An update to our university community on the encampment

President Scholz sent the following message to faculty, staff, and students on May 7, 2024. The message was also sent to the UO Parent and Family Association.

Dear University of Oregon community members,

The last nine days have been marked by the expression of strong convictions following the establishment of an unauthorized tent encampment last Monday. 

Events across the globe, but specifically the ongoing conflict and devastating loss of human life in the Middle East and particularly in Gaza, have underscored the inherent tensions between two fundamental university commitments: the commitment to value academic freedom, creative expression, and intellectual discourse; and the commitment to foster equity and inclusion in a welcoming, safe, and respectful community. We will shy away from neither.

The UO has a long history of using an engagement-first approach to demonstrations, preferring communication, active listening, and good-faith negotiation to understand the views of those demonstrating and to consider reasonable responses. Over the last week, members of my administration, including leaders from Student Life and Safety and Risk Services, have met daily, often several times a day, with students in the encampment. In these conversations, we have expressed our concern for their safety, provided them with information about the policies in which they are in violation, offered substantive responses to their demands, and provided a formal avenue for communication back to the administration. A complete overview of all engagements to date can be found on this webpage.

Relative to experiences at other institutions, I acknowledge and thank our Oregon students and others for the absence of violence, threats, destruction of property, and their efforts thus far to engage in peaceful dialogue. 

The encampment nevertheless presents three critical problems for campus. First, the encampment violates longstanding university rules designed for the safety and well-being of all our students. Second, the encampment is a problematic drain on scarce resources that are currently being diverted from our educational mission. Third, as we, like you, watch similar events play out on college campuses across the nation, we are concerned about the potential for outside groups to increase or escalate what had begun as a student-led protest. We have already seen what appears to be antisemitic provocation at UO and worry these harmful efforts will grow. 

It was my hope that through our ongoing dialogue, we could convince encampment decision-makers to adhere to policies that are there for the safety and protection of all on campus, and to peacefully remove the overnight encampment. They have so far declined to do so. Consequently, we will be moving forward with the student conduct process related to violations of campus policy as appropriate. 

In asking for the overnight encampment to end, I refute the claim that the university is in any way limiting academic freedom or demonstrators’ right to free expression or peaceful assembly. 

We vigorously uphold the right to free speech and encourage members of the encampment and others in our community to use any of the several means available to them to make their voices heard, but to do so within the established rules of the university. 

Karl Scholz