Students Occupy University

Breaking News, Wed 28th January, 2009 – Students today occupied a room in the Law & Social Sciences building in a protest in solidarity with the people in Gaza, in light of recent events in the area.

Shortly after a screening of ‘Peace, Propoganda and the Promised Land’, a film about alleged bias in media reports from the region, an open letter from the protesters was read out, which listed their demands to the university and their intention to maintain the protest indefinitely until said demands were met.

The list, which received widespread applause from the (politically sympathetic) audience, included requests for a statement from the university condemning Israel’s recent military actions, academic and financial support for Palestinian students, and an institutional ban on purchasing the products of companies involved in the conflict. A promise for a more definitive list of demands was included, to come after the protesters hav managed to fully discuss the details; the current list can be read on the protest’s blog (see below).

Armed with sleeping bags, food, books, laptops, art supplies and legal advice, the protest is planned to continue until the university either aquiesce to the demands, or a settlement is reached through negotiation. The protesters join at least 16 other universities across the country with similar protest movements, of which two are known to have declared success. These are at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London School of Economics, King’s College London, Birmingham, Essex Warwick, Sussex, Oxford, Manchester Metropolitan, Cambridge, Leeds, Newcastle, Queen Mary’s, and Bradford Universities.

The classroom occupied, B62 in the Law & Social Sciences building, is a heavily used lecture theatre with classes usually scheduled throughout every day of each week. Campus security discovered the protesters shortly after the film had finished screening, and after establishing the situation appeared to depart without consequence. The university has not yet made an official statement.

More news to follow shortly as the situation develops.

UPDATE (29/01/09) – The university has reacted to the occupation by rescheduling or canceling all lectures timetabled in the occupied room, according to Stephen Dudderidge, Director of Student Operations and Support.

A statement on Occupation Nottingham says that, “this is against our wishes and despite our continued reassurance that we would create no disruption. The decision was also made without the University contacting the appropriate lecturers, some of whom had already expressed their willingness to conduct classes as usual in communication with us.”

This follows the course of action taken by other universities around the country. No official statement from the university has been released as of yet, however.

Photographs: Ian Steadman

The protesters have set up a running blog with commentary on the events and more information on the protest:

29 Comments on this post.
  • Anonymous
    29 January 2009 at 01:43
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    What an absolute joke, the University have no power over the gaza situation and this whole act is ridiculous. Get a fucking life.

  • The Deliverer
    29 January 2009 at 02:21
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    This is a futile protest.
    I applaud the peaceful, sensible and informative protest last week with different coloured sticks being placed in the ground outside Hallward library.
    However, this protest merely creates a mass inconvenience for students at this institution (paying £3000+ p.a), whilst creating little empathy amongst fellow students.
    This joins the infantile and naive protest last year that PalSoc ‘masterminded’. The wooden wall placed in the middle of a vital footpath for the student community was an ill-informed protest that created a meaningless arrest of a student and PalSoc member for wasting police time.
    Whilst one feels sorry for the people of Palestine, a silly sit-in like this is not going to change anything meaningful.
    Grow-up please; you’re not in the 60’s anymore.

  • Occupation Nottingham
    29 January 2009 at 04:25
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    We will not be preventing lectures from taking place in B62 (not B60 as the article suggests).

    All of the other University Occupations that have taken place so far have had all or most of their demands met.

    Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far!

    Please keep your eye on our website for updates and more information.

  • James
    29 January 2009 at 07:45
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    Just for the record, the previous two comments are NOT from members of the Israel and Jewish Society.

  • Mark
    29 January 2009 at 07:47
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    Great work guys! We must do something about the atrocities in Gaza, and we can really make a difference here.

  • trollpwner
    29 January 2009 at 09:56
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    Nice to see that the university has been paying enough attention to bother posting troll comments on the story. Nice try 🙂

    Brief response: that is a “revisionist” history of the Palestine wall incident which was not at all “futile” but was making a very important point about free movement in Palestine, did not disrupt students, and did not “lead to” arrests but rather was victimised by security and police. The university DOES have some power over the situation as suggested in the proposals for action – we are not an island! As for the £3000 fees, well, that’s not our fault, and if there’d been a few more occupations like this back in the day, maybe we wouldn’t have to pay them.

    Keep up the good work guys. And don’t forget to stock up on donuts to keep security at bay 😉

  • student
    29 January 2009 at 11:02
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    The occupation have expressly stated that they wish to cause no disruption or inconvenience to students or their education, (Check on their website). In fact the occupation could provide a valuable additional educational experience for many students.

    A number of such actions at other universities have resulted in their institutions meeting at least some of their demands (see:

    Of course there are lots of ways that Nottingham Uni could contribute to Gaza and help the people there. I think this is a fantastic action, well done people, keep up the good fight!

  • People Power
    29 January 2009 at 11:43
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    To the above two comments – the demands of these students seem pretty reasonable and well directed.

    They don’t seem to believe that the university can stop the conflict, but merely that it should take a positive stand against it where possible.

    I’m no longer a student, but I thoroughly support this type of non-violent direct action, and I’m heartened to see it still taking place in this day and age.

    Better to see students taking positive, involved action like this than the activities which they stereotypically known for – nowadays that’d be drinking and rampant consumerism.

    You nay-sayers are perhaps the ones who need to grow up and respect the right of these young adults to take a stand on an issue they feel passionate about.

    Thank goodness there are still (somehow, despite all efforts to the opposite) young people who care!

  • Truck
    29 January 2009 at 11:59
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    @ The Deliverer

    You’re apparant lack of moral and ethical principles or even consideration couldn’t be more effectively demonstrated by your your instant discount without argument for the meaning of one’s arrest in the cause of promoting at the least awareness of gross human injustice and suffering or more artfully highlighted by your nod to the woes of the priviliged western student obsessing over their own finances.
    This lack of humanism and embrace of the material does not afford you any right to disdain without engagement the arguments or actions of others or to adopt such a patronising and disrespectful tone.
    I’m glad you like coloured sticks though.

  • Don MacKeen
    29 January 2009 at 12:00
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    Good luck with your protest. As Noam Chomsky said, this protest is “particularly significant because of the crucial British contribution to the savage onslaught on
    Gaza, second only to the decisive role of the United States — a disgrace for all of us.” You will, of course, receive the standard condemnations, its not “the 60’s anymore”, etc, but remember the important thing is that you are taking action against massive criminality. Actions speak louder than words, and your direct action is more meaningful than “feeling sorry” for the Palestinian people. A third of the 1300+ people killed in Gaza were children – could any sane, compassionate person say that “feeling sorry” was enough?

    Again, good luck.

  • Truck
    29 January 2009 at 12:01
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    hmm missed some commas there and please ignore the ‘for’ on the second line

  • Ian Steadman
    29 January 2009 at 12:12
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    @ Occuptation Nottingham – I realised I’d written the wrong room in the original story, and it’s now been corrected.

  • jordan
    29 January 2009 at 12:28
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    I was under the impression that all occupations were wrong/invalid/illegal/don’t generate the desired results. The problem with fighting fire with fire, is that you should have used water!

  • Steven
    29 January 2009 at 13:11
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    Are these people crazy or what? The so-called ‘occupation’ ended in 2005 and the conflict ended over a week ago. It seems like this had been planned for a while and the doors are now being locked up after the proverbial horse has bolted.

  • Ruffio
    29 January 2009 at 13:24
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    Through past experience, I, like many, feel dubious about the receptiveness the university will have towards the occupation’s demands. Students are blind to the activities of ‘their’ university. Therefore, even if demands are not met, if students think they are too far fetched to be complied to by the university, the fact remains that the occupation is making students aware and bringing to the front issues that the university would prefer remain unknown to the general populace. The university will, albeit gradually, begin to recognise and remember that they are accountable to students and in the future begin take their actions into consideration. Our opinion matters.

  • ether
    29 January 2009 at 14:35
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    its hard to say the occupation has ended when gaza’s airspace and territorial waters are occupied, when its borders are blockaded, and when regular air and artillary strikes continue (even since israels ‘cease fire’) to kill and injure civilians (including a child in the past few days).

    when israel still controls the flow of medicen food and fuel into gaza and controls anyone who wants to move out of it.

    not to mention the fact that settlements continue to expand into the west bank, with ‘settler only’ highways carving up the area and farm lands being taken over.

    Also worth noting that gaza/westbank areas are considerably less territory that israel is obliged to seed to palestinians under un resolutions (ie 1967 borders – the ones that hamas are requesting it retreats to). with the current borders /occupied land gaza’s citizens have no chance of sustainable food/water/economy.

    keep the pressure up, solidarity with palestinian people and all those supporting them.

  • student
    29 January 2009 at 18:34
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    There is no ‘occupation’ in Gaza. Infact the Israeli army withdrew from Gaza in 2005, forcing all the Jewish civilians to leave their homes.

    This was done in a unilateral effort to offer the people of Gaza military and political freedom.

    They used their political freedom to elect a terrorist organisation as government, and the military freedom to launch over 30 rockets a day into innocent israeli towns.

    Israel tolerated these rockets for 9 years, and the war in Gaza was their last resort to protect their civilians.

    Hamas are not willing to negotiate for a 2 state solution, they are openly opposed to the existence of a Jewish state.

    If there is any hope for peace in the Middle East, and an independent Palestinian state, there must be a moderate Palestinian government willing to negotiate with Israel.

    This university occupation is misguided and misleading. The conflict in the Middle East is not because of Israel’s ‘occupation’. It is a complicated struggle of 2 nations in the same land trying to find a solution.

  • Hossam
    29 January 2009 at 18:38
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  • Student
    29 January 2009 at 19:54
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    It seems unreasonable to ask the university to stop trading/communications with Israel and not demanding the same from the other side of the conflict.

  • Student
    29 January 2009 at 20:30
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    Because whatever you think about the tactics of the Israeli army or parliment the government of Hamas, voted for by the Palestinians, is funadementally trying to kill civilians and is at its core anti semetic.

    I am not suggesting that either side is right but seems to unfair to demonise a nation for being capable of defending themselves whilst supporting terroists merely because they are underdogs

  • Another Student
    30 January 2009 at 04:47
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    @ student

    I think we can be sure that the Uni or indeed the entire western capitalist world has no dealings with Hamas. How would Hamas export any goods? Now that their supply tunnels have probably more or less all been destroyed.

    Hamas is not anti-semetic to the core, and has for a long time stated that it will accept a two-state solution- if Israel is prepared to retreat to it’s legal boarders, dismantle the illegal settlements, remove the illegal wall, and end the illegal occupation (which it isn’t).

    You need to be careful in how you employ the term ‘terrorism’. If you define it as ‘violence or the threat of violence to achieve political ends’, then clearly Israel is engaging in much greater degrees or ‘terrorism’ than Hamas.

  • Vanessa Anne Esi Brown
    30 January 2009 at 14:14
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    I wrote a LONG response but then I lost the window so I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

    What I will say is this: Please remember there are two sides to every story. Additionally, things are rarely Black and White. There is usually a lot of Grey area.

    Yes, Israel need to loosen their grip on Palestinian resources and the Uni should definately support Palestinian students.
    Yes, Israel is responsible for the death of a number of Palestinian woman and children. However, it is wrong to blame the whole Jewish/Israeli community for the acts of their government. Are we to be blamed for the Iraq war? No – WE did not choose to send troops there. So why is is that people increasingly tar ALL Jews with the same brush. Many of whom do not even live in Israel. Yet, Muslims still complain that they are seen as terrorists due to 9/11 and the London bombings.

    The Israeli army have commited some atrocities. I have seen the footage of them firing at and killing Palestinian women BUT Hamas has declared their intention to make Israel extinct. If they really cared about their people they would not have made such a statement as it has undoubtedly fueled the conflict and jepordised the lives of their people. In addition, there is numerous footage of Hamas troops killing Fatah people. Why are they killing their own people?

    Two sides to every story….Just support the PEOPLE that need it most, it’s about them not who’s to blame.

  • student
    31 January 2009 at 13:59
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    I do not believe that the occupants are ‘taring all Jews with the same brush.’ The occupation in itself is by no means an antisemetic protest. It is a peaceful one with some very reasonable demands being made to the university. I personally support most of the demands, though think the inclusion of the Starbucks debate was perhaps unnecessary – yes, I do agree that the university should replace it with a Fairtrade alternative, but it is slightly unrelated to this particular protest, and gives off a slightly confused message by it being there.

    People who make such extreme generalisations as blaming all Jews for the situation in Gaza and all Muslims for 9/11, are obviously incredibly badly informed and competely wrong to think so, I suggest they meet some of my Jewish and Muslim friends and see that they are wonderful people, and in doing so, grow up and stop making such vast generalisations.

    Conclusively, I am in support of this protest, I think the University is being unreasonable to refuse to negotiate whilst the occupation is in operation. I think it is a great way to get the university to pay attention to the students’ opinions, but am sadly quite sceptical that the demands will be met – on other protests the university has not complied with requests (or demands), but I hope and pray they listen this time! Stick in there guys.

  • student
    31 January 2009 at 21:20
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    whether or not you call it terrorism they are to blame for attempting to create the same level of atrosities…so promoting their universities and denouncing israeli ones does not seem valid.

  • G
    1 February 2009 at 17:42
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    As a wise man once told me: “Opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one.”

    Thank you Vanessa for very rightly pointing out that there are indeed two sides to every story. Furthermore, being so far removed from the theatre of conflict and only having the benefit of conflicting second or third hand accounts, it is really impossible for any of us here to tell who is in the right or wrong; if things are indeed that simple. Statistics are no help either: perhaps the skewed casualty ratio is merely evidence that the Israelis are better at what they’re doing than the Palestinians. Is it a matter of peaceful Palestinian acquiescence that things are not the other way round, or weaker military strength?

    This is an age-old conflict; impossible now to tell who ‘started it’. It goes beyond a question of resources to complex matters of national pride, culture, religion even. There have been casualties on both sides, and the way things are going, it seems likely there will be more. Perhaps a way forward would involve a more powerful force stepping in to enforce a ceasefire; regardless of who is right or wrong, preserving life is always eminently sensible.

    Instead, the protesters in B62 would have us take a side. They would have us embrace the Victim label the liberal media has slapped on the Palestines and open to them our hearts and our wallets in support. At the same time, they would have us denounce and demonise the nation at the opposite end.

    In the first place, it is disappointing to see such a simplistic response from university students. Surely it is the province of educated persons to always question what is presented and to attempt to comprehend before forming an opinion or taking action.

    But fair enough; everyone’s entitled to an opinion, no matter how stupid or uninformed. By attempting to force the university to take action in furtherance of opinions it does not share, however, these protesters have crossed the line.

    They claim that they had no intention of disrupting classes. That the closure of the room was an unprovoked university response.


    A lecture is an activity which calls for the full attention of both lecturer and student. The very presence of a full-blown protest in the room is likely, nay, CALCULATED to distract. It is obvious that rescheduling the affected classes would be the preferable option.

    The protesters must have known this. If they did not, they should have. Either they have been very naive.. or it is just an attempt to buy legitimacy for their operation. In any case, the occupation of B62 is an act of trespass against the university which any court of law would readily denounce. The intended and manifest result is simply this: University property being held hostage for a list of not very well thought out Demands which the university has no place granting.

    In what world is it honourable, right, or even excusable for someone to impinge on the autonomy of another in order to force them to act on an opinion they do not share?

  • Occupant of B62
    2 February 2009 at 14:15
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    Dear Friends,

    Since the occupation has now been forcibly ended, I would now like to take some time to express my thoughts about the experience. I joined the occupation on Friday afternoon, and honestly was a little sceptical about its demands and aims. I sat listening to people discussing issues, both about the process of the occupation and negotiations with the University, always relating this to their highest concern; the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

    As my confidence in the situation grew, I became more able to express my initial concerns both in general meetings and smaller groups. I learnt that the protest was an ongoing dynamic process, and therefore my contributions were appreciated and I could help shape the form of the occupation. The atmosphere was friendly, productive, mutually supportive and fun. It gave everybody in the room the chance to express their feelings about the University’s role and responsibility in Israel’s onslaught on Gaza. I came to this space with a limited knowledge of the situation but motivated by the humanitarian crisis, and I found that this space provided an open forum for debate and discussion which greatly improved my understanding. This greater understanding has only served to increase my passion to help the people of Gaza.

    There was a diverse range of political opinions in the room, and we used consensus decision making to act collectively to further our aims and support. However, this did not prohibit individuals from holding their own opinions about the conflict. The group was motivated by solidarity and revulsion of the conditions of the people of Gaza, and in the hope that the University would act in such a way that would alleviate the suffering of these people.

    Since our demands have not been met, the most positive thing I have gained from this experience is the opportunity to engage with others in a lively and impassioned way about the issues that are shaping our world. In fact, on coming to University, this situation is exactly what I expected from a seminar. And more than just discussing these issues, I felt as though I was part of something which could positively affect people in the world. The space itself was one in which everybody was willing to help each other out, whether it was by providing food, music, support or sharing resources. It is a shame that the University could not recognise the positive learning environment we had created, and stopped the occupation of B62. I think we now know where the University stand on education and academic freedom.

    Thank you to everyone who helped to create this space and experience, and I have no doubt that these expressions of solidarity and hope will continue unabated.

  • Vanessa Anne Esi Brown
    2 February 2009 at 14:19
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    Very well written ‘G’. I agree with quite a lot of what you’ve said.

  • Vanessa Anne Esi Brown
    2 February 2009 at 14:31
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    UPADTE: It’s a shame they were ejected in such a manner. The University isn’t really dealing with this situation very fairly. They should have at least ATTEMPTED to negotiate rather then simply saying ‘NO. GET OUT’… *sigh*

  • Weekend Visitor
    2 February 2009 at 14:54
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    I visited the occupation this weekend. As a former student I was pleased to see that students were once again standing up as a political force. The students protesting in B62 were utilising their obvious talents and bright minds, but also taking advantage of the resources they have at their disposal. They are very privileged to have the library, speakers and learning environment provided at the University. Many students ignore this privilege and university becomes a popularity contest, a endless party or just a step to a high paying job. These brave students who continued to protest despite the university threatening to deny them their hard earnt degrees even risking physical harm when evicted – all to show solidarity with and compassion for those living in Palestine.

    I personally have less definite views on the conflict between Palestine and Israel, and my prescence was to support the students in their right to protest and to protest lent my support to the peace movement. The most recent assault on Gaza is terrible for people in Israel as well as Gaza, it continues the ideological paradigm seeking a violent solution to this conflict. Hamas and the extreme right in Israel will be the ‘winners’ and the future generations will suffer as a consequence.

    Whatever your thoughts on the protest and it’s politics I commend those involved for having compassion for others in a foreign land and for recognising their desperate plight at this point in time. You have succeeded in getting the issue in the student consciousness – I’m sure the issue was discussed and debated by most University of N students this weekend – many of whom would not have done so without the occupation, well done.

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