Seattle Culture

UW President: ‘A Range of Opinions’ on Encampment Deal

Ana Mari Cauce: ‘Some people are upset’

By Rob Smith May 20, 2024

An aerial view of a park with people gathering around various tents and blue tarps in different sections, bordered by green trees. The scene suggests an outdoor event or festival, reminiscent of an encampment deal fostering a range of opinions and ideas.

The emails came in fast.

Some praised University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce for brokering a deal Friday to end the pro-Palestinian encampment on the UW campus. Others thought the university gave up too much. Many students said it wasn’t a “real win,” and vowed to continue advocating for change.

The three-week-old encampment is scheduled to be dismantled by 3 p.m. today under terms of an agreement announced Friday between the UW and the United Front for Palestinian Liberation. The group had been protesting the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza following a terrorist attack launched by Hamas against Israel last October, and Israel’s military response.

University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce.

Photo courtesy of University of Washington

The group’s demands included calls for the university to divest from Israel and cut ties with Boeing because of the company’s business relationship with the country.

The 14-point list of action items from UW includes a procedure for divestment requests; more transparency around UW investment holdings and fund managers; more transparency about Boeing’s support for the university; more focus on UW’s plans to combat Islamophobia; and waiving tuition for at least 20 Gazan students to complete their studies.

Cauce, who has been steadfast in her reluctance to remove the encampment by force, admits that all options to end the standoff were on the table. She recalls when her older brother,  César Cauce, was killed at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in North Carolina in 1979.

“There was no way I wasn’t going to do everything I possibly could to not see something like that on our campus,” she says. “And as every day went by, the fear was that something like that would happen, so we did what we think was the best step forward: looking for common ground. (But) I will be absolutely frank. We were exploring what was necessary to sweep. I never took that option off the table.”

The university even showed protestors pictures of campus police officers to prevent further escalation. As time went on, Cauce says she noticed more protestors weren’t even UW students.

She understands the consternation surrounding the decision, but adds that her top priority was to ensure things didn’t “very quickly spin out of control” as they did at Dartmouth College, where police arrested 90 protestors, or at UCLA, where police violently cracked down on Gaza campus protests.

“I want to be very clear to everybody,” she says. “I take 100% full responsibility for this decision, and I can understand the criticisms that are out there. They’re not unreasonable. I did what I thought was best for this campus, and I feel comfortable with that decision.”

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