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Shapiro tells University of Pennsylvania to disband the encampment

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(The Center Square) — As university protests surrounding the Israel-Gaza war carry on, Gov. Josh Shapiro complimented Pitt but condemned Penn — and called for the Ivy League university to “disband the encampment.”

Speaking in Hempfield Township outside Pittsburgh, the governor reminded university leaders of their obligation to keep students safe, but didn’t touch on their obligation to uphold free speech on campus.

“Every university has a responsibility — both a moral responsibility and a legal responsibility — to keep their students safe and free from discrimination,” Shapiro said. “I have reminded university presidents all across Pennsylvania of that legal and moral obligation.”

The governor said some universities have handled it “quite effectively,” such as the University of Pittsburgh. He didn’t mince words for Penn, however, saying “quite franky, the situation is getting out of control.”

The governor’s comments, during a press conference about investing in site development to attract major business expansion to the state, come after students at Penn grew the encampment beyond its original size, two weeks after first setting up tents.

The administration has placed six student organizers on mandatory leaves of absence. Students have passionately argued over the justifications for the protest and what the university should do about the encampment.

“By their own admission, the leaders at the University of Pennsylvania have made clear that those protesters, those who are living in the so-called encampments, are violating the rules of the university and, in some cases, the laws of the City of Philadelphia,” Shapiro said. “The university has tried to negotiate and discuss the matter with those protesters. That has proven to not be effective.

“Over the last 24 hours at the University of Pennsylvania the situation has gotten even more unstable and out of control,” he added. “More rules have been violated, more laws have been broken.”

The governor called those developments “unacceptable” and called on colleges across Pennsylvania to work with police departments to ensure students are safe.

“All students should feel safe when they’re on campus. All students have a legal right to feel safe on campus,” Shapiro said. “The University of Pennsylvania has an obligation to their safety. It is past time for the university to act, to address this, to disband the encampment, and to restore order and safety on campus.”

Penn has seen the longest-lasting encampment across the state. Pitt’s encampment lasted six days before disbandment and students organized a protest march. Other campuses have seen peaceful protests as well as vandalism of a Jewish fraternity house.