STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX
The Occupation Group of students and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Michael Farthing, are pleased to announce that the occupation of Lecture Theatre A2 in protest at Israeli military action in Gaza and in solidarity with the Palestinian people, ended at …….. on ………., by mutual consent.
Professor Michael Farthing, has said of the crisis in Gaza that he fully understands the concerns felt by many students and by many others around the world about the events of recent weeks. The University concurs with Professor Trainor, President of Universities UK who speaks for the sector as a whole in calling for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza. As he has said, many civilian casualties have occurred in educational establishments. We give unqualified support to his statement which says that: “the UK’s universities are resolutely committed to the right of education, enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Higher education, in particular, is a global activity and we value our academic links with universities all over the world. The international nature of higher education means it is force for understanding, tolerance and respect between people.”
Professor Farthing has said the University will stand by internationally agreed conventions on conflict and human rights, in particular the United Nations Agreements on Human Rights (http://www.hrweb.org/legal/undocs.html). Accordingly, we condemn attacks on civilians, any obstruction of provision of humanitarian aid and the targeting of public buildings and facilities like universities, hospitals and schools, wherever such attacks take place in the world. The Vice-Chancellor noted the United Nations Secretary General’s call for an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967, and a just, lasting peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours. He further noted the UN Secretary General’s demand that where civilians have been killed and there are allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, there should be thorough investigations, full explanations and, where it is required, accountability.
The Vice-Chancellor also made clear that the University has a duty of care to all students at Sussex and will continue to work even-handedly and without favour to foster and preserve harmonious relations across the international community of students and scholars studying at Sussex..
The group’s concerns and representations were made in its Press Release: Sussex Students for a Free Palestine. Agreement on the following issues raised by the students was reached.
The University is not aware of any investment or research directly or indirectly connecting Sussex to companies that are allegedly complicit in human rights abuses in Gaza or anywhere else.
The University will however review its ethical investment policy that aims to ensure the University only engages in making socially responsible investments. It will establish a working party of Strategy and Resources Committee to undertake this review. The working party will include the student representative on SRC. The working party will be pleased to receive any data or evidence that shows that the policy is knowingly or unknowingly being breached. Any such breach identified by the working party will result in divestment and cessation of the activity.
Sanctions against Israeli goods and products sold on campus
The University is not aware of a call for or agreement by the UN for economic sanctions against Israel. The University would wish to work with USSU Ethical and Environmental Committee to ensure that produce sold on campus indicates clearly its source or provenance so that members of the community can make an informed choice prior to purchase. The University notes that its catering and retail strategy already makes clear that it is the University’s practice to source food and other produce from local farmers and suppliers wherever possible.
Scholarships for Palestinian students
The University will undertake to work with USSU to establish an international scholarship scheme, The Mahmoud Darwish scheme, functional as of the academic year 2009-2010, that extends opportunities available for students from regions affected by conflict or catastrophe, seeking to promote the idea that the victims of the recent conflict in Palestine should be the beneficiaries of this scholarship scheme. The University would seek to develop a scheme that has, as a minimum, six scholarships targeted at such regions in the world. The University will hold discussions with the Director of Development and Alumni relations and the President of the Students’ Union about how alumni and other possible sources of scholarship funding might be approached to establish the scheme.
Meanwhile, the University will review its promotion of the international scholarships that it has currently available in order to increase the number of applications from Palestine and other regions suffering conflict or catastrophe.
Support for Palestinian universities
The University will work with USSU and assist in efforts being made by other UK universities to dispose of or re-cycle surplus books, computers and other learning materials for the benefit of deserving institutions in Palestine currently affected by the conflict, meeting any reasonable shipping costs if necessary. We agree to explore the practicalities of getting this underway; particularly in ensuring that such stock is wanted, functional and in the case of IT, can be supported by the host institution.
The University acknowledges the constructive approach adopted during the protest and in particular the students’ commitment not to disrupt teaching, to preserve the quality of the teaching environment , and to respect the views of other members of the community. The University reaffirms that protest that is lawful and not in breach of the University’s Regulations will not result in action being taken against any student or students involved.
The University and USSU will consider the practical steps needed and associated timetable for implementation of the action agreed above.
The students of the occupation look forward to working with the University in the implementation of the above commitments and will continue to monitor the progress made.
26 January 2009