Tuesday, 17 March 2009

University management refuses to negotiate: Bombard Burnett!

At around 4pm this afternoon, the head of security in the Hicks building presented our occupation with a letter from university management announcing that, following our Student Union's condemnation of our action, management would not be conducting any negotiations or discussions with us. The basis of the SU's condemnation was that our action was disruptive to students' education, despite the fact that we have consistently said that we are happy for lectures to take place in our occupied space. Indeed, despite management's attempt to unilaterally relocate all lectures (at significant inconvenience to students), dialogue between the occupation and lecturers succeeded in allowing lectures to take place in their original scheduled locations.

Given university management's intransigence, we are asking all Sheffield students, workers and other supporters of the occupation to send the following model email to Vice Chancellor Keith Burnett at vc@sheffield.ac.uk. CC to email to Rowann Sharples, his personal secretary, at r.sharples@sheffield.ac.uk, and CC us in at sheffieldoccupation@googlemail.com.

Feel free to amend this text or add your own. You can also ring Rowann Sharples on (0114) 222 1006.

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Dear Professor Burnett -

We believe that your position of refusal to engage with the occupiers of the Hicks lecture theatres is entirely unreasonable. The occupation began as a response to your failure to respond to earlier correspondence well before the occupation took place; the onus was on you to continue negotiations and discussions in this manner, and your refusal to do so is what led the occupiers to conclude that direct action was the only option left to them.

Furthermore, the Student Union's statement of condemnation - upon which you base your refusal to negotiate - was predicated entirely on a falsehood. The occupiers have consistently express their willingness for lectures to take place in the occupied space, and indeed have taken it upon themselves to facilitate this despite University management's attempt to unilaterally relocate lectures. The vast majority of students and lecturers who have visited the occupied space have found it a welcoming, non-intimidating environment that would be in no way disruptive to learning and education.

An emergency meeting of the Student Union Executive Officers (which only reached its decision by a majority of 5-3) cannot possibly be held to be meaningfully representative of the wide layers of deeply felt student opinion around this issue. We call on you and other members of the University's senior management to immediately retract your position of refusal to negotiate with the occupiers and enter into open discussions with them.

Additionally we would like to condemn the heavy handed and overblown reaction by the management to the occupation with regard to threats received today in relation to legal action against participants.

Yours -

[INSERT YOUR NAME AND CONTACT DETAILS HERE]

14 comments:

  1. Stop being so bloody childish. I bet you're all arts students.

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  2. Ahhh. I love people like you. Similar comments like 'grow up' and 'you're self important' were posted on our occupation's blog...

    How about you shy away from insults and start finding a way to be an adult yourself; namely refraining from insults and putting your argument forward politely and intellectually.

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  3. Anonymous - why don't you have the courage of your convictions and use your name? I guess you're one of those business studies students with no bank to go to anymore. Do something useful with your life and stop being a cynic.

    Gary

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  4. Tom Butterworth17 March 2009 at 18:53

    Happy now? FYI I'm not a business studies student and I do something useful with my life.

    You also seem to be posting anonymously. I took an interest in this occupation as it seems like it is for a worthy cause, however after learning more about it and the people involved I can see that it is actually just a self indulgent, attention seeking mission which frankly, after the way you have handled the situation will not earn you any respect and will not acheive any of the goals you are aiming for.

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  5. So lets go for some unchildich criticism.

    You guys occupied lecture theatres and demand that Sheffield University donates old books, enters academic partnerships and so on. Maybe occupying lecture theatres is not the best way to get the uni management to listen to you. Maybe they will mainly be very annoyed and eventually get you thrown out of the LTs.

    What you do is get some publicity on your cause at the extend of annoying quite a big number of students and lecturers. No thanks for that.

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  6. "Maybe occupying lecture theatres is not the best way to get the uni management to listen to you."

    It worked for us, and it worked for a great many of the other 30+ student occupations.

    "Stop being so bloody childish. I bet you're all arts students."

    It is far more childish to make sweeping generalisations whilst sitting on your arse doing absolutely nothing. If the university management allowed lectures to continue like the students have asked what's "childish" about opening up a space on campus for free exchange of ideas? What's "childish" about observing injustice and doing all you can to ensure your institution does everything in its power to provide humanitarian aid?

    It'll be very embarrassing for the university if this occupation isn't handled amicably, and therein lies the power of the occupying students.

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  7. From an earlier post:

    "We have taken this action because we believe our university should be run democratically from below by students and staff,...."

    From this post:

    "An emergency meeting of the Student Union Executive Officers (which only reached its decision by a majority of 5-3) cannot possibly be held to be meaningfully representative....."

    Are those democratically elected Student Union Executive Officers by any chance? Who held a democratic vote on your actions? Which was - however marginally - decided to be unsupportive?

    Makes you think doesn't it?

    Instead of forcing/blackmailing a University to become politically aligned, why not take the issue to the (democratically elected) government, and let the rest of the student population go about their education without disruption and without having your views forced on them.

    That is if you're being democratic, of course.

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  8. Ha well you're obviously not a student, and if you are you have had your head in the sand a long time and I pity you!

    At our university, the idea of democratically elected Union members are those who've done RAG week and Fresher's the most times, got the most drunk, slept with the most people, and thus have the most votes. Campaigns this year included giving free burgers out to blackmail for votes, and one candidate even carried a dog, yes, a dog, round campus every day 9-5 and asked students to vote for them in return for a stroke of the dog. These people - although democratically elected - are the epitome of the tyranny of the un-intellectual, a-political, apathetic and generally uncaring (apart from when it's their own back they have to watch) student majority that we sadly see nowadays.

    For all of us in occupations around the country there has been no other alternative. Again at our uni you cannot flyer (unless it's the union doing it to promote their nights), you cannot put up posters without signatures from the uni that you're not going to get for reasons I stated above, we couldn't have a raise awareness stall for being seen as political - even if we were raising awareness of the humanitarian and ethical issues only, we cannot become a society as the union won't touch anyone political unless it's libdem labour or tory (again applies to ethical/humanitarian stance as stated above), and thus we cannot book rooms for meetings or events as you need society status to do this.

    And so is the situation in UK unis today. The right of free speech severly restricted, and a technically 'democratic' process to power that only serves to boost the cvs of the elected but watches unions and uni culture slowly fail more and more as these people (sorry I have been too general here...MOST people) don't actually give a damn other than to have a bit of power. Those who voted against in the Union probably don't even know where Gaza is!

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  9. Re: For all of us in occupations around the country there has been no other alternative

    You could have chosen not to break the law and occupy a building illegally?

    Universities are places of learning, not political institutions and blackmailing people if quite frankly pathetic

    Occupying a building in protest at an occupation - well, irony sure isn't lost on you.

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  10. re: the second to last comment ... So what you're really saying is that whilst there are "democratically elected" Union officers, the reality within the general population is something more along the lines of an anarcho-syndicalist commune where people take turns to act as a sort of executive officer for the week?

    Not sure what this has to do with occupying buildings, but I can see where you're coming from

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  11. Solidarity brothers, only by standing shoulder to shoulder can we defeat the zionist oppressors. yours Than Shwe

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  12. "It'll be very embarrassing for the university if this occupation isn't handled amicably, and therein lies the power of the occupying students."

    What a load of arse. What the University will do is bring an injunction against you, then suspend the lot of you. Any requests for information by the press will be silenced by a confidentiality statement as it is a legal/disciplinary issue. Your local rags might push for a day or so, but it'll be dead and forgotten within days. And you'll all be expelled.

    Seriosuly, you're at University, a place for freedom of speech and discussion of intellectual ideas. Occupation is so 1980s. How about using your imagination? Do something different, something that the University authorities won't already have policies and procedures in place to tackle. Do something that will have the administration shitting themselves behind the scenes. Not something that they can deal with so easily, and have embarrassed you with their succinct and swift response to you.

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  13. "At our university, the idea of democratically elected Union members are those who've done RAG week and Fresher's the most times, got the most drunk, slept with the most people, and thus have the most votes. Blah blah blah blah blah blah..."

    Jealous somewhat?

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  14. I'm assuming those comments about student elections and flyering aren't about Sheffield uni? Becuase I've seen plenty of flyering (and eventual litter) about stuff other than nights out.

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