June 12, 2024

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From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Pro-Palestine protesters disrupt UO investiture ceremony

4 min read
Pro-Palestine protesters disrupted the investiture of the University of Oregon's 19th president, shouting "Shame" and chanting for divestment. Student protests have erupted nationwide to demand that universities withdraw funds from companies associated with the genocide in Gaza.

Pro-Palestine protesters disrupted the investiture ceremony for the University’s 19th president, John Karl Scholz. They shouted the word “Shame” and chanted for divestment, asking the University to withdraw funds from companies associated with genocide in Gaza. The protest began just as the formal ceremony was shifting to the new president. On May 30:

[00:00:25] Steve Holwerda (UO Board of Trustees, chair): Hi, I’m Steve Holwerda. I serve as the chair of the Board of Trustees for the University of Oregon. And we’ve had the pleasure of having Karl as our president on campus now since last July 1.

[00:00:37] But I want you to take you back. It was March 2023. And four University of Oregon trustees flew to the Midwest to interview the four finalists in our search to be the next leader of the University of Oregon. It was not lost on us that this would be the most important decision we would make since the hiring of Mike Schill in 2015. We needed the right person, someone to continue our academic and research momentum and to build on the University of Oregon brand.

[00:01:12] So there we sat in a cramped, dated conference room at a O’Hare Airport hotel. And in walked Karl Scholz. He smiled with his sincere Midwestern ‘Aw, shucks’ charm. He said hello and we talked. We asked questions, he asked questions and we listened and he listened and we dreamed for more than two hours about the future of the Ducks.

[00:01:47] When he left, we knew we had found the 19th president for the University of Oregon. Why were we so confident? What was it about Karl? There were three things I want to share with you.

[00:02:00] The first two are pretty objective facts. He’s done it before. He has proven experience and leadership at a top-20 university. He was the dean of the College of Letters and Science at Wisconsin for six years before being provost for the next four. You may not know this, but the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin is nearly the size of the University of Oregon.

[00:02:24] Second: He had a vision for our university to build on our strengths, to improve our weaknesses, and focus our resources to enhance the academic experience of our students. And you will hear his vision today.

[00:02:42] But it’s the third quality that’s the most important. Having ideas is one thing, executing them is something else. Karl is authentic. What you see is what you get. He walks the walk. There are no hidden agendas. There’s no guessing games. He is a straight shooter who is as reliable as the day is long. This quality earns him trust quickly from others, and they want to follow his lead and work with him to execute his plan.

[00:03:15] Karl’s authentic emotional intelligence makes him the leader who will pull the students, the faculty, alumni, and friends of the University of Oregon forward together for the next decade.

[00:03:29] It is my privilege, personally, and as the chair on behalf of the Board of Trustees, speaking and acting for them and by the authority vested in me, to transfer to you, formally, the responsibilities, authority, and obligations of the leadership of this very fine institution, an institution steeped in tradition and accomplishments of its past and now looking forward to a more compelling and illustrious future.

[00:04:06] It is my pleasure at this time to present for you the official symbols of leadership, the president’s medallion and the University mace.

[00:04:23] Pro-Palestine protesters: Shame on you Karl Scholz. Over 40,000 people dead, subsidized by UO funds and … Shame on you! Shame! (chanting) Karl Scholz, you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide!

[00:05:03] Steve Holwerda: I’m going to ask a favor of you. I’m going to ask a favor of you with respect to your freedom of speech. We respect your right to speak. We don’t respect your right to take freedoms from others.

[00:05:21] Pro-Palestine protesters Shame! Divest! (chanting) We will not stop, we will not rest, disclose, divest!

[00:06:19] Gerard Sandoval: Can I please have your attention. Can I please have your attention. My name is Gerard Sandoval. I’m the marshal here. I’d like to say a few remarks. I know you want your voices to be heard passionately. And I know you believe in your cause. But investitures are rare ceremonies celebrating a transition to a new beginning. They are valued special events for the University of Oregon. Please show regard for everyone who has come to share in this unique experience.

[00:06:54] Please let me have your attention. Individuals who engage in inappropriate or disruptive behavior will be removed from the event, because this is not the appropriate time or the space for dialogue. I will personally speak with you afterwards, outside if you would like to have your demands heard.

[00:07:19] That’s a commitment that I would personally do if you disengage on your protest. So please let this unique ceremony move forward. That’s your warning.

[00:07:39] (Pro-Palestine protesters: Shame! Divest! (chanting) We will not stop, we will not rest, disclose, divest!

[00:08:38] Gerard Sandoval: Okay, we will be taking a brief pause and moving the remainder of the ceremony to an online mode to allow the event to continue. Audience members are welcome to retain their seats and a livestream will begin in 15 minutes.

[00:08:54] Pro-Palestine protesters: (chanting) We will not stop, we will not rest, disclose, divest!

[00:09:03] John Q: After that brief pause, the ceremony continued without incident.

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