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Pro-Palestinian protestors at Syracuse University told to relocate; students refuse

Ava Pukatch

Syracuse University administration alerted demonstrators in the Gaza Solidarity Encampment Wednesday morning that they needed to relocate to one of two proposed alternate campus locations due to commencement-related activities, beginning Thursday through Sunday.

A letter from Syracuse University's Student Experience Division was delivered to the pro-Palestinian encampment, requesting that participants relocate to other areas of campus.

The letter said the quad outside of Hendricks Chapel will "play an essential role in various school and college graduation events and receptions," which will take place this Thursday through Sunday.

Administration gave two alternate campus locations as options for the encampment: "the greenspace adjacent to the Life Sciences Complex and College Place or the Women's Building Field at the corner of Euclid Avenue and Comstock Avenue."

Ava Pukatch

Demonstrators say they refused to relocate, and the university said it will be treated as a violation of University policy and addressed through the university's conduct process.

"This morning, members of our Student Experience team gave the students protesting on the Quad the opportunity to continue their demonstration at one of two alternative locations on campus to allow the University to continue with Commencement-related preparations," an unnamed Syracuse University spokesperson said in a statement to WRVO. "Unfortunately, the students refused to move. This refusal is unfortunate and disappointing and will be treated as a violation of University policy to be addressed through our conduct process. The University will continue to prepare the Quad and other areas of campus for Commencement activities. We remain focused on ensuring our graduates and their loved ones have a safe, welcoming and joyous celebration."

The Syracuse Jewish Parents Council said they are calling for the encampment to be removed from the quad.

A WRVO reporter at the scene was told by a campus spokesperson that media was not allowed to be on campus and was instructed to leave. The university later reversed this decision.

Cai Cafiero, a doctoral student in the school of education, spoke on behalf of the encampment Wednesday afternoon.

"Right now we are at somewhat of a stalemate," Cafiero said. "We are not moving because we have not had a meeting to discuss how Syracuse University is going to take action on our demands."

She said the encampment wants to remain where it is because it's in the heart of campus and makes what they're fighting for hard to ignore.

"If a protest is taking place in a designated, out of the way, place, it's not a protest. It's an event," Cafiero said. "A protest has to be disruptive. That's how it works. We are being peaceful. We are being calm. We are here to take up space and be visible."

Cafiero said they have not yet had a good-faith meeting between administration and the encampment negotiation team. She said a meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 13 — after graduation activities are concluded which Cafiero said was the earliest date university administration provided.

She said participants in the encampment were told that being in violation of the student code of conduct means they may face penalties such as suspension, disruption of academic funding and eviction from student housing, but she said the encampment accepted those risks.

"We are still here," Cafiero said. "We are still strong and we have a lot of fight left in us."

Cafiero said participants plan to stay in the encampment until their demands are met.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.
Abigail is a temporary WRVO News Reporter/Producer working on regional and digital news stories. She graduated from SUNY Oswego in 2022 where she studied English and Public Relations. Abigail enjoys reading, writing, exploring CNY and spending time with family and friends. Abigail first joined the WRVO team as a student reporter in June 2022.