Safety Branville Bard sent an email regarding the Safety and Student Conduct Code to all Hopkins undergraduates.

In their email, Hernandez and Bard stated the University’s commitment to initiating disciplinary processes against students participating in the encampment, echoing President Daniels’ message earlier this week. They specified that they were following existing procedures already outlined in the Student Conduct Code.

“While the university maintains its commitment to free speech and has stated our ongoing openness to meeting with our students participating in the demonstration, we have observed both behavior and statements from protesters that violate our policies and put the safety of our community at risk,” they wrote.

Hernandez and Bard stated that they have heard from multiple individuals who are concerned about their safety on campus. In response, the University has already taken several measures including requiring Hopkins IDs to enter residence halls and making buildings on the Homewood campus only accessible by J-Card. 

Students who have concerns or reports relating to safety on campus can call the SPEAK2US hotline at 844-773-2528 or can fill out the online form

Hernandez and Bard emphasized that the University will maintain a discrimination-free environment, and that students should refrain from conduct that violates this policy. They also confirmed that they wish to maintain a normal living and learning experience, and stated that the administration has asked protesters to respect several provisions like quiet hours.

“We are working to maintain a living and learning experience as close to normal as possible as you prepare for final exams and end-of-year celebrations,” they wrote. “We have asked for demonstrators to respect quiet hours beginning at 8 p.m. We have also asked repeatedly for the protesters to remove the signs covering the Johns Hopkins University sign at the base of the Beach that are inhibiting parent and student opportunities for graduation photos.” 

Finally, Hernandez and Bard wrote that they are working towards resolution with the protesters and are available to address any student questions and concerns.

3:00 p.m. Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Faculty Senate Statement

On May 3, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS) Faculty Senate released a statement on the Palestine Solidarity Encampment. The goal of the letter was to provide University administration with guidelines on how best to address the issues that arise from the encampment as outlined in President Daniels’ email on May 2.

The statement emphasized the goal of the University to encourage peaceful, civic participation in its student body. It explained how the Palestine Solidarity Encampment is an example of this. 

“A number of faculty, including KSAS Senators, have visited the protest as observers; we have seen that the encampment has largely been civil and emphasizes the types of engagement that many faculty seek to develop in our students,” the Senate wrote. “Their protest has adhered to the sound principles of non-violence.”

The letter then described the encampment as a “space of learning,” citing a lecture by a member of the Maryland House of Delegates hosted at the Beach as well as HJC’s recent efforts to teach members de-escalation tactics.

The Senate went on to address the University’s guidelines on counter-protest, which allow for the peaceful coexistence of protest and counter-protest on campus. They commended Daniels for upholding the right to free expression and acknowledging some of HJC’s demands and encouraged him to continue in this spirit.

“Particularly given the non-violent nature of the protest, and the willingness of students to use this opportunity for education and training, we urge President Daniels to continue to follow principles of dialogue, engagement and de-escalation,” they wrote.

The Senate then referenced the Faculty Fact Finding Committee report from the 2019 Garland Hall Sit-In, which suggested that, if the University had more strongly abided by these principles of free expression, the police action ultimately taken against the protesters may have been avoided.

“Democracy in America and abroad has grown by fits and starts, often attended by disruption,” the Senate wrote. “Many of today's Hopkins students (and faculty and staff) might not have become members of the Hopkins community without the institutional and social progress resulting from student protests at Hopkins and elsewhere.”

The letter referenced the ACLU’s letter to university presidents, which encouraged them to uphold their students’ right to free expression and cited Wesleyan University and Oberlin College as examples that institutions can permit encampments.

“Any police action taken by Hopkins to disrupt a peaceful protest will heighten antagonism between Hopkins and surrounding communities, undermine some of the pro-democracy initiatives that Hopkins administrators have championed, and scar our community in unpredictable ways,” they wrote. “As emphasized in the ACLU letter, college administrators ‘should involve police only as a last resort, after all other efforts [emphasis ours] have been exhausted.’”

The letter then mentioned that protesters at the 2019 Garland Hall sit-in were ultimately unable to agree to engage in open dialogue with the University despite being offered the opportunity to do so. The Senate encouraged leaders of the encampment to participate in conversation with the University on behalf of its members.

The statement concluded by emphasizing the University’s role in upholding the protesters’ right to peaceful protest.

“As lifelong educators we know that time is a powerful tool,” they wrote. “And we emphatically believe that, as a community, we have abundant time to get this right without resorting to hasty action that curtails dialogue already in progress. We accordingly implore the Administration and protestors to continue the wise strategy of engagement and non-intervention.”


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