Update on this morning’s actions at the main entrance

To: UCSC Community

From: Cynthia Larive Chancellor

I write this morning to share with you that after repeated unanswered calls to have the unlawful encampment voluntarily disband and remove the dangerous blockade from the campus entrance, we made the decision to request law enforcement to remove the blockade and encampment. Law enforcement removed the barricade and the encampment; however, some demonstrators remain at the main entrance of campus. We continue to ask the campus and the community to avoid that area.

We understand there is much grief, anger, and frustration about the events that continue to unfold in Gaza and Israel, and the immense suffering of innocent people. I believe that many who have engaged in these protests over these many weeks are well-intentioned and attempting to make change through their spheres of influence. Unfortunately, the disruptions we experienced these weeks were harmful to others in our community. This decision was not made because individuals demonstrated; it was because they have chosen to do so through unlawful actions.

The road blockades, with fortified and chained barricades made of pallets and other materials, and other unlawful actions disrupted campus operations and threatened safety, including delaying access of emergency vehicles. We have attempted to avoid conflict or the involvement of law enforcement to address the encampment disruptions over the past month. We have consistently communicated to encampment organizers that campus safety and security are our highest priorities. In one particularly worrisome incident Tuesday, an emergency medical vehicle was prevented from entering a facility in which a toddler was in distress. Minutes and seconds can be the difference between life and death in an emergency. Actions such as this demonstrate a continued lack of regard for our campus community.

Since the encampment began, first at the Quarry Plaza and then at the main entrance, participants have been given repeated, clear directions to address safety issues, cease camping and cease blocking access to numerous campus resources and to the campus itself. Early this morning, they were also given multiple warnings by law enforcement to leave the area and disband to avoid arrest. Unfortunately, many refused to follow this directive and a number of individuals were arrested.

Having law enforcement remove the unlawful encampment from campus is not an action we wanted to take or have taken lightly. For the past month, we have sought to de-escalate campus disruptions and road blockades, and encouraged the voluntary disbanding of the unlawful encampments. The individuals at the encampments have been repeatedly informed about the policies that their actions violated. They continued to ignore university directives, including those related to safety, and have sought conflict, actively escalating tensions within our campus community, harming those who are simply trying to learn, teach, and do their jobs in support of our educational mission.

Despite negotiating in good faith over the course of a full week when the encampment first began at the Quarry Plaza in an effort to reach its voluntary removal, we were unable to come to an agreement that was within our authority and aligned with the values of UC Santa Cruz. As the chancellor for the entire university, I must be firm when the demands of one group undermine the rights of others. In this case, the demonstrators demanded that we end relationships with organizations that support our Jewish students and funders that support important student success work and happen to be Jewish organizations. They demanded that UC Santa Cruz divest from and boycott companies affiliated with Israel, a demand that the UC Office of the President has already addressed and deemed unacceptable. Most worryingly, they demanded that we curtail the foundational right of academic freedom by condemning the use of funding from select federal agencies. Functionally, the encampment wanted to prevent our researchers from pursuing research related to topics with which they disagree. This is a dangerous precedent and to give in to it would undermine academic freedom and make our academic community vulnerable to the values of whatever political force seeks to prevent free inquiry.

As we have shared in previous messages, we continue to be ardent supporters of free speech. While some actions by individuals fall within First Amendment protection, many other activities over the past weeks did not, and should be called what they were: unlawful disruptions, vandalism, and intentional harming of our community. Because of this morning’s events, the campus community will continue to notice a higher presence of law enforcement on campus.

We know there will be disagreement about this decision and the steps taken to support campus safety. However, our ultimate responsibility is for the safety and well-being of this campus. It was a necessary decision at a critical time.