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UO students begin encampment, calling for boycott of Israel

A group of tents on a college campus. A banner in front reads "Divest from death."
Nathan Wilk
Organizers began setting up early Monday morning on the University of Oregon campus in Eugene. They say the encampment isn’t intended to interfere with campus activities or classes.

Pro-Palestinian student groups created an encampment at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

On Monday morning, the students stationed themselves on the lawn in front of the Knight Library. They say they won’t leave until the university agrees to divest from companies that supply the Israeli military.

They also want UO to cut ties with Israeli universities, and grant formal protections for students and faculty who speak out about the conflict in Gaza.

“We were not getting a response from the university. We've just been getting a lot of nothing,” said an encampment spokesperson who is using the name Cedar Deodora. “And every day more people die, so it's ever-pressing that we do this action right now.”

Deodora acknowledged that "Cedar Deodora" is not his real name, but he showed KLCC a copy of his student ID documents on the condition that he not be identified.

Previously, student activists have accused the university’s Foundation of supporting BlackRock and Vanguard, two investment firms with large shares in defense companies that supply Israel with military equipment.

Jasper Ridge Partners, which manages the UO Foundation, has placed the majority of its publicly traceable funds into the two firms. However, a Foundation spokesperson told KLCC in March that it has no known investments in either company.

Deodora said organizers didn’t tell the university administration about the encampment in advance. However, he said the site was chosen to avoid disrupting classes and other campus activities.

UO’s Students for Justice in Palestine president Salem Khoury said the protestors are expecting pushback, but they’ll resist attempts to escalate the situation. Guidelines posted on the student group’s Instagram account instruct participants not to engage with counter-protestors.

“We must be the bigger person in every situation, which is a hard task,” said Khoury. “We have to step up for ourselves and stand up for what's right, but not cross the line and not become what we are trying to defend against.”

Organizers said they’re only allowing students to camp at the site at this time. By Monday afternoon, Deodora said organizers had spoken with campus safety officials and the Dean of Students.

In an alert to community members Monday, the University of Oregon said it supported the right to free speech, but it would be watchful for any student conduct code violations or losses of business opportunity.

"As we have seen over the last week, universities across the nation who have taken a hard stance—including calling in law enforcement as an early response—have seen an escalation in violence, including harm to bystanders and students alike," the letter said. "In keeping with our longstanding protocols, university representatives have been in communication with those participating, outlining relevant institutional policies, and advising them of an existing reservation for that space later this week."

Correction: An earlier version of this story did not include information about the fact that a source did not use a real name.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.
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