The Vice Chancellor Professor Alan Gilbert’s former university which he brought to near ruins by privatizing the university’s assets effectively creating a two-tier system, have been in constant correspondence with us throughout the occupation providing support and solidarity. Today they sent pictures of students outside the self-named Alan Gilbert building with a banner which they have sent showing support for all the occupations across the United Kingdom.
Dear Professor Gilbert,
Yesterday afternoon protestors assembled outside the John Owens building requesting a meeting and announced that we were willing to end the occupation at 4 o’clock in exchange for talks to begin at 4:30. This morning we sent you a letter reiterating our eagerness to meet with you, in exchange promising to end the occupation the very moment our first meeting began.
We received no response to our offers. We can only conclude that you are determined to treat our protest with insincerity. This confirms our suspicions that you do not sincerely intend to take seriously the demands as endorsed by the wider student body through the democratic procedures of the Students’ Union.
We reiterate that we are willing to end our occupation but only on a multilateral basis. Currently we feel the conditions you have placed upon the occupation constitute a unilateral imposition of your authority. As such offer no assurances that you will take our demands seriously during the substantive negotiation stage.
In relation to the accusations of blockading, restricting free movement, harassment and intimidation we maintain that we did not stop anyone from leaving the premises. This is a fact we made clear to both the police and security last night. Testament to the legality of our actions the police did not arrest any individuals on last night’s actions.
With specific reference to your letter dated 5th March 2009, we would like to reiterate that we would like to leave the occupied space, once we have been provided with a satisfactory appointment for substantive discussions on the student body’s demands.
This protest has remained peaceful throughout the last four weeks. We are confused by your allegation that the occupation harassed and removed the property of an official visitor to the university. This was an action organised by a different group on campus called ‘Disarm Manchester’, and we claim no responsibility for this.
Furthermore, we will not accept any student being victimised for any actions throughout the last four weeks of occupation, including all actions taken yesterday. As mentioned previously, we have remained within the law and have remained peaceful.
We thank you in advance for your speedy response.
The time for the ultimatum to vacate has passed and the students have stayed in defiance. Having discussed the pros and cons, with one eye on the clock, the final decision was made to stay and write a letter advising the occupation would leave upon receipt of appointment.
After the meeting, security started moving em mass toward the building initially stating that they would film students once they would moved out of the building. In reponse, the 50 or so students who gathered, began to mask themselves with keffiyahs and flags however, after negotiating with the security guards, they (security guards) decided to defy the University admins demand to film and gave a good faith agreement not to.
Having initially taken down all the banners and flags, following the decision, the occupation quickly redecorated. Discussion and letter writing still continues amongst the students. Keep checking for up to the minute news.
Representatives visited the occupation a short time ago with a letter citing that there were reports from university staff of misconduct when the students peacefully recreated a checkpoint at the entrances and exits of the Quadrangle. The letter also stated that they have issued a formal warning that if students do not vacate by 5.00pm today (in spite of the fact the letter was issued at 4.15pm) these allegations of misconduct will be investigated and punitive measures will be taken. He has still committed to negotiations should the students leave, with the executive and occupation representatives. Gilbert has however in the past, failed to give any good faith acceptance to negotiations either changing the time or not assenting to the occupations reasonable demands. Students are gathering in the occupation now to discuss further the next steps of action. Please check back for regular updates.
Students from across the country attended a protest today to support Gaza and the Manchester student occupation. At 2pm students 200 held a rally outside the Students Union, before marching via the Vice Chancellors building around the campus.
Students there have been occupying a lecture theatre in the University’s Simon Building in support of Gazans. The students have issued a list of demands to the University to take a progressive stance on Gaza crisis. The demands include ending all investment and research in the manufacturing of weapons, providing scholarships for Palestinian students and Israelis who refuse to serve in the IDF, and sending surplus academic supplies from refurbished buildings to students in Gaza.
The students in the Manchester occupation have constantly tried to negotiate with University Management, but the Management has refused to sincerely engage with the students. The demo was called by the occupation in response to the continued intransigence of the university management.
The actions by students in Manchester are part of a nationwide surge in student activism in response to the recent Israeli assault on Gaza, and the on-going humanitarian crisis. Manchester is one of over 30 universities to go into occupation, many of which have been very successful. Teachers and lecturers have expressed support for occupations both locally and nationally, with the lecturers union, the UCU, issuing a statement praising the occupying students. The Manchester occupation, like all the other occupations, has also received messages of solidarity from Palestinian student organisations and universities, including the Student Council of An-Najah National University, which is twinned with the University of Manchester, and another message came from the Islamic University of Gaza.
Support the Student occupations
National student protest – Manchester
Wednesday 4th March – 2pm
University of Manchester Students Union
Support us by:
– Mobilise people for the protest on Wednesday.
– Publicise this demo, via mailing lists, blogs, websites, etc.
– Email the Vice Chancellor (firstname.lastname@example.org) demanding him to negotiate with us.
A national demonstration has been called in support of the student occupations. It’s crucial that we have as much representation from different Universities, Colleges and Schools as possible.
We in Manchester have been in occupation for almost four weeks now, yet the University has so far refused to negotiate with us. The University still invests in the arms trade, leading to some students having to disrupt a DSTL stall (an agency of the MoD) at an official graduate recruitment fair.
The Vice Chancellor Alan Gilbert has threatened expulsion for students who are involved.
Our demands are in line with current Union policy having received an overwhelming majority at an Emergency General Meeting, attended by over 1,100 students.
Being the biggest university in the UK, all eyes are on Manchester, and the success of the occupation here is critical to the success of the national movement.
A full list of our demands can be found at our website.
The website for the occupation is https://manunioccupation.wordpress.com/.
For more information please email us at, email@example.com
With the pending national demonstration on Wednesday, the Vice-Chancellor appears to be more and more reconciliatory in his dialogue with the students. The occupation decided to submit a proposal to the self-proclaimed President stating they would suspend the occupation upon the provisos that he would enter into timetabled negotiations, that there would be no repercussions for students who participated in the occupation and that his good faith agreements to these conditions would be received by 5.00pm.
The Vice-Chancellor replied by saying that the university is not minded to victimise any students specifically in the Simon building occupation, not making explicit reference to the John Owens operation. Furthermore, he wanted to have the meeting, conveniently enough, at 4.30pm after the national demo.
We immediately responded clarifying immunity from punitive measures for students from both occupations in addition to rearranging the time before the demo and requesting a brief response to each of the demands so that the occupation could formulate negotiating strategies. Gilbert responded in kind with promptness affirming that he could not rearrange the time and that to issue a concise response to each demands would be, in his judgement, unhelpful. Notably, the response was issued after the 5.00 pm deadline.
In addition to this, he advised he would only enter into such negotiations if we stopped protests. The occupation assumed that such a phrasing also included the National Demonstration as this would appear to be the biggest threat to undermining his so far inactive position. The occupation, in it’s first reply of the day clearly stated that only the Simon Building protest would be halted and effectively this counter offer were the terms to which Gilbert assented to. The occupation responded saying that they would discuss this further with the rest of the group and get back to the Vice Chancellor.
Gilbert also wrote an article for ‘Uni-Life’, a university staff magazine citing his advocacy for the demonstrations in a reconciliatory tone. But he was quick to spill out his contradicting rhetoric that the university could not take a political position and such a hard line approach was needed to protect academic freedom in spite of the political position he actively takes by investing in the arms trade.
What do we take from this? It is apparent that each time we liaise with Gilbert, he gives in more and more slowly but surely. However, the national demo appears to be his hamartia and he is doing all he can indirectly from it going ahead. By providing potential to a dialogue on his terms rather than ours (i.e. with no timetable and therefore no good faith) he is trying evade the demo. Perhaps he is worried that the ghosts of Melbourne will come back to haunt him……