Stanford protests continue as university's Admit Weekend kicks off for incoming students

Saturday, April 27, 2024
Stanford protests continue as university's Admit Weekend kicks off
Stanford Admit Weekend has kicked off with an encampment of protesters situated in the center of the campus' White Plaza.

STANFORD, Calif. (KGO) -- Protesters at Stanford are disrupting the university's efforts to put its best foot forward.

Stanford Admit Weekend has kicked off, looking a lot different than it has in years past, with an encampment of protesters situated in the center of the campus' White Plaza.

Organizers said they are aligned with other schools across the country demanding that Stanford separate itself from any companies or organizations that are advancing military efforts in the Israel-Hamas war.

"Divestment really is our biggest goal," said Grace, a communication lead for People's University for Palestine at Stanford who did not want to give a last name. "Transparency and their investment holdings is our goal."

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Organizers say the timing of this protest -- during admit weekend -- is no coincidence.

"That is a reason why we set it up when we set it up, because we had a short turnaround to plan it," Grace said. "We said that, 'If we're going to do it, we got to do it now. There are admitted students here. There are parents here.'"

Some incoming students and parents were impressed by what they saw.

"It makes me want to go over there and hold a sign and protest, because I feel strongly about this situation," said Dasia, an incoming student from Philadelphia.

RELATED: Pro-Palestinian protests continue at Bay Area universities

At least a hundred students have setup camp at the White Memorial Plaza in Stanford. The chanting for Gaza picked up after it got dark out Thursday evening.

But many others visiting for Admit Weekend and current Stanford students say the protests have been difficult.

"I feel sick. That's the best way to describe it," said one student who said she is Jewish and did not want to be named. "It seems like everybody has drunk the Kool Aid here and across the U.S., specifically at college institutions where students are young and impressionable or are getting influenced by a terrible organization, and it's scary."

Some against the messaging from the protesters say the timing of Admit Weekend puts the university under unique scrutiny.

"If the university tries to act in such a way to make these protests less frequent, less disruptive on Admit Weekend, I think that's part of the point of them being disruptive," said another student who did not want to be named. "They can then garner national attention, and then condemnation."

RELATED: 93 arrested at USC following pro-Palestinian protest: police

At the start of the protests on Thursday, Stanford said that disruption of classes and events, along with overnight camping is prohibited under university policy.

A Stanford spokesperson told us Friday afternoon that there were no interruptions to any Admit Weekend activities.

In a statement sent to students, the university said in part:

"We want to be clear with students who are involved in these activities that, while we understand their perspectives on an important global issue, violations of university policy will not be overlooked."

Adam Swart is the founder of Crowds on Demand, a firm that organizes advocacy events and demonstrations.

"I think there's too much noise, there is way too much noise," Swart said.

His company is not working with groups on either side of this issue.

"What's being lost is convincing people who are on the fence to think about it more in your way. If you look at the gay rights movement and the civil rights movement, were both based on bringing in moderate, perhaps even tepid supporters into the fold," Swart said.

Some encampments have led to confrontations and arrests.

Chief Counsel Robert Corn-Revere with Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said universities are having to balance free speech and disruption.

"They are all facing the same practical considerations of how to permit protest within their policies and also find a way to prevent violence or other destructive activities," Corn-Revere said.

Corn-Revere said it's hard to predict how long these protests will last.

"We saw this with the Occupy Wall Street movement where it resulted in encampments across the country for a long period of time. And then ultimately that died down. I expect with this since it's tied to international events the protests in the United States will and around the world will track what happens abroad," Corn-Revere said.

RELATED: 'Free Palestine' encampment set up on UC Berkeley campus in solidarity with students arrested

The university said in its statement that it's started submitting names to the Office of Community Standards that could result in students being suspended.

It also said arrests could happen if laws are violated.

The protesters say they will stay in the area as long as they need to be.

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