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Protesters said they are making “clear” progress with the University of Toronto administration at a press conference they held at the anti-Israel encampment on campus Thursday.

“They are shaking in their boots, and I like to see that.” one protester said.

Their demands remain the same: disclose all investments linked to Israel, divest from those commitments, denounce the state of Israel, and cut off all ties with academic institutions in Israel.

One protester, Mohammad Yassin, said cutting ties with Israeli universities was one demand the university was upfront about having no intention of budging on.

“They claim that it’s because of academic expression that they don’t want to stifle,” Yassin said.To placate the students, the school said it would possibly “appoint two chairs of Palestinian Studies in U of T” and increase funding for the “Scholars at Risk” program for Palestinian students.

But for Yassin, these are just empty platitudes if the school does not stop indirectly funding Israel in its defensive war against Hamas.

“One or two chairs of Palestinian studies in a university this big with this much of a Palestinian population, students and faculty that is neglected this much, needs to have a whole institute of Palestinian studies,” he said. “We wanted something in the vein of Columbia University. We wanted a whole institute of researchers and faculty coming together and sharing their knowledge of Palestinian studies.”

Yassin said professors and researchers would be brought in from Palestine to staff the institute.

“They’re the same people that are currently being killed on the ground in Palestine by the bombs and the tanks that we were funding at the university,” he said.

Yassin said the Palestinian Studies Institute wouldn’t help the Palestinian people if the university doesn’t give in to their other demands.

“If the university gives us this reconciliation prize without divestment, without disclosure and without cutting ties, the Palestinian Studies Institute won’t be an institute for Palestinian people. It’d be an archeology Institute for the study of Palestine. There’ll be a past tense, a diorama of a long-gone tragedy,” he said.

When pressed for further information about this Columbia University-style Palestinian Studies Institute, a representative of U of T directed True North to a public statement. The statement does not mention Palestinian studies.

“We’re not saying more at this time to enable continued dialogue with student representatives of the encampment,” they told True North.

The protesters said the university was trying to bog them down in bureaucracy.

Kalliopé Anvar McCall, a diaspora studies major at U of T, said the university offered to “begin the process for considering disclosure and transparency alongside investment.”

McCall said the process would take six and a half months to complete.

The result would be a recommendation the university’s president could refuse anyway.

“So there are no guarantees on our demands,” McCall said.

McCall and her “comrades” say there is no need for all the bureaucracy to end the university’s investments.

“President Gertler, who presides over the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation board, could simply directly push for disclosure on a personal level. Alternatively, a simple vote by business board members would suffice,” she said. “In other words, we could have disclosure by the next business board meeting on June 19th.”

The protesters are also pushing for a written commitment from the school not to involve police.

“The university has made a verbal commitment or at least promised that they do not want to call the police. They’ve repeatedly said, ‘We are not Calgary, we are not Edmonton, we don’t want that to happen,’” Yassin said.

He said when asked for a written agreement to not forcibly dismantle the encampment, the university said they could not provide one.

“We’d like to reaffirm that the University of Toronto has made it clear that they want to end things peacefully,” Yassin said. “We, as protesters, have maintained a peaceful protest without harming anybody.”

At the beginning of the month, however, a man was physically attacked at the protest for wearing an Israeli flag, and it’s standard practice for protesters to bar anyone they think might disagree with them from entering the encampment.