In response to pro-Palestinian protesters refusing to settle on a compromise, Tufts University is threatening to issue trespass violations and bar seniors from walking at commencement if the encampment grows further.

Students representing the protesters and a faculty member they selected met with a pair of university deans on “two separate occasions” on Tuesday, with both sides looking to make amends as the encampment grows on the Medford campus.

“Regrettably, despite our best efforts to find a solution, the protesters have refused our offers and have continued to escalate matters by expanding the encampment on the academic quad,” university leadership said in an evening letter to the community.

In the letter signed by President Sunil Kumar, officials highlighted that students declined to discuss proposals with the deans of the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and that they’d rather meet in person with the president, the chief investment officer and members of the board of trustees.

“The university agreed to such a meeting in writing on the condition that the encampment end first and that the protesters agree not to disrupt Commencement,” the letter states. “This offer, which remains on the table, was rejected, and the meeting ended without an agreement.”

Leadership wrote it’s looking to “avoid the confrontations seen at other universities,” such as Emerson and Northeastern locally, and Columbia, nationally.

“We will be issuing a no trespass order to the protesters,” the letter states. “Tufts students who do not vacate the space will be subject to the Community Standards processes which may result in suspension or other sanctions. For seniors, this may include not participating in senior week activities or Commencement. It is our strong desire that it does not come to this, and the protesters choose to leave voluntarily.”

Tuesday’s stalemate comes after Kumar issued a letter Sunday about how university leadership has balanced “our students’ right to protest with enforcing our conduct policies” and that “students have been sanctioned when protests affected public safety.”

Kumar on Sunday called for the end to the encampment in order for officials to focus on commencement preparations, some of which have been delayed, he said.

More than a hundred pro-Palestinian protesters took their demands that Tufts divest from Israel and call for a ceasefire in Gaza to campus last Friday, vandalizing school property with explicit messages including “F*** the trustees.”

Some of the protesters at the encampment include “demonstrators unaffiliated with Tufts to bolster their numbers and expand their encampment,” leadership stated in its letter Tuesday. “The presence of these outside protesters on campus has raised safety concerns among many in the community.”

“The protesters have appropriated and painted furniture rented by Tufts for an Earth Day event and refused to return it to the outside company that owns it,” the letter states. “They have harassed and intimidated staff as they try to clean areas that were vandalized. Notably, they also rejected a suggestion to move the encampment to an alternative location on campus so they could continue advocating their position while Commencement preparations begin.

In an Instagram post Tuesday evening, encampment organizer Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine wrote “We will not back down.”

“The attempt to weaponize commencement and ‘celebrating the class of 2024’ as an excuse to dismantle our encampment is particularly egregious given that Israel has destroyed every university in Gaza,” the group said in a statement Monday.

Leadership highlighted how Tuesday’s meeting is not the only time that officials have tried to “find common ground with the protesters.”

The president, provost, executive vice president and other officials met with Students for Justice in Palestine and the Coalition for Palestinian Liberation on March 8 after the student Senate passed anti-Israel resolutions.

Jewish students at the Senate meeting were reportedly spat on, and faced “stomach-churning antisemitic taunts and jeering from their peers,” according to the leader of Tufts Hillel.

That prompted the university to investigate the reported “vile antisemitism” and Islamophobia.

“It quickly became clear that the students were not interested in discussing what collective action we could take to support the Palestinian people and were only interested in the university acceding to their demands,” leadership wrote Tuesday.


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