Thursday, 26 March 2009

The decision to end the occupation

The occupation of the exhibition space of the new Jessop building ended when the occupiers came out to a lively rally in support of the people of Gaza and the student occupation. The decision to end the occupation was taken by the occupiers collectively after talks started between the university and various student groups such as Palestine society of which many members have been a part of the occupation.

These talks revealed that movement will be made on some of the demands. The University has offered to support the transportation costs of charitable donations to Gaza. It has also issued a statement concerning the recent conflict in Gaza that can be found here: The University further promised to review their scholarship programme, consider an academic partnership with the Islamic University of Gaza and publicise the DEC appeal in some format. Details of these commitments are unclear and in light of this the occupiers have agreed that if the University goes back on the commitments it has made or does not adequately pursue them more action will be taken.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

This Mornings 'Roundtable' Discussions

Today a group of students representing the Islamic circle, Palestine Society and the Black Students Committee meet with pro-vice chancellor Paul White in the student’s union. The meeting was held after students from Sheffield University have occupied university buildings for more than a week. The fact that the Occupiers were not represented is very unfortunate, and furthermore, undermines the strength of the movement for an acceptable university policy on Palestine. It is clear that these talks would not have taken place were it not for the occupation, given that the university ignored our previous requests for a meeting and that demands have not been met at any university where an occupation has not taken place.

The fact that the occupation was not represented also meant that demands could not be discussed in the context of an ongoing occupation, and that the bargaining chip was effectively taken off the table. The so called “roundtable discussions” were an opportunity for the university to show itself in a good light, seemingly willing to discuss issues that they blankly ignored a week ago.

The pro vice chancellor did, on behalf of the university promise to bring the concerns raised in the discussion back to the Vice chancellor and open up for talks on several of the demands. He promised to make the case to the VC that the university should align itself with the already existing Union policy on Palestine, and state that the university deplores any aggression against educational institutions. The issue of scholarships will also be raised together with the possibility of the university funding the transport cost of sending equipment such as old books and computer to the occupied territories.
The University is currently entering into a program of corporate social responsibility, and the group responsible for this is having their first meeting tomorrow. Paul White stated that he would try to get the issue of the university twinning with the Islamic University of Gaza on the Agenda.

Due to pro-vice chancellor White’s lack of knowledge around the issue of the arms trade this particular demand could not be addressed properly. However he was notified of the fact that the groups in the meeting could not accept his grounds for not making political statements, when taking the decision to work with arms companies is of a highly political nature.

The Occupiers would like to make it clear that we welcome the commitments to address the issues we have raised. However, if the promises made are empty more direct action will be taken.

The University continues to disrupt education

Following the University's decision to negotiate with some students (although not the occupiers) about the demands, the decision was taken yesterday to end the occupation of the two lecture theatres in the Hicks Building. The occupation of the Jessop West Exhibition Space continues, with those inside well aware that these negotiations are only taking place because of their dedication and willingness to force the University to talk to its students.

At around 2.30pm the Hick's building was vacated, and every effort was made by the departing occupiers to leave the space as it was found. Everything brought into the building by the occupiers was removed, and both lecture theatres were cleaned and hoovered. Nonetheless, The University continues to portray this occupation as disrupting education, even after it has ended. No lectures or seminars are taking place in lecture theatres 5 and 6 today, and they remain closed. A member of the academic staff at the University, due to teach in the previously occupied space this morning was not permitted to do so even though they could clearly see that the rooms were fit for purpose.

Throughout the occupation University managaement has accused the occupiers of disrupting education. This is quite clearly not the case.

A rally is being held today in support of the occupation's demands and all are thoroughly welcome to join us in urging the University to bring the negotiations to a satisfying conclusion.


With the University still refusing to negotiate with the occupiers, and coming down heavier on them every minute (police were called last night but found we were commiting no criminal offence), we shall be holding a rally in support of the demands, and urging the university to negotiate and act fairly. This will start on the Union concourse at 3pm and make its way to the occupied Jessops West Exhibition Centre where a set of speakers will speak.

Please come and show your support.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Press Release: Occupation Spreads to Jessop West!!!

The following press release was sent out tonight by the occupiers in Jessop West, remember to send solidarity and feel free to visit us in the exhibition centre at any time:

23rd March 2009

Sheffield University Occupiers: Occupation Spreads to Jessop West!

The Occupiers in the University of Sheffield have occupied a new space within the University, namely the exhibition centre in Jessop West, a brand new, flagship building for the university. As the time of press, the original occupation in the Hicks building continues throughout the night. Our reasons for expanding the occupation are as follows:

- Threats from the University management to evict students and workers from the original space.
- A complete lockdown was instigated, denying free movement for Occupiers and supporters.
- To increase pressure on University management after they went back on a promise to negotiate with the Occupiers.
- Throughout the occupation, the management had accused the Occupiers of disrupting students’ education, and as a result, those involved have occupied a new space in which no lectures and seminars take place. This serves to demonstrate our continuing commitment to not disrupting students’ education.

Furthermore, we feel an important point about the new space we have occupied has to be made. Our demands include a call for the university to donate resources to Gazan educational institutions, and to fund scholarships for Palestinian students, who are some of the poorest in the world, and whose universities have been devastated by the recent Israeli onslaught. We feel fulfilling these demands would be a much better use of resources - which include students’ fees - than the £21 million development that is the new Jessop complex. As previously mentioned, the development contains little or no teaching space, and as such is of little use to University of Sheffield students and/or teaching staff.

This move marks over a week in occupation where our numbers have risen to as high as 100 people. Today, on the seventh day of the occupation, meetings attracted over 50 people in spite of the fact that the building was on full lockdown.

Whilst university management continue to exclude the Occupiers from negotiations, relationships with university staff remain friendly, and the occupation remains peaceful, strong and positive. Messages of support and solidarity continue to pour in from fellow occupiers around the country, fellow students, Members of Parliament, other activist groups from inside and outside the university, and university staff and lecturers. The occupation has hosted a range of events and will continue to do so - discussions, guest lectures, talks and film showings - which all supporters are welcome to attend.

The Palestine Society, the University of Sheffield Islamic Circle, the Black Students Committee and the Jewish Society have all been invited to take part in the proposed negotiations with the University management - all of whom oppose the University’s decision to exclude the Occupiers from the negotiation process. As the demands were not drawn up by any of these groups, and they have no means of putting pressure on the university other than via the occupation, we see little chance of progress being made on this issue until members of the occupation are invited to participate in these talks.

Our demands remain thus:

As student activists and members of the University of Sheffield community, we call on the university to:

1) Issue a statement condemning the disproportionate actions of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people.
2) Create a special programme of five Palestinian scholarships and waive all fees for current students from the occupied territories.
3) Enter into an academic partnership with the University of Gaza.
4) Donate old books, computers and other relevant equipment to the University of Gaza, and pay for the transport of these materials.
5) Publicise the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal on Sheffield University notice boards, website and via email.
6) Initiate a programme in partnership with students of divestment and ending links with the arms trade.
7) Allow those studying medicine to carry out their electives in the occupied territories of Palestine.
8) Commemorate the United Nations Palestine Solidarity Day on November 29th.
9) Echo the Occupation's statement of support with Israeli students who have been imprisoned for refusing to serve in the IDF.

We have taken this action because we believe our university should be run democratically from below by students and staff, and not in the interests of corporate profiteering. Because of this belief, we express our solidarity with university workers and demand:

10)That they face no cuts in jobs, wages or conditions.

We further demand

11) That participants in, or supporters of, the occupation face no repercussions.

We will continue our occupation until our demands are met, or meaningful negotiations on our demands begin.

Yours -
The Sheffield Occupiers.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Bombard Burnett... again!

We are asking our supporters to send the following model email (or an adapted version of it) to Vice Chancellor Keith Burnett at to put some pressure on him to open up negotiations with us! Copy your emails to us at, and to Burnett's secretary at


Professor Burnett -

I understand that, despite a verbal agreement from yourself, negotiations involving the student occupiers and other interested parties are yet to take place. I further understand that the proposed negotiation process, if it takes place at all, will take place without input from the occupiers.

I believe that a negotiation process centrally involving the occupiers (as well as other relevant organisations such as the Palestine Society) is in the interests of all involved, as it is clearly the only way to move the situation forward towards a satisfactory conclusion.

I therefore call on you to listen to the increasing student pressure (on campus and elsewhere) for negotiations around the campaign demands.


Part 2 - the awkward sequel

Following University management's attempts to secure an eviction order against the occupation of the Hicks Building Lecture Theatres the occupying collective elected to relocate to the University's nice, shiny exhibition space in Jessops West. The demands of the occupying collective remain the same, as does their commitment to negotiate a de-escalation of the action with University management and their determination to see such a positive resolution. The VC has as of yet not fulfilled his commitment to meet with interested parties (The Palestine Society, Islamic Circle, Union Officers and Jewish Society) to discuss constructive ways of implementing the occupying collectives demands. We are dismayed that the VC appears flagging on his prior commitments on this issue. Similarly we are disapointed by the effective exclusion of the occupation from this process given the VC's verbal commitment for inclusion in this process which his staff have subsequently reversed.
The planned events for this afternoon and evening have continued with a 4:30 talk on "Palestine Past and Present" and an expected film showing. We endeavour to keep a friendly and respectful relationship with University staff.