May 21 Update on Welch Field Encampment and Moving Forward

Dear Members of the USF Community,

We write to share an update that the Welch Field encampment has disbanded. The following is a summary of events that led to the demonstrators vacating the field.

On Sunday evening, a group of about 20 student protesters walked from Welch Field to gather on Lone Mountain where they chanted, put up a tent in front of the Rossi Wing, wrote graffiti on walls, and affixed signage to the exterior of the building and to Loyola House. After they dispersed from the area, the items they left behind were removed by facilities, as per protocol.

By Monday morning, it was apparent that most students had left the encampment that was first erected on April 29. The majority of the approximately 50 tents had been abandoned and the rope around the perimeter of the encampment had been removed. USF staff began packing unoccupied tents and abandoned property with the intention of storing all items for pickup or donation. During this process, some students made their way to the area and informed USF staff that they were in the process of decamping and did not want their property moved; they stated they intended to vacate the field that day.

USF staff offered to help and then left the field and students agreed to remove any remaining belongings by this morning. Beginning today, USF staff will work to repair the damage to the field, clean debris from the area, and continue to remove graffiti and other signage around campus.

USF is grateful to those students, faculty, and staff who worked together and participated in charting a peaceful path forward and prioritizing safety and respect for all members of the community.

As we begin the process of repairing the physical damage to our campus and moving forward as a community, it is important to reflect on how we got here: The USF administration worked in good faith with several student leaders throughout the last three weeks against the backdrop of a national movement to push universities to divest from Israel and to declare genocide. We took careful and considered steps to ensure the safety of our campus community while protecting both free expression and academic freedom. The shift from a peaceful protest to campus disruption that monopolized USF’s resources was swift as violations of our policies and procedures escalated.

We are moving forward with a commitment to protecting the rights of our community members while ensuring that all members adhere to our standards, expectations, and policies.

Code of Conduct Violations

On May 13, Fr. Fitzgerald met with leaders of the encampment and informed them that students who voluntarily vacated Welch Field by 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 would not face code of conduct repercussions for violations of time, place, and manner policies from April 29 to May 14. The community was informed of this amnesty offer on the same day the president met with students. Approximately six students took advantage of the amnesty offer.

As you know, the university pledged that it would not involve the San Francisco Police Department to close the encampment as long as demonstrations remained peaceful. While we were able to avoid the use of law enforcement, unfortunately, some members of our community participating in the demonstration violated the Student Code of Conduct. Established university conduct processes will be followed in all these cases.

Student Requests

As you recall, the students who participated in the encampment presented the university with a set of requests. (A timeline and copies of messages sent by Fr. Fitzgerald, Provost Fung, and other administrators are available on myUSF, along with details of the student requests.) USF administration engaged in two sessions with the student protest organizers to discuss their requests. In his May 8 message to the community, Fr. Fitzgerald outlined the students’ requests and the university’s response. At this time no agreement has been reached. However, the university continues to move forward with what we have committed to.

We close with several points related to the requests and the understanding of the role of the university, and how we will work to move forward.

  • Socially responsible investing
    We are committed to establishing a new socially responsible advisory investment task force composed of a representative group of students, faculty, and staff. We understand the complex nature of this request and believe that our community understands that asset allocation is complicated. We look forward to working together with this new task force in balancing our fiduciary responsibilities, including preserving the existing endowment principal over time, generating positive investment returns, and minimizing risk, with ensuring our endowment is in alignment with the university’s mission and values as well as with principles of socially responsible investing.
    We are committed to continuing a respectful dialogue, including holding educational sessions on the university’s investment policies and working through what was outlined in ASUSF’s resolution by fall 2024. We look forward to advancing the work of this campus group.
  • Defining and naming genocide
    All members of USF’s community — faculty, librarians, staff, and students — are free to engage in advocacy and debate, taking whatever position they wish. However, as an institution, USF will not take an advocacy position. USF must be a place where all are free to express their individual views consistent with established community standards.
    USF is committed to fostering conversations among scholars, academic experts, and others regarding the definition of genocide and the nature of U.S. support of Israel’s military operation. It is the university’s role to create spaces for civil discourse and critical analyses in the spirit of academic freedom, respect for human dignity, and critical engagement with the most important questions of the day.
  • Academic programs
    While USF does not have academic partnerships with Israeli institutions, we underscore our commitment to programs that open critical dialogue, share multiple perspectives, and seek mutual understanding. We will continue to respect and support the academic freedom of faculty who may choose to study Israel and partner with Israeli scholars and institutions.

We are committed to consulting with academic units regarding strengthening the curriculum and the academic study of Palestine and Palestinians. This work has already begun. We will also work to provide opportunities for research focused on Palestine studies and support for Palestinian students.

To all members of our community: We know this has been a time filled with navigating high emotion and fierce advocacy. In the midst of the challenges we are experiencing on our own campus and in our world today, we are grateful to you for your commitment to USF’s mission and values. Thank you for making last week’s commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2024 so memorable, meaningful, and such a fitting celebration for the graduates, their families, and their guests.

We will continue to keep you updated on these important university matters.


Eileen Fung
Vice President, Academic Affairs and Provost 

Julie Orio
Vice President, Student Life

Shannon Gary
Associate Vice President, Student Life and Dean of Students