Encampment on Welch Field

Dear Members of the USF Community,

As some of you may know, yesterday afternoon a number of our students walked out of classes and joined other members of our community and individuals not affiliated with USF to create a tent encampment on Welch Field. Our students and community members are protesting the devastation being caused by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Similar encampments are occurring on campuses in the Bay Area and across the country. I know it has been difficult to see how events have unfolded at various institutions of higher education — especially when activities and emotions escalate.

We share values as members of this community, including peacefully demonstrating. We are committed to keeping students, faculty, and staff physically safe on campus. We are also committed to academic freedom and to ensuring that all members of our community have the right to speak their minds. Informed by our mission statement, we condemn hate, harassment, discrimination, and any threats of violence.

While the tents remain on Welch Field, we are communicating our expectations to the students and protest organizers: There are university codes of conduct that must be followed concerning the time, place, and manner of demonstrations and events, and expectations have been developed for and with our community. I look forward to productive conversations in the days ahead.

In closing, I want to reiterate Pope Francis’ plea from last fall, in which he said, in part, “In God’s name, I beg you to stop: cease using weapons. I hope that avenues will be pursued so that an escalation of the conflict might be absolutely avoided, so that the wounded can be rescued, and help might get to the population of Gaza.”

As a university, we must stand for humanization of perceived enemies and the removal of violence from our hearts. That is the only path toward peace with justice.

I will continue to keep the community updated on developments in this situation.

Paul J. Fitzgerald, S.J.