Portland State president and student government come together in effort to end campus violence

By Tiffany Camhi (OPB)
May 24, 2024 10:25 p.m. Updated: May 25, 2024 1:10 a.m.

In a joint statement Friday, Portland State’s embattled president and its student government leader condemn the violence in Gaza and announce new initiatives to address Islamophobia and antisemitism on campus.

A protester carries a flag in Portland State University’s South Park Blocks, April 26, 2024.

A protester carries a flag in Portland State University’s South Park Blocks, April 26, 2024.

Kristyna Wentz-Graff / OPB

After weeks of protests, the Associated Students of Portland State University and PSU President Ann Cudd released a joint statement Friday evening that appeared to address some of the student protesters’ demands.


The statement, signed by both Cudd and student body president Yousif Ibrahim, called for a ceasefire in Gaza and acknowledged the peaceful student protests that have occurred on campus. It also denounced the destruction of university property and violence amid some demonstrations.

Cudd is also committing her support to new curriculum proposals focused on breaking down Islamophobia, anti-Jewish, anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab rhetoric.

Additionally, PSU has agreed to host a Palestinian scholar during the fall 2025 quarter and create scholarships for students directly impacted by the fighting in Gaza.

This comes after a protest Thursday night, in which two protesters chained themselves to the doors of a university administration building, resulting in a forceful response by campus police officers, several arrests and PSU’s Chief of Campus Police Willie Halliburton being transported to a hospital.

The chief of the Portland Police Bureau, Bob Day, condemned protesters’ actions, particularly as they interfered with efforts to get Halliburton the medical attention he needed.

“It baffles me that these actions are being portrayed as legitimate political protest,” Day wrote in his statement.

Several hours before Day’s comments and before Cudd’s joint letter with ASPSU, the PSU president released a statement to the campus community calling for disruptive protests at the school’s downtown campus to come to an end.

“This cannot continue,” Cudd said Friday morning. “It is not a campus atmosphere that can sustain any of us at Portland State.”


Neither Cudd, Day nor a university spokesperson provided details of Halliburton’s medical emergency by Friday evening.

The Thursday protest over the war in Gaza began as a peaceful, student-led demonstration at the university’s Urban Plaza. Around 5 p.m., about 30 demonstrators moved the protest a few blocks away to the Richard and Maurine Neuberger Center, the campus’ main administration building that houses the office of the president at PSU. Two of the protesters locked themselves to the building’s doors with chains. Both the university’s Campus Public Safety officers and the Portland Police Bureau responded to what was going on at Neuberger, where a crowd of protesters attempted to shield the chained demonstrators from law enforcement.

Video of the response posted on social media appeared to show some campus police officers shoving demonstrators to the ground. Other students reported seeing at least one officer punching, grabbing and making violent threats towards protesters.

Officers ultimately arrested seven people Thursday, including the two protesters who were obstructing the main entrance to the administration building. Three of the seven arrested were PSU students.

Last night’s protest follows a series of student-led demonstrations across the downtown Portland campus protesting Israel’s military actions in Gaza. The most disruptive protest was a days-long occupation of the university’s Branford Price Millar Library that began in late April. Vandalism and other damage to the library has led administrators to close it until fall. That event and the university’s response to it has also left many in the PSU community divided over free speech rights and campus safety.

In a statement posted on Instagram earlier this week, an account associated with PSU student protesters said the university administration’s response to past demonstrations is an attempt to stifle free speech on campus.

“PSU only allows discourse and social justice work if it does not interfere with profit and the lives of its largely white administration,” said the statement.

Some student activists said recent protests have been peaceful, with no vandalism. They say the only reason they’ve become violent is due to the response by law enforcement.

Another demonstration is planned to take place outside the main administration building again Friday night.

Among other demands, student protesters are calling on PSU to cut all ties with Boeing and other manufacturers that supply military equipment to Israel. The university has no financial investments with the aerospace company but it has accepted donations from Boeing. PSU has agreed to pause its relationship with Boeing and hold a debate on the ethics of its relationship with the company. The joint statement reiterated that ASPSU will continue to work with Cudd over the Boeing issue.

In her statement Friday to the campus, PSU President Cudd said the Boeing discussion will be held on June 5. Cudd said she supports free speech on campus but said she will enforce rules she believes will keep the campus safe.

“While I will take the slurs hurled at me daily, I do not condone hate speech toward others and will do everything I can to make this a safe space for students, faculty and staff of all backgrounds,” said Cudd in the statement.

The protests at PSU have generally been larger and more disruptive than demonstrations at other Oregon universities. Student-protesters at University of Oregon began dismantling an encampment at the campus in Eugene Thursday, with the administration agreeing to some of the demands from protesters.