This story originally appeared in Baltimore Beat on May 14, 2024. It is shared here with permission.

This story has been updated.

At least nine Goucher College students involved in a pro-Palestine encampment on the campus received emails on May 14 placing them on probation and threatening their suspension if they did not agree to comply with the campus’s demonstration policy by the next day.

“As has been repeatedly communicated to you and our community, any Goucher student has the right to free expression on our campus, however, this does not mean you have the right to violate College policies,” Goucher College President Kent Devereaux wrote in an email shared with Baltimore Beat.

The demonstration policy on the private college campus requires that protests occur during business hours only and that students and employees request approval from the administration before holding a demonstration on campus.

One student organizer, who spoke with the Beat anonymously, said that student negotiators who received the sanction emails were told in the private negotiation meetings that they would receive amnesty for violating the demonstration policy. 

The student also said that some of the students who received sanctions were not camping at the encampment but had been involved in activism on campus otherwise. 

Another student organizer involved in the encampment said that the sanction could result in the loss of a degree for some seniors who are scheduled to graduate on May 24.

A professor at Goucher College confirmed that the encampment was still up as of Tuesday evening, before the sanctions were sent out.

A professor at Goucher College confirmed that the encampment was still up as of Tuesday evening, before the sanctions were sent out.

The encampment at Goucher College has been quietly carrying on since April 22, with Students For a Free Palestine calling on the administration to acknowledge the genocide against Palestinian people in a written statement; compile and make accessible an annual report on the university’s endowment investment portfolios and financial statements; remove Israel from a list of approved study abroad programs; and create a space for anti-Zionist Jewish students who don’t feel supported by the college’s Hillel organization, among other demands.  

Students and administrators had been negotiating on the demands for the last week but had different interpretations of their success. In an email sent to the campus community on May 10, Devereaux said they had reached “acceptable paths forward on nine of the 10 topics under discussion.”

Students For a Free Palestine released their own statement on May 13, saying that they had only come to an agreement on one of the demands: the disclosure of Goucher College’s investments. They also announced that Devereaux had doubled down on the demand for students to remove their encampment and set a deadline of 11:59 p.m. that night. 

“As a gesture of good faith I have already extended the deadline for the encampment to come down twice. We will not extend the deadline a third time,” Devereaux wrote in an email to student negotiators on May 13. 

“Failure to do so will risk everything that we have negotiated in good faith up to [this] point and could result in the imposition of sanctions on participating students,” Devereaux wrote.

Goucher College did not respond to a request for comment earlier on Tuesday.

Devereaux had previously threatened disciplinary action against Students For a Free Palestine after an April 29 sit-in in an administrative building. 

In his email to the college community, Devereaux described the sit-in as “hostile,” and claimed participants “verbally attacked or threatened staff members leaving Dorsey Center, pounded on windows, kicked walls, and shoved their way through doors past campus security personnel.

That characterization was disputed by students, faculty and student newspaper coverage, which described the sit-in much more mildly.

“Around 12:32 pm, the group attempted to enter the indoor area of the College Center, but was initially denied. After pushing as far into the entrance as they were permitted, the faculty blocking the doorways eventually gave way,” Olivia Barnes and Sam Rose, reporters for The Quindecim, the school’s independent newspaper, wrote.

“An open mic began at 12:45pm, providing a forum for anyone there to speak their mind. Enough students were packed into the lobby that many had to wait outside in order to provide a path to the door.” 

Devereaux warned students participating in the sit-in and continuing the encampment that they could face a number of consequences, including “losing the ability to reside on campus, loss of scholarship support, or possible suspension or termination from the College.”

The president had stopped short of threatening to call police on the student encampment, as has been seen on college campuses across the country. The Appeal reported that as of May 7, nearly 3,000 students had been arrested while protesting Israel’s genocide in Gaza. 

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