First of all, sorry for taking so long to let you know the good news from Monday’s negotiations. We have all been extremely busy with the Student Union elections taking place this week; (Man Uni students: make sure you have cast your ballot for the many Pro-Palestinian candidates who are standing, by 6pm Thursday).
Last Friday we vacated the Simon Building, on the promise of negotiations with the Vice Chancellor, Alan Gilbert, on Monday. These negotiations went ahead as promised, with three occupiers sitting alongside the Student Union Executive. Despite unsympathetic voices on S.U. Executive, the negotiations were promising.
One demand was fully met. The University is arranging for surplus academic supplies to be sent to the Islamic University of Gaza. Alan Gilbert was very keen on this demand, and has been in discussions with the librarians to ensure that all disused books and other supplies are made available. As the occupation lasted a lot longer than expected (evidently longer than it takes to drive to Gaza!), the Viva Palestina convoy mentioned in the original demand has now arrived in Gaza, so we are in the process of researching other ways we can transport these supplies.
Major progress has been made in securing divestment from the arms trade. Gilbert has agreed to improve transparency over the University’s investment portfolio. This may not seem like a lot, but students have been campaigning over the University’s millions of pounds of investments in the arms trade for over three years now and, despite numerous stunts and protests over the issue, progress has been frustratingly slow. In a matter of weeks, Manchester students will know exactly where the University is involved with the arms trade, and so, in future, will be able to make far more specific, and therefore realistic, demands for divestment.
Such information will also help us in our demand for the university to boycott Israeli goods. Although the Vice Chancellor refused to boycott a country, he was willing to consider boycotting key companies linked to Israel. Soon the University should make available to us lists of the companies that it holds investments in, and purchases supplies from. From these we plan to make specific, realistic suggestions of companies linked to Israel that the University can boycott, and Gilbert has indicated that he would be willing to do this.
The negotiations are by no means over. Many of our demands have not yet been discussed, due to lack of time on Monday. Some have been rejected: the University will not official fundraise for the DEC appeal, although Gilbert has invited us to do so ourselves on campus, including by entering lectures. But much has been achieved, and we are expectant of more successes ahead. The negotiating team, along with the Union Executive, will meet again with the Vice Chancellor on Friday; at least an hour and a half has been blocked out in his diary.
All of the occupiers are hoping for the best, with the election results on Thursday night, and then these negotiations on Friday.