Office of the President
April 30, 2024

Agreement to end the encampment

From the President

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

Many of us have watched with deep concern the tensions and divisions that have escalated across the country as colleges and universities have experienced intense confrontations at protests and encampments over the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

Brown has not experienced the heightened hostilities we have seen nationally, and I am writing to share that we’ll see a peaceful end to the unauthorized encampment that was set up April 24, 2024, on the College Green. After productive discussions between members of the Brown University administration and student leaders of the Brown Divest Coalition, we have reached an agreement that will end the encampment by 5 p.m. today.

The agreement itself, which has been signed by students who represent the Brown Divest Coalition, is posted publicly online. In broad terms, the students have agreed to remove the encampment and refrain from further actions that would violate the Code of Student Conduct through the end of this academic year, including through Commencement and Reunion Weekend.

The University has agreed that a group of five students will be invited to meet with a group of five members of the Corporation of Brown University while trustees and fellows are on campus for the May Corporation meeting. The meeting responds to the students’ interest to be heard on the issue of “divestment from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territory,” which was a core demand of their protest action. It is important to note that this topic will not be on the Corporation’s business agenda, and there will not be a vote on divestment at the May meeting.

The students and administration agreed that I will ask the Advisory Committee on University Resources Management (ACURM) to provide me with a recommendation on the matter of divestment by September 30, 2024, and this will be brought to the Corporation for a vote at the October 2024 Corporation meeting. Consideration by ACURM is a long-standing prerequisite for Corporation consideration of divestment requests.

Any member of the Brown community can request that the University divest the Brown endowment from the assets of specific companies by submitting a proposal to ACURM (formerly known as the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices, or ACCRIP). The committee, which includes faculty, students, staff and alumni, is charged with making recommendations to the president, who may take recommendations to the Corporation of Brown University. I have committed to bring the matter of divestment to the Corporation, regardless of ACURM’s recommendation. I feel strongly that a vote in October, either for or against divestment, will bring clarity to an issue that is of long-standing interest to many members of our community.

The final major provision of the agreement relates to the application of our Code of Student Conduct to students who have been involved in the encampment and associated activities. Since April 24, the establishment of tents and other related activities have violated a range of Brown University policies. We will continue to follow our conduct processes related to the unauthorized activities. However, we have agreed that ending the encampment today will be viewed favorably in disciplinary proceedings.

Students who have been charged with involvement in the encampment and associated activities that violate our conduct codes will not be subject to suspension or expulsion, provided they abide by the terms of the agreement. However, the agreement makes clear that reports of bias, harassment or discrimination must continue to be investigated by the appropriate offices. In addition, if the University receives new information about any conduct violations related to or following the encampment, students won’t be exempt from conduct proceedings for those violations.

These terms were reached after I wrote yesterday to the students identified as participants in the encampment to offer the meeting with members of the Corporation. Members of the administration and the student representatives met both yesterday and today to formalize the agreement, which has been signed by the University and the Coalition representatives.

I hope the meeting between the students and Corporation members will allow for a full and frank exchange of views. As I shared with the protesting students in my letter yesterday, the devastation and loss of life in the Middle East has prompted many to call for meaningful change, while also raising real issues about how best to accomplish this. Brown has always prided itself on resolving differences through dialog, debate and listening to each other.

I cannot condone the encampment, which was in violation of University policies. Also, I have been concerned about the escalation in inflammatory rhetoric that we have seen recently, and the increase in tensions at campuses across the country. I appreciate the sincere efforts on the part of our students to take steps to prevent further escalation.

During these challenging times, we continue to be guided by our mission of advancing knowledge and understanding in a spirit of free inquiry within a caring and compassionate community. We remain focused on four major priorities: (1) protecting the safety of our community; (2) fostering open and respectful learning environments; (3) providing care and empathy to affected members of our community; and (4) taking the strongest possible stance against any form of discrimination, harassment and racism against any race or ethnic group.

Even with this agreement, there remain many differences within our community about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These differences have been heightened in the months since October 7. And, I know that we will continue to have — and express — a broad range of conflicting beliefs and opinions about the situation in the Middle East, and the University’s response to it.

But, as I have emphasized before, universities were built to hold disagreement and grapple with competing views. This is an essential part of our mission of advancing knowledge and understanding. I am confident that the Brown community can live up to the values of support for free expression within an open and respectful learning community.

I wish all of our faculty, students and staff well as we come to the end of the spring semester and prepare for Commencement and Reunion Weekend, and I look forward to celebrating the achievements of our students and welcoming our graduates to the community of Brown alumni.

Christina H. Paxson