Sheffield University Occupiers: Occupation Spreads to Jessop West!

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

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.

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