Thursday, 19 February 2009

NYU and UWE occupations! And a couple of other things...

We were all super excited to hear today that New York University has become the second university stateside (after Rochester got all their demands met within a day) to go into occupation with students barricading themselves inside a dining hall. The occupation was initiated by the Take Back NYU! coalition and along with demands for 13 scholarships for Palestinian students and the donation of surplus resources, incorporates broader demands designed to increase democracy, accountability and
student participation in the governance of the university. They

"We apologize for inconveniencing the loyal lunchgoers of the Kimmel Marketplace, but we are not sorry for causing a disruption! Established channels have been insufficient to make our voices heard by the administration, and we have waited too long to be taken seriously. By disrupting the University’s functioning now, we are forcing the administration to deal with those people it depends upon the most—we, the students!"

We really hope that this will be the inspiration and the precedent for a new wave of similar student actions across the atlantic, and wish them serious success.

It seems that the initiative to take action via occupations is also spreading to other demands and issues, as Byam Shaw People's University in central London went into occupation yesterday over recent structural changes and managerial decisions that have seen the institution stripped of its independence, courses scrapped and staff made redundant. A couple of weeks ago workers at Waterford Crystal took over the running of their factory as the management tried to covertly close the plant down on a weekend. We welcome this resurgence in student and worker self-organised action, and with the NUS along with other national unions and the government still ignoring the needs and demands of those they claim to represent to pursue their own agendas we're expecting more to come...

Also back on these shores the University of Western England has become the latest to go into occupation in solidarity with Gaza showing that just because the atrocities are no longer making the evening headlines doesn't mean that we're not watching! They say:

This is following the recent atrocities that have and continue to take place in the Gaza Strip & occupation of the West Bank. We as students ourselves wish to offer our unity and support to our fellow students in the region during these hard times. We have proposed a set of demands of the University including scholarships for Palestinian students, a boycotting of Israeli goods, support for fundraising for DEC, and a condemnation of Israeli Actions in the region.

Good luck and solidarity guys.

Responses are slowly starting to drift in from all the letter writing done during the occupation. Today we received back a letter and what can only be described as a reading pack from our local MP David Lepper. He says he is a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, however, he says he cannot sign the Early Day Motion in parliament which expresses support for the student occupations because he does not know what the 'aims of the recent occupation at Sussex were'. We would have thought that perhaps as an MP he would be aware of the national wave of occupations and of other such popular actions in his constituency, but we will nonetheless be writing back to inform him! A response was also received last week from the BBC who perplexingly cited not "compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality" in covering stories "where issues of responsibility for civilian suffering and distress are intrinsic to the story and remain highly contentious" and "a fragile ceasefire and sporadic border access" as justification for their refusal to broadcast the DEC humanitarian aid appeal. We were assured that "In the meantime your complaint has been registered on our audience log."

The minutes from yesterday's meeting can be found in the occupation gmail account. Tomorrow there will be a meeting of the Boycott and Divestment working group at 12pm (meet Falmer Common Room) - they have had lots of success in their research and will be planning the next steps. Next week's organisational meeting will take place on Tuesday at 6:00pm so as not to clash with the Free Education demo in London. Please come down and get involved! Meet in Falmer Common Room.