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Sacramento State's unique approach helps bring peaceful end to campus protest

How one college ended campus protests with talks
How one college says it ended campus Gaza protests with dialogue 02:56

Sacramento, California — Earlier this week, Sacramento State University President Luke Wood oversaw a peaceful end to a campus protest over the Israel-Hamas war, one of the many that have taken place at universities nationwide in recent weeks.

Sacramento State's encampment came down, not with violence, but with dialogue.

"We want to take the time to thank Luke Wood for not following suit after other administrations, and not calling Sacramento police," one student said in a news conference Wednesday.

"That's what a lot of students are really looking for, is to take a moral stance about what is taking place in the world," Wood told CBS News.

The 42-year-old Wood, who says he tries to lead with empathy, grew up in foster care, suffered bouts of hunger and homelessness, and received his degrees at the school he now oversees.

"I did 92 listening sessions, 75 minutes each, with over 1,500 of our students, faculty, staff," Wood said. 

The pro-Palestinian encampment on the school's library quad began on April 29.

"I got to first tell you how I feel as a person, as an individual, and really as a Black man, I get a heightened level of anxiety," Wood said. "When people are in fear, they respond in a protected mechanism, which doesn't always lead to the best outcomes."

Sacramento State University's president speaks on peaceful end to campus protest (full interview) 43:30

The protest ended Wednesday, as the university shared a new policy in which it "directs its investigate socially responsible investment strategies which include not having direct investments in corporations and funds that profit from genocide, ethnic cleansing, and activities that violate fundamental human rights."

Wood reiterated to CBS News that "we're not investing in students' future by engaging in relationships with companies that profit from war."

While he is concerned about the possibility of losing support from some donors and state lawmakers, Wood is confident in his decision to support the new policy.

"I very much care what our donors think," Wood said. "I very much care what our legislators think. But ultimately, my responsibility is for the health, the safety, and the learning and development of this campus."

Political science major Sarah Bukhari, who was inside the encampment, said she not only raised her voice, but also found her voice.

"I do feel heard," Bukhari said. "I'm not going to lie to you. I cried a couple times. I'm 29, and my whole life, no one's asked me what I thought about the U.S.-Arab relations."

That is exactly the sentiment that Wood hopes to foster. 

"The message here is to create an environment where people can engage in honest and open dialog, without being vilified or canceled," Wood said. 

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