Hicks Building Occupation Watch

pinkpont
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Evening all,

Got this email today:

Further to our meeting today I am writing to confirm that the lines of
communication remain open both with the Union of Students and other
representative groups of students in relation to all important issues of
concern, including events in Gaza. I apologise if a failure to respond
immediately to recent correspondence has led to any impression that this
is not the case.

As I believe you are all aware, on 17th February I received a letter
from the Union Women’s Officer Fiona Edwards who was writing on behalf
of a group Sheffield Students Against Israel’s Attack on Gaza, in
relation to a series of areas where the group asked for a formal
response to their demands from the University.

I responded at some length to this letter by agreeing that recent
developments in and around Gaza had given us all cause for serious
concern, but that the University had not felt it appropriate to take a
position on issues beyond those which are the prime cause of the
university's existence, namely education. However, I welcomed the Union
of Students' engagement in discussion and debate on wider issues and
believed the wider university community would endorse the official
policy of the Union of Students agreed by referendum in the Union in
March 2004 and again in March 2007 in condemning acts of terrorism and
aggression on all sides, and that we would support the implementation of
UN Security Council Resolution 242 (as all UN resolutions).

I noted the University has a substantial record in welcoming students
from the Palestinian Authority, as it also has of providing financial
support for students from particular troubled areas of the world and
confirmed that the University of Sheffield is more than willing to enter
into any discussions with universities in other parts of the world over
possible collaborative and partnership arrangements. Were an approach to
be received from the University of Gaza it would be given serious
consideration through the appropriate channels.

On specific requests to donate learning materials, I explained that our
expectation as a University is that all staff, students and departments
should have the freedom to pursue their own charitable and political
interests within the law, and that all concerned are responsible enough
to do so without a particular central steer from the university's
Executive Board. Thus we certainly encourage individuals or departments
to donate items to educational, charitable or other organisations.

I also confirmed my understanding that posters publicising the Disasters
Emergency Committee appeal had been displayed in a number of places
around the university. Students (such as those in Medicine) on
placements were also free to take these up wherever conditions for their
educational development are suitable, within circumstances where
personal safety (normally shown through a risk analysis) is not
compromised.

Finally, I said that I was happy for the Union of Students to decide
whether it will continue to observe the United Nations Palestine
Solidarity Day each year.

As Fiona’s email also covered issues related to arms manufacturers, I
asked that a meeting be scheduled to discuss these concerns with the
Director of Finance and the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for External Affairs,
Dominic Shellard. I understand this meeting has already taken place.

Following this letter, I received a further letter from Fiona Edwards on
behalf of Sheffield Students Against Israel’s Attack on Gaza but had not
yet responded to this. I regret that this may have been interpreted as a
withdrawal of communication but, as I have outlined above, both I and my
colleagues have spent some considerable time addressing issues raised
both in writing and in person over the past weeks. Having said that, I
still do not in any way condone the occupation of the Hicks Building
Lecture Theatres by a group of protesters. While I am always open to
talk to representative groups of students on important issues – and
indeed believe that it is a key role of universities to provide a safe
and open space for dialogue and the challenging of ideas by students of
all backgrounds – the Union Executive has itself made it clear that it
condemns the occupation and regrets its impact on teaching and learning.
For this reason, we have called on the occupiers to leave the building
and are taking legal action to enforce this.

I hope this letter will demonstrate my genuine desire to discuss issues
with students and representative groups, while not in any way supporting
an occupation of our teaching and learning space which is distressing to
some students, and causes inconvenience to many.

Yours sincerely,



Professor Keith Burnett
Vice-Chancellor

Anyone know what else is going on? I for one completely disagree with the protesters trying to force the University to take a political stance on such issues. The University is an institution of education and shouldn't be biased on such issues. I'm all for structured debate on the matter, but when it starts impacting on people's educations, I think that crosses the line of decency. Thoughts?
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mollymustard
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I agree with this, I actually find the whole thing quite amusing.
They shouldn't be punishing the education of students - we have done nothing wrong. Lots of people are having difficulty as lectures have been interupted etc and it seems like its gone too far.
Although I agree its only natural for Students to get involved with political issues, it shouldnt get in the way of other people trying to learn.

I am also very resentful that I keep getting texts from a random number updating me on the matter, as I have absolutely NO idea how they have got hold of it (I'm not one to give out my personal numbers willy-nilly).
Hmmmmmm.
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Student2806
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I'm not from Sheffield, but we had a similar thing at Glasgow Uni (I assumed from the thread title this would have something to do with Israel :tongue:
Basically, the protesters took over most of a building and demanded utterly insane things from the university (one of them was "boycott Israeli academics"). I'm not understating this - there was uproar around the university.

What really riles me is the Principal agreed to meet and talk with them BEFORE the protest began :rolleyes:

As far as I'm concerned, universities should not get involved in political matters - they're educational institutions not political bodies.
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S
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I'm actually good friends with a few of the occupiers but I won't let that influence my opinion:

- Overall, I agree with most of the demands. With the exception of demand 1 and 2, the rest are definitely attainable. Other unis have been successful in meeting similar demands such as entering into an academic partnership with the University of Gaza.

- As for demand 1 (Issue a statement condemning the disproportionate actions of the Israeli state against the Palestinian people.), I think this is too much to ask.

(Original post by Student2806)
As far as I'm concerned, universities should not get involved in political matters - they're educational institutions not political bodies.
- The University has a right to remain politically neutral and should not be forced into aligning itself with the views of certain groups. Universities' priority should be education. It is important to consider other stakeholders but it's impossible to please everyone.

- There has been criticism that the occupiers are abusing their platform by using this protest to divert attention towards a wider set of issues, not directly linked to Gaza. However, whilst some are completely unrelated (university workers' pay), other issues being raised are very relevant to the conflict (ending links with the arms trade, campaign for nuclear disarment). It's sensible to look at the bigger picture.

- I think it's completely crazy to suggest that this occupation has not disrupted education, it blatently has. Some students have had their seminars/lectures cancelled, and I found out that one of my lectures has been moved all the way to Bartolome House! This is definitely an inconvenience because it means I need to adjust my schedule slightly (to account for the extra walking time).

- In general I don't agree with the method of protest but maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps direct action like this is the only way to re-open negotiations with management. One thing's for sure though, everyone is talking about the occupation (and Gaza), the level of awareness has definitely been raised.
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pinkpont
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Thanks for your views so far everyone, but here's another point: don't you think that they're a little late to jump on the Gaza bandwagon? Most of the other University occupations happened during or immediately after Israeli invasion, surely they're undermining their own impact by leaving it so late?
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brak3n
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My level of awareness has indeed risen.
I am now aware that I am far less inclined to be sympathetic towards their cause.

Because I'm not keenly interested in the issue I haven't read that mammoth email, and haven't actually come across any other information about. All I know if they are disturbing lectures for something about Gaza. I think only the people who already agree with what they're promoting will actually pay attention, all others will be irritated and inconvenienced.
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toddlers crossword
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I think it is ridiculous, and also quite ironic - protesting an illegal occupation by illegally occupying a building.
Its also stupid that the Vice Chancellor had actually responded to their 'demands' and this is all because he was a little slow responding to another letter!
I've heard they've now been forcibly removed, not sure if that is true or not though.
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pinkpont
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(Original post by toddlers crossword)
I think it is ridiculous, and also quite ironic - protesting an illegal occupation by illegally occupying a building.
Its also stupid that the Vice Chancellor had actually responded to their 'demands' and this is all because he was a little slow responding to another letter!
I've heard they've now been forcibly removed, not sure if that is true or not though.
I heard that was the case, but I was walking past the Hicks Building this evening, and I noticed that they still had a load of posters up on the side facing the union. Who knows?
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S
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(Original post by toddlers crossword)
and also quite ironic - protesting an illegal occupation by illegally occupying a building.

That's the whole point. Hopefully they are out, and they should be out - with a meeting being set, negotiations are re-opening. There really isn't a reason for them to be in the building anymore.
http://sheffoccupied.blogspot.com/

It looks like the occupiers are allowed to send 4 delegates to the meeting.
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cheapaschips1000
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I'm not a fan of this kind of thing, yes they're allowed their opinion but an 'occupation' is too far really.
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1721
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they are awesome i have missed two boring tutorials because of them and i havnt got a email saying i shoudl have gone.
but on the other hand they are hippies
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mollymustard
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(Original post by 1721)
but on the other hand they are hippies
Thats a bit of a generlisation. I know two of the people taking part vaguely and they don't seem like that type at all, very normal and down to earth actually.
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james99
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They've occupied part of Jessop West as well now apparently.

It's all well and good supporting a cause, but their demands are ridiculous to be honest. They seem to forget they are attending a university and not some kind of political institution.
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pinkpont
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(Original post by james99)
They've occupied part of Jessop West as well now apparently.

It's all well and good supporting a cause, but their demands are ridiculous to be honest. They seem to forget they are attending a university and not some kind of political institution.
Agreed, it's really not on. At this rate they'll be occupying half a dozen uni buildings. All that they're doing is highlighting that most people don't care about Gaza, it's a waste of time on their part, not to mention potentially jeopardising their university careers. Pointless in every way.
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brak3n
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From the email we've received from the Vice-chancellor I got the impression he was pretty annoyed with the situation :p:
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inferiormadbeing
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He didn't seem a happy chappy. :no:
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toddlers crossword
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#17
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I felt like emailing him back to sympathise...
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pinkpont
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#18
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Could there be a protest against the protesters? :tongue:
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james99
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(Original post by pinkpont)
Could there be a protest against the protesters? :tongue:
We could occupy their houses and see how they like it :p:

Although they may not care, seeing as they're currently living in heated lecture theatres with free electricity and internet access!
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pinkpont
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(Original post by james99)
We could occupy their houses and see how they like it :p:

Although they may not care, seeing as they're currently living in heated lecture theatres with free electricity and internet access!
Haha, that's not a bad idea :tongue:
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