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WWU Divest Apartheid Coalition shares details of its memorandum with Western

The agreement addresses many of the pro-Palestine encampment’s demands

Representatives for the WWU Divest Apartheid Coalition embrace on the steps of Old Main in Bellingham, Wash., at the end of a press conference on May 30, 2024. The group shared the details of their agreement with the university, which included amnesty for all students involved with the pro-Palestine encampment. // Photo by Oren Roberts

Standing on the front steps of Old Main, students representing the WWU Divest Apartheid Coalition announced the details of their agreement with Western Washington University on Thursday. The press conference marked the official end to Western’s pro-Palestine encampment after both parties signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday. 

President Sabah Randhawa released the full memorandum in a message to the university on Friday morning. 

“I believe the agreement reflects the good faith discussions we’ve had with our students over the past several weeks and is consistent with Western’s values and core academic mission,” Randhawa wrote. 

During WWU Divest’s press conference, the Old Main lawn was marked with patches of yellowed grass left from the two-week encampment, which cleared out before the university’s 5 p.m. deadline on Thursday. 

“As we pack up our tents and go home, there are no universities left in Gaza. Israel continues to drop bombs on Palestinians in Gaza, trapped in tents — and they don't get to leave,” said Reina Clark, a Western student representing WWU Divest at the press conference. “We know that our fight is not over here, and we know that many others are continuing to fight around the world now.”

The memorandum addresses many of the pro-Palestine encampment’s demands by establishing procedures for divestment and financial disclosure, acknowledging harm to Arab and Arab-American students and agreeing to discuss the future staffing of the Ethnic Studies department. President Randhawa’s message also touched on creating an environment of academic freedom at Western.

“As a university community, we condemn all forms of hate and bias and strive to ensure that our community members can share their perspectives on any topic of scholarly investigation in a safe and inclusive environment and without fear of retribution when discussing topics such as Palestine,” Randhawa wrote. 

While the university says it has no direct investments in companies on the Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) list, the memorandum includes a commitment to “develop a procedure for requests for divestment.”

“WWU students are some of the first to achieve an explicit mention of BDS in a memorandum with their university, making this a nationwide historic win,” Tavernise said.  

Other universities in Washington, including Evergreen State College and the University of Washington, have reached agreements with pro-Palestine organizers.

The memorandum with Western also establishes the creation of multiple committees. The Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing (ACSRI) will advise the board of trustees on how to invest the university’s funds going forward. It will include two student representatives appointed by the Associated Students. 

“By fall 2024, the ACSRI committee will develop policy on socially responsible investment in accordance with WWU's condemnation of all acts of genocide, ethnic cleansing and other activities that violate safety, security and fundamental human rights,” Tavernise said. 


Patches of discolored grass left by tents from Western’s pro-Palestine encampment in Bellingham, Wash., on May 30, 2024. The encampment was completely cleared from the Old Main lawn by the university’s 5 p.m. deadline.  // Photo by Oren Roberts

To maintain ethical contracts going forward, the university committed to being transparent about its relationship with private industry. A second committee, the Committee on Ethical Contracts, will advise the university on “ethical procurement.”

“By the end of fall 2024, the university's Committee on Ethical Contracts will start the process to review and recommend actions to end contracts between WWU and private industry, such as Boeing, that do not align with the socially responsible procurement standards outlined in this document,” Tavernise said. 

Additionally, Tavernise said Western's Dining Services would begin reviewing the products it offers on campus, including Sabra Hummus, which was also named in UC Riverside's agreement with its encampment. 

“The president personally assured student negotiators that products from Sabra Dipping Company, LLC, a company currently on the BDS list, will be removed from campus immediately,” she said. 

Beyond meeting the encampment's original demands, the university also guaranteed amnesty to all students involved with the encampment, with exceptions for violations such as property damage and harassment. 

“So long as students participating in WWU Divest Apartheid Coalition comply with the administration’s request to decamp no later than 5 p.m. on May 30, 2024, the university will forgo referrals for citations or conduct violations for those students based solely on participation in the encampment,” the memorandum reads. 

The encampment was cleared out by the university’s deadline, having reached an agreement peaceably.

“We are incredibly fortunate to come to this agreement and dismantle our encampment without violent escalation from our university administration,” Clark said. “We reject being used as a model minority to diminish other encampments and actions.”

While the pro-Palestine encampment at Western was able to reach an agreement with its university, students at dozens of other universities have been arrested or detained for protesting. 

“We particularly want to draw attention to and stand in solidarity with the University of Michigan and Wayne State University student encampments, both of which have recently been brutally raided by police,” Clark said. “The students are demanding to meet with their administrations and engage in dialogue about disclosure and divestment. Instead, they were met with violence.”

Western’s administration reached an agreement with the WWU Divest Apartheid Coalition after 10-and-a-half hours of negotiations on Tuesday and a die-in, where over 80 students and faculty occupied the hallway between the negotiations room and President Randhawa’s office, wearing white t-shirts with messages written in fake blood.

“The die-in … succeeded in keeping the university president in the negotiation room for all 10-and-a-half hours of the meeting, after he informed student negotiators prior to the meeting that he would only be present for the first 30 minutes,” Tavernise said. 

WWU Divest said in an Instagram post that the university had given them a “regressive and disappointing” agreement draft over the weekend.

“On Friday, we had a six-hour meeting with the administration, of which the president was only there for the first hour and the last 30 minutes,” said Jasmine Welaye, a graduate student and encampment organizer representing WWU Divest at the press conference. “We believe that is what produced such an incongruent draft compared to the conversations that we had in that meeting.”

While only some of their demands were met in the final draft of the memorandum, WWU Divest will continue working towards its goals. 

“We have pushed as hard as we think is currently possible,” Tavernise said. “The way forward now is to continue putting other forms of pressure on the administration to abide by this memorandum of understanding, to continue to construct socially responsible policies for this university and to support Palestinian liberation in any ways that they possibly can.”

Oren Roberts

Oren Roberts (they/them) is a city news reporter this quarter at The Front. They are a third-year completing an interdisciplinary concentration in Trauma-Informed Journalism through Fairhaven College. They fill their free time with fermentation projects, paddleboarding and tending to their houseplants. You can contact them at

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