Portland State University, protesters say negotiations broke down overnight

By Jeff Thompson (OPB) and Tiffany Camhi (OPB)
May 1, 2024 6:59 p.m. Updated: May 2, 2024 12:51 a.m.

Portland State University was closed for a second day as protesters continued to occupy a campus library. Administrators and demonstrators said Wednesday morning that negotiations had fallen apart overnight.


PSU President Ann Cudd released a statement saying that negotiators for the student demonstrators had verbally agreed around midnight that they would sign a memorandum and leave the library by 1:30 a.m.

“In exchange, we offered to guarantee no expulsion, suspension or change to their status and that the university would not file criminal charges,” Cudd’s statement said.

Students who spoke to OPB inside the occupied library said no such verbal agreement had been made. The students added that the school’s proposal required them to identify themselves after leaving the building.

A student who only identified themselves as K said the proposal felt like a trap.

“It feels like, oh, we’ll let you go as long as you give us all of your personal information so we can track you down and know exactly who is in here,” said K. “It’s a very simple trap that I believe people could fall for but there are intelligent people here who are able to see through it and stand strong.”

Cudd said she offered other concessions, including continued financial support for anti-racist efforts and the addition of Palestinian works to PSU’s Race and Ethnic Studies requirements. And she said the students had agreed to refrain from violating student codes of conduct as they continued to protest.


But after coming to a verbal agreement, Cudd said, the students chose not to sign the memo. She said about 50 students left the protest of their own accord.

According to the social media of a group representing the protesters, protesters had agreed to walk out “the second demands were met.” But the post said Cudd gave them “false hope in regard to negotiations, only to flip at the last second.”

“Faculty returned to warn of extreme imminent violence and possible death of protestors,” the group’s statement reads.

Some students think negotiations with Cudd have been unproductive.

“I feel as though she is acting in bad faith,” said K, a PSU student inside the occupied library. “There were opportunities presented to her to directly negotiate with students, to come back out here and talk about our demands.”

The group has released a list of 13 demands, including that PSU release a statement “condemning the ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people,” and that the school end the sale of any Israeli products on campus. Cudd’s statement only addressed two of the demands: dropping charges against protesters and including Palestine in the ethnic studies requirement.

The library occupation started on Monday night, after several days of smaller demonstrations on the campus. Protests opposing the war in Gaza have been unfolding on university campuses.

Tuesday afternoon, Cudd sent a message to university staff and students, imploring protesters to move out of the building before police forcibly remove them. By late Wednesday morning, police had not moved in.

By Wednesday afternoon, PSU issued the following statement on X, formerly Twitter:

PSU officials announced late Wednesday afternoon that the campus will re-open on Thursday, though the occupied library will be closed.