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A timeline of students calling for divestment this academic year

20240428_cox_university-divestment-demands-timeline
A UNC alum holds up a poster reading, "UNC: Disclose Divest!" during a protest on the first day of the Gaza Solidarity Encampment in front of South Building on Sunday, April 30, 2024.

Over the past few months, UNC has seen growing calls for the University to divest from Israeli and Israel-supporting companies, as well as demands for administration to call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The lack of response from high-ranking officials within the UNC System has only sparked more demonstrations, joining countless protests on universities and pro-Palestinian groups across the country. 

Here's a rundown of demonstrations and demands so far:

Oct. 27: SJP posts demands, hosts South Building sit-in 

The UNC chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine hosted a sit-in on Friday, Oct. 27, as a part of a UNC SJP “Week of Action.” During the event, protesters sat on the steps of South Building and read aloud their demands for University divestment from Israeli or Israel-supporting companies before delivering the letter to UNC administration. 

Though SJP first posted online calling for divestment on Oct. 21, their demands were not posted until the Oct. 27 protest, in a statement made the same afternoon. The statement also called for an open dialogue with UNC administration regarding divestment, the creation of a divestment commission in partnership with the campus community as well as transparency about the allocation of the University's investment fund. 

"We look forward to UNC’s response to these demands, and to an ensuing dialogue with the university administration about how to implement these measures quickly and efficiently," the statement said. "We do not accept this university’s silent complicity in genocide. We demand immediate action."

Nov. 17: SJP hosts sit-in, occupies South Building

During a "March for Palestine" protest in November, approximately 40 protesters entered South Building before the outside entrance was blocked by UNC Police. 

Before and throughout the occupation, which lasted for about three hours, protesters outside chanted and gave speeches demanding University divestment. Inside, student protesters chanted "talk to us" to passing faculty and read out a list of names of people killed during the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Chief of Staff to the Chancellor, Christi Hurt accepted an open letter from SJP that listed their demands for divestment. UNC Police Chief Brian James told the protesters to leave by 4:30 p.m. If they refused to leave, James said, protesters could be arrested for trespassing and face other punishment from UNC. Afterwards, an SJP leader instructed all protesters to leave the building.

Feb. 19: March for Rafah

Holding banners that read “Divest Now" and “Grad Students Against Genocide," over 100 pro-Palestinian protesters marched from South Building to Franklin Street and back to raise awareness about Israeli strikes against Rafah, a major Gazan city, and to urge the University to divest. 

“We give everything to this University: our voices, our money, our youth, our intelligence,” a protester said to The Daily Tar Heel. “It’s us — so we’re the ones who should be showing up.”

Hosted by UNC SJP, speakers from the organization, as well as N.C. State University SJP, UNC Graduate Students for the Liberation of Palestine and local community members spoke at South Building before the strike. 

March 5: GPSG passes resolution calling for UNC divestment from Israel

In a 35-6 vote with four abstentions, the Graduate and Professional Senate passed the Gaza Ceasefire and Israel Divestment Resolution on March 5.

The resolution called for University divestment from companies that give money to the Israeli government or military, a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and for UNC to condemn war crimes committed in Gaza. The bill also called for President Joe Biden and members of Congress to stop sending military funding to Israel.

The bill was co-authored by Senators Wynne Ebner, representing health behavior, and Hashem Amireh, representing economics. Senator Nyssa Tucker, representing Ph.D. students studying toxicology, co-sponsored the bill. 

Some members of UNC's Jewish community expressed concern over wasting political capacity and said the bill did not adequately address hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attacks.

The passed resolution called for the release of "those unlawfully held in captivity by Israel and Hamas" and condemned the killing of civilians.

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March 25: UNC SJP hosts die-in

Long scrolls with the names of Palestinians killed in Gaza littered the steps of South Building on March 25, as approximately 30 students lay on the ground outside. The "die-in" was a part of an effort across North Carolina to raise awareness about the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. 

The final event held by UNC SJP during their Israeli Apartheid Week also called for UNC and other campuses across the state to divest from Israel and their Israeli study-abroad program.

At the protest, one speaker faced South Building as they said, “UNC, how many times and how many ways can I tell you that over 30,000 Palestinians have died, have been murdered? Millions displaced, thousands upon thousands under the rubble. How many infants starved to death will it take to make you react?”

March 27 & 28: SJP protests in BOT meeting

During Board of Trustees meetings on March 27 and 28, SJP members interrupted normal meetings and demanded that trustees advocate for University divestment. 

In online videos, members of the group can be seen holding signs that read "Divest from Apartheid," following trustees and demanding divestment from the University. 

"It is nearly 6 months into the genocidal campaign on Gaza and UNC is still silent and has yet to meet our demands, much less meet with us," members said in an Instagram post. "We refuse to stand down when Gaza is being systematically starved and nearly 40,000 Palestinians have been murdered. As long as UNC continues to invest in apartheid, starvation, and genocide, we will continue to speak up."

April 1 & 2: Students advocate at chancellor search listening forums

During the first UNC Chancellor Search Advisory Committee listening session, undergraduate and graduate students were asked to speak about their perspective on the search, including what issues they wanted to see the University's next chancellor prioritize.

At the forums, both graduate and undergraduate students said they wanted the next chancellor to support University divestment.

One UNC doctoral student, GPSG senator Ellen Risemberg, expressed her disappointment that neither interim Chancellor Lee Roberts or the Board of Governors responded to the GPSG's resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and University divestment from Israel. 

At an April 24 public student forum, held by the Affirmative Action Coalition at UNC and TransparUNCy, students also demanded that UNC divest from Israel and Israel-supporting companies. 

April 19: SJP holds one day encampment

Following arrests at student encampments at Columbia University and nationwide protests, SJP set up a "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" in front of South Building on April 19. At the events, demonstrators listened to speakers, chanted and held a large banner that said "CH X NYC FOR PALESTINE."

The event was held to show support for Palestinians and students arrested while protesting, and to continue to call attention to SJP's unmet divestment demands. 

After being told by UNC administration that their tents violated the University's Facilities Use Standard, protesters lifted the tents and marched around the quad holding them in the air before placing them onto chairs, so they were not directly on the grass. 

April 26: SJP begins 'Triangle Gaza Solidarity Encampment'

Beginning on April 26, 100 protesters were present on Polk Place. Though the movement began with approximately two dozen tents, the crowd grew over the following days. 

During the first day, UNC administration asked demonstrators to remove the poles from the tents. Attendees complied, opting instead to sit on tarps, blankets and inflatable mattresses. By the second day, the movement became known as the "Triangle Gaza Solidarity Encampment" because of the large amount of community support for the demonstration — including students from Duke University and N.C. State University. 

Demonstrators have passed their time on the Quad by hosting teach-ins, creating space for interfaith prayer and hosting community events. On Sunday, April 28, over 500 protesters attended a march that began at the encampment, before circling the site and greater UNC campus. 

On Sunday evening, protesters put the poles back into their tents in an attempt to escalate administrative response to their demonstration.

"SJP condemns the blatant repression of the growing global solidarity movement with Palestinians," a press release from UNC SJP stated. "SJP remains steadfast in its commitment to Palestinian liberation abroad concurrent with its demands for financial transparency and divestment from genocide at UNC-Chapel Hill."

Early Tuesday morning, the encampment was swept by police officers and more than two dozen people were detained. Throughout the day, protests escalated in the Quad. The University still has not responded to UNC SJP's demands at the time of publication. 

@l_rhodsie

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com 


Lauren Rhodes

Lauren Rhodes is the 2024 university editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant editor and senior writer for the university desk. Lauren is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and political science with a minor in politics, philosophy and economics.