We are glad that we were able to come to a mutual agreement with the university management that will ensure practical support for the people of Palestine. We have experienced significant pressure from management from the outset, culminating in their withdrawal from negotiations at 9 am this morning after our proposed minor clarifications to the final agreement - intended to ensure full commitment to the support of the Palestinian cause - were rejected. After close consideration, we have decided to accept the management’s assurances that these resolutions will be carried out in the full spirit of our occupation and its causes, and we look forward to working in partnership with university management in their implementation.
We are hugely grateful for all of the support that we have received from the wider university community. The 1293 signatures in support of our demands, as well as the countless inspiring personal messages, e-mails, phone calls and donations that we received over the course of the week showed to us the strength of common feeling over this matter. We also give huge thanks to the university security staff, who have been tremendously considerate and supportive throughout, and we are proud to have them as part of our university.
We are proud to be part of a growing national movement. Students across the country are reasserting their politcal strength, through peaceful and direct action. We are confident that in reclaiming our universities we are reviving the role of educational institutions in effecting
local and international social change.
As this movement has developed a genuine community has been created, of people from disparate groups, both political and social, united by a common cause. This is only the start. We will see this through and continue our campaign for the liberation of the Palestinian people.
The Sussex Occupation.
A protest and sit-in in the Asa Briggs lecture theatre ended peacefully last night (Tuesday 27 January), when the students involved agreed to a final statement which the University had presented earlier in the week in response to their original demands.
In common with other leading UK universities, a number of students at Sussex had been protesting at the events taking place in Gaza, staging a peaceful sit-in on campus in the Asa Briggs lecture theatre (formerly A2), since Tuesday 20 January.
The University entered into immediate discussions with the students, seeking to bring about a speedy resolution, in the interests of the whole University community. The conduct of the students had been peaceful and orderly and they had indicated their intention not to disrupt teaching within A2. However, their continued presence in the lecture theatre over a long period of time was proving to be increasingly problematic for lecturers and other students and complaints had been received from both students and staff.
The University made clear throughout that the situation in Gaza is something of international concern and that all universities will be saddened by the fact that civilian casualties have occurred in educational establishments. The University of Sussex also made clear it concurred with the call made by the President of Universities UK, Professor Rick Trainor, for an end to conflict in and beyond Gaza.
A full and detailed statement had been developed by the University in discussion with the students, in response to the six demands which the students presented. That statement –which is set out below in full – represents a positive response by the University to all the points made by the students, in particular through:
· confirming its ethical investment policy and reviewing its operation;
· seeking to create new scholarships for students from all areas affected by conflict or catastrophe, including Palestine;
· working with the students' union (USSU) and other UK HEIs to pass surplus educational materials to universities in Palestine.
Detailed discussion involving USSU on how these are to be taken forward will follow, now that the action has ended.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, has also said that the University, working with the students’ union, will now wish to look at these events and review how such matters are handled , so that the University can learn lessons from what has happened, in the interests of the whole Sussex community.
28 January 2009
STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX
The Occupation Group of students and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Michael Farthing, are pleased to announce that the occupation of Lecture Theatre A2 in protest at Israeli military action in Gaza and in solidarity with the Palestinian people, ended at 23.00 hours on Tuesday 27 January, by mutual consent.
Professor Michael Farthing, has said of the crisis in Gaza that he fully understands the concerns felt by many students and by many others around the world about the events of recent weeks. The University concurs with Professor Trainor, President of Universities UK who speaks for the sector as a whole in calling for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza. As he has said, many civilian casualties have occurred in educational establishments. We give unqualified support to his statement which says that: “the UK’s universities are resolutely committed to the right of education, enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Higher education, in particular, is a global activity and we value our academic links with universities all over the world. The international nature of higher education means it is force for understanding, tolerance and respect between people.”
Professor Farthing has said the University will stand by internationally agreed conventions on conflict and human rights, in particular the United Nations Agreements on Human Rights ( http://www.un.org/rights/). Accordingly, we condemn attacks on civilians, any obstruction of provision of humanitarian aid and the targeting of public buildings and facilities like universities, hospitals and schools, wherever such attacks take place in the world. The Vice-Chancellor noted the United Nations Secretary General’s call for an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, and a just, lasting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours. He further noted the UN Secretary General’s demand that where civilians have been killed and there are allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, there should be thorough investigations, full explanations and, where it is required, accountability.
The Vice-Chancellor also made clear that the University has a duty of care to all students at Sussex and will continue to work even-handedly and without favour to foster and preserve harmonious relations across the international community of students and scholars studying at Sussex..
The group’s concerns and representations were made in its Press Release: Sussex Students for a Free Palestine. Agreement on the following issues raised by the students was reached.
The University is not aware of any investment or research directly or indirectly connecting Sussex to companies that are allegedly complicit in human rights abuses in Gaza or anywhere else.
The University will however review its ethical investment policy that aims to ensure the University only engages in making socially responsible investments. It will establish a working party of Strategy and Resources Committee to undertake this review. The working party will include the student representative on SRC. The working party will be pleased to receive any data or evidence that shows that the policy is knowingly or unknowingly being breached. Any such breach identified by the working party will result in divestment and cessation of the activity.
Sanctions against Israeli goods and products sold on campus
The University is not aware of a call for or agreement by the UN for economic sanctions against Israel. The University would wish to work with USSU to ensure that produce sold on campus indicates clearly its source or provenance so that members of the community can make an informed choice prior to purchase. The University notes that its catering and retail strategy already makes clear that it is the University’s practice to source food and other produce from local farmers and suppliers wherever possible.
Scholarships for Palestinian students
The University will undertake to work with USSU to establish an international scholarship scheme that extends opportunities available for students from regions affected by conflict or catastrophe. The University would seek to develop a scheme that has, as a minimum, six scholarships targeted at such regions in the world. The University will hold discussions with the Director of Development and Alumni relations and the President of the Students’ Union about how alumni and other possible sources of scholarship funding might be approached to establish the scheme.
Meanwhile, the University will review its promotion of the international scholarships that it has currently available in order to increase the number of applications from Palestine and other regions suffering conflict or catastrophe.
Support for Palestinian universities
The University will work with USSU and assist in efforts being made by other UK universities to dispose of or re-cycle surplus books, computers and other learning materials for the benefit of deserving institutions in Palestine currently affected by the conflict, meeting any reasonable shipping costs if necessary. We agree to explore the practicalities of getting this underway; particularly in ensuring that such stock is wanted, functional and in the case of IT, can be supported by the host institution.
The University acknowledges the constructive approach adopted during the protest and in particular the students’ commitment not to disrupt teaching, to preserve the quality of the teaching environment , and to respect the views of other members of the community. The University reaffirms that protest that is lawful and not in breach of the University’s Regulations will not result in action being taken against any student or students involved.
The University and USSU will consider the practical steps needed and associated timetable for implementation of the action agreed above.
27 January 2009