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Update on Negotiations

We have had some huge steps forward with our demands, but still have much work to do! Here is a brief update on where we are at:

Our demand that the University should contribute to an Aid Convoy to Gaza- agreed to! We are presently working out what we can send. So far the library has agreed to send books, and we are also trying to get surplus furniture/computers from renovated buildings sent over.

Our demand for a fundraising day- we successfully worked with other societies on campus to put on ‘Children in Conflict Week’. During this week we raised thousands of pounds for the DEC appeal, as well as other charities, put on many succesful events and created a buzz on campus. We reached thousands of students and were able to tell them about the continuingly appalling conditions in Gaza. It also helped us build a even bigger Palestine campaign on campus ready for next year! Congrats to everyone who was involved!

Our demand for scholarships for Gazans has been met! We are now working out the practicalities of the relationship. It should be in place in the new academic year of 2010. The VC even said we made a strong proposal!

Our demand that the University should divest from the arms trade is harder. We are in talks with the University over who they invest in, who they buy from, and who they do research for. So far we have agreed moves to increase transparency of investments. We need to keep up the pressure on this issue, making sure that we oppose any relationship between our Universitry and companies which support the arms industry.

Our demand for a module open for all students on the history of modern Palestine is still being worked on. We do need help on this issue however. Any ideas on favourable academics, of what should be taught, or how we can present this to the University would be much appreciated!

We have working groups set up which look at each of our demands. If you would like to get involved (even if its only just a little bit) then please reply to this thread in the comments section.

From the very first moments of the occupation everyone has had so many good ideas-lets keep this up and make sure that the Palestine campaign goes from strength to strength!


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Update on negotiations from Student Direct newspaper

Demonstration earlier this year

From: Student Direct

DEMANDS OF PROTESTERS who took part in the month-long occupation of University buildings in protest against Israel’s military actions in Gaza last term are being met by the University of Manchester.

Arrangements have been made by the University for surplus academic aid to be sent to Gaza. Negotiations are in progress with the University to secure scholarships in Manchester for students from Gaza and to boycott the sale of produce from the occupied territories.

“The University has met with the student Executive and with representatives of the protesters and discussed a number of initiatives related to the policy on Gaza passed at the Union meeting,” a University spokesperson said.

“We are making progress on a number of issues and the discussions with the Executive are ongoing.”

The Manchester occupation was one of 34 protests taking place at universities around the UK. Other occupations have also had success in securing deals to benefit Gazan students.

Third-year Biochemistry student and Action Palestine member Nasreen Hunaina, who was involved in the occupation, said: “I think the negotiations with the University are looking positive. The donation of surplus supplies, a key demand for the occupation, is currently being organised, this is something that will have practical results for students in Gaza.”

Other students were also positive. Matt Scholey, a first-year Politics and Modern History student, said: “These measures are not just symbolic, they are about contributing practically to positive change in the world.

“We hope to provide scholarships to students whose university buildings have been demolished as well as send surplus supplies to educational establishments in Gaza.”

A meeting between Vice-Chancellor Alan Gilbert and the Students’ Union Executive is scheduled to take place this Thursday 30th April.

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Progress made at Monday’s negotiations with Gilbert

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.

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Occupation has ended!

Sorry for taking so long to update you all on the situation – We have ended our occupation (on the 6th), and have secured negotiations with the Vice-Chancellor, Alan Gilbert, on Monday, with the Students’ Union Executive. We have been busy researching ways in which the University can implement our demands, by looking at other universities and and other similar movements from history. Details shall follow…

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Tomorrow is going to spell the most important time for the students and Palestine movement as the ‘occupiers’ move into talks with Gilbert. Representatives along with members of the SU executive will meet with the Vice Chancellor to discuss the logistics of each and every demand in what is hoped to be a series of talks. The students know they have the upper hand; being able to mobilize other activists quickly if there demands are not negotiated with bona fide; but there is a strong sense of optimism that the talks will be a success.

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News report of Wednesday’s events from Fuse FM

Manchester Student Union radio station Fuse FM have produced a news video of Wednesday’s events and put it on YouTube. They have done a great job, even capturing Gilbert’s rant at us on camera. Brings back memories of a very exciting day!

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After 31 days, 2 Emergency General Meetings, support from academics, students and trade unions from across the globe, as part of over 30 occupations in the U.K, students scaling the gates and blockading the Board of Directors car park; with guest speakers, workshops and film nights; after resolute defiance to countless threats from the University administration, students and activists from the University of Manchester can declare they are entering into negotiations on their terms with the Vice-Chancellor!

The decision was made from the group that leaving today was going to leave them in a position of strength. The fact the Vice-Chancellor did not issue an ultimatum time demonstrates it was the students calling the shots.

In addition to this, the lecturers of the University, who have provided substantial support to the occupation, have indicated things are looking optimistic for negotiations which will commence on Monday. The Vice-Chancellor will meet with some members of the student union of the executive and representatives from the occupation. But the entire dynamic of the negotiations favours the students. With Alan Gilbert fully aware of how quickly the students can mobilise and are not afraid to take direct action.

The battle is by no means won but by ending on such a strong position, with the threat of the hundreds if not thousands of students who are able to mobilise quickly, Gilbert is in a vulnerable position.

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