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.