Friday, 29 May 2009

Direct Action gets the Goods!

Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign

Direct Action Gets The Goods!
The NUGSC sees real results following direct action for Gaza.

On 21st May, members of the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign (NUGSC) met with members of senior management for the second time since ending their occupation of the Fine Art building in solidarity with Palestinian people (in March 2009). This second meeting has secured the NUGSC’s demands on a number of issues. Senior management have made significant concessions, provided helpful advice and support and agreed that such actions in support of Palestine on behalf of the University would not have happened without the NUGSC’s decision to take direct action. Registrar John Hogan said during the meeting that Newcastle’s action on the Palestine issue would have come ‘nowhere near’ to where it is now had it not been for the occupation. Although not condoning the NUGSC’s actions, senior management have expressed the University’s general support for our aims and motivations.

The most significant developments now are as follows:

Newcastle University has issued a public statement in solidarity with the people of Gaza. It reads “(Newcastle University) supports the call made by Universities UK for an end to the conflict in and beyond Gaza[1] The statement is not as strong as the NUGSC had hoped, but the fact that it exists is a starting point for ongoing relations between senior management and the campaign group and a significant achievement of the occupation. Newcastle University’s website also expresses admiration for the occupation being ‘well organized and entirely peaceful’ [2]

Newcastle University has agreed to fund a trip to Palestine, providing both the Universities’ aims and educational objectives as well as the NUGSC’s political motivations are taken into account. Pro Vice Chancellor for Engagement Paul Younger is personally to contact his colleagues in the West Bank to help organise the trip to the occupied territories to assess how best Newcastle University can help academic institutions in Palestine (including sending aid, or providing a scholarship programme) and how the NUGSC can best support students there. Senior management is prepared to meet with the NUGSC regularly in the new academic year to make plans. The NUGSC will now try to get in touch with students in Gaza, the West Bank and also Israel to make links with groups opposed to the occupation and express solidarity.

Newcastle University has completely removed the barriers to political activism that were part of the reason that the NUGSC’s occupation was necessary[3][3]. There is now no time limit on giving notice for political activism (previously 10 days notice was required) within the law or organizing meetings – Registrar John Hogan conceded in the meeting with the NUGSC that 'it is your campus as much as mine after all'. John Hogan also expressed that ‘offence’ alone was not a legitimate condition for denying the right to political expression on campus. The NUGSC see this as one of the major achievements of the occupation so far and one that goes far beyond the Gaza Solidarity Campaign alone.

The campaign for arms trade disinvestment continues, with support of key members of senior management.[4][4] The NUGSC is compiling a ‘dossier’ of evidence and ethical guidelines on disinvestment from the arms trade and the reasons Newcastle University should adopt an ethical investment policy which does not support arms companies. Senior management, especially Paul Younger (Pro Vice Chancellor for Engagement) is very supportive of the campaign and the University has promised to facilitate negotiations between representatives of the NUGSC and the Universities Executive Board which will be necessary for the campaign to progress to the Finance Committee. Senior management is currently looking at the costs and procedure involved to ‘ethically screen’ existing investments. The NUGSC have collected over 450 signatures on campus against the University’s arms trade investments – the campaign goes under the name of NUCAAT (Newcastle University Campaign Against Arms Trade)[5][5]


Newcastle University students occupied the Fine Art Building on campus at 3:30pm on 10th March in solidarity with the people of Gaza and the other student occupations nation-wide. The occupation was entirely peaceful and well organised. Despite the NUGSC allowing two lectures to go ahead in the occupied space (and expressing the want for education to continue as normal) and University proceeded to cancel lectures in the Fine Art building, which disrupted education considerably. The NUGSC left the occupation after 28 hours when promised meaningful negotiations with Senior Management on the following demands:
- Newcastle University to issue a public statement expressing concern for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and supporting call to an end of the Israeli military occupation.
- Newcastle University disinvest from the Arms Trade and adopts an ethical investment policy.
- Newcastle University supports the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign’s coming projects of a) collecting computers, software, books etc for the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) and b) the visit of a student delegation from Newcastle University to IUG to establish their needs, c) the ensuing student projects to follow up on those needs, d) developing an ethical investment and trade policy with respect to Israel, and e) publicising the Disaster and Emergency Committee’s appeal for aid.
- Newcastle University supports new and ongoing academic collaborations with IUG, including distance education tools to link University of Newcastle Students and IUG students.
-Newcastle University reviews the rules and regulations that make political activism in a variety of channels difficult. This includes leafleting, flyers, posters, and meetings.
The NUGSC uses Facebook and a blog to contact supporters and organise meetings etc. The NUGSC tries to meet every two weeks on campus to plan future activities and discuss the ongoing campaign. The NUGSC has also hosted two speaker meetings on campus, including one with Tamar Katz, a young Israeli refusenik who has been jailed for refusing to serve with the Israeli military (IDF).

If you have queries regarding this press release, or would like to speak to a member of the NUGSC please contact us:

[1][1] ”[1][1] see Newcastle University website for full text

[2][2] Full text on Newcastle University website
[3][3] Before entering occupation, the NUGSC had tried to campaign on campus (handing out leaflets, petitioning etc) and faced big problems from security and management. The rules previous to occupation were that 10 days notice was needed for any activity on campus and even after 10 days any ‘political’ activism could be denied permission on the grounds of offence. This significantly reduced the ability to organise and protest on campus, to the extent that the occupation was a more promising tactic for getting our message across to management and also fellow students.
[4][4] Newcastle University currently invests £421,653 (2.42% annually) in the Arms Industry (GKN, BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Smiths). Opposition to financial support of the arms industry is not based on simple pacifism, but on a deep discomfort at the way the arms trade currently operates, and a belief that, far from enhancing security, it often escalates global conflict and human rights abuses. The NUGSC believes that a college or university that has no ethical investment policy does not hold a neutral position.
[5][5] – Facebook group for NUCAAT with over 350 members and link to the online petition.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

MP's support occupations, and Newcastle Occupiers represent in Sheffield

See this link:
Early Day Motion
McDonnell, John
That this House praises the wave of student occupations across the country against Israel's unlawful invasion and bombing of Gaza; regrets that an estimated thousand Palestinians have been killed as a direct result of the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza with many more people injured and suffering ongoing hardship; and welcomes the engagement of young people in protesting against the unfolding human tragedy in Gaza by taking direct action at numerous institutions including Cambridge University, Essex University, Kings College London, Manchester Metropolitan University, Oxford University, Queen Mary University London and Sussex University.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Newcastle Occupation will be talking at the event hosted by Sheffield Occupiers later today, called 'Direct Action gets the goods'. More details of the ongoing occupation (now in a new space) heir blog, facebook event -

If you've come home to Sheffield now term's finished, or know anyone in Sheffield, do spread the word about the meeting, today at Jessop West building, 4:30pm. All Welcome.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

End of term update

Apologies for the silence on here. This is just a quick note to explain why, and to assure that is no bad sign: we're as busy as ever!

Term finished at Newcastle University this week, and we held a post-occupation public meeting. Discussed in this meeting was plans for the ongoing campaign, next terms activities and some wider talk about the broader aims, objectives and tactics of the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign (NUGSC). Largely though, our discussions have been focused on responding to University management's version of the post-negotiation situation (e.g. their practical response to our demands). The blog will be updated as soon as we have formulated a response to each demand, which will be very soon. The Pro VC and Registrar seem to have understood our negotiations in the same light as we have, which is good (details of this meeting are in a post below, with details of demands met etc). They have requested however that we take down some images from this site (of the occupation) that might be considered offensive to some Jewish or Israeli members of the University. We are formulating a response to this and also to the Jewish Society at the University, clearly explaining that our campaign is anti-racist and not in any way anti-semetic. Both these documents will also be here soon. We are also busy putting together the beginning of a dossier on disinvestment to present to the Exective Board (as a result of one of our demands) after the Easter break.

So - we're busy, and that's why we're quiet. But watch this space - lots of information will be available about how the campaign is progressing very soon.

Thanks for your patience and solidarity.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Sheffield occupied!

Sheffield has occupied as of 7:15pm tonight.
Our solidarity to them - best wishes for a warm night and enough food!
See their blog and send your support

We're loosing count..!

Also - Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign will host a public meeting on Thursday evening. Exact time and location to be confirmed.
"After the Occupation: What's Next?" - please come to raise questions, ideas, discuss... and tell your friends. Details will be here tomorrow and on the facebook group.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

First negotiations + some initial demands are met

We left our meeting today with relative optimism. Some demands have been met, and others now have a timetabled course of action which we see as progress. The meeting was long, detailed and we felt we conducted it on our terms. We chaired the discussion and nominated negotiators to do most of the talking although 14 members of our group were present and able to contribute.

It is worth noting that Pro-VC for Exchanges Paul Younger was personally impressed by our action and encouraged that there was 'finally' student activism at Newcastle University. Like Dr. Trottier, he has knowledge of Palestine and has lead 'capacity building' projects in the West Bank and Gaza and seemed genuinely interested in our demands. Dr. Trottier expressed that she was 'glad that we took political action'. Similarly, John Hogan admitted that (although he does not support direct action against the university)'the occupation did increase our awareness' of legitimate issues and ultimately made this meeting possible.

And, in an act of good-will, John Hogan bought us all lunch.

The result of the meeting was verbally decided actions on all of our demands (some met, some not yet), which will be written and sent to us by the University representatives within 5 working days. Because that document will be more detailed and published here, it is not worth writing at length about the discussions. The basic points on all our demands (and the action we anticipate) are noted as follows:

1: Newcastle University to issue a statement - demand met:

We demanded that the university issue a public statement in support of Gaza and recognising the humanitarian crisis that the people of Gaza are now facing. We asked Newcastle University to issue a statement similar to Oxford University's statement because we share a VC with Oxford. We though drawing this parallel would be persuasive, but it turned out not to be. The University representatives will issue a statement. A draft of the wording of this will be sent to us before hand, within 5 working days. Following discussions this afternoon about the University's refusal to be 'political' on the issue of Israel and Palestine because of its status as an 'educational charity'. We did not think this was a sufficient excuse, particularly as under the Charities Act of 2005, charities can align themselves politically. We demanded in addition that the statement acknowledge an internationally recognised body, such as the UN, which supports an investigation into Israel's action on Gaza with respect to international law. They accepted this.

2: Newcastle University will facilitate us bringing the issue of arms investments to the finance council - demand not met, but action will be taken to facilitate a process:

Our demand was that Newcastle University adopt the same ethical policy towards arms as it does towards tobacco companies. It's policy towards tobacco is for "that part of the portfolio which is managed on a direct basis investment in tobacco companies is not permitted". We additionally demanded this apply to indirect investments and therefore a complete disinvestment from the arms trade (£527,000 is invested in various arms companies including BAE systems as of January 2009).

This was a very long discussion. The basics of it being: a) there are many bureaucratic bodies which deal with such decisions, but ultimately it is the Finance Council who have the authority to change investment policy,b) the immediate demand can not be met because the council cannot practically be called into emergency meeting to review investment policy and change it (many people on the board are not employed by the university and therefore are not necessarily here) c) efforts like this have been made before and failed, d) our case is strong in reference to the implications of having an ethical policy on tobacco and not on arms, however Paul Younger predicts views from the Finance Council and others that cigarettes are more dangerous than weapons because weapons can be used in defence (!) We don't accept this argument with regard to investing indiscriminately in major arms companies.

However, Paul Younger did seem to be on our side on this matter as did Dr. Trottier. Paul Younger even said that before our action, he was not aware of the details of Newcastle University's arms investments and neither was the Vice Chancellor. In addition to this, they have received emails from members of staff who were also not aware and are against it. This is very positive, and we are going to contact the UCU and academics to join the campaign for dis-investment.

Action: We were offered a chance to present our case to the Executive Board (which includes the VC, Pro-VC for Engagement, Registrar, Executive Director of Finance - also on the Finance Council) as the next step. Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign will produce a dossier of our view on the matter, including research and persuasive reasons why Newcastle University should dis-invest from the arms trade. Paul Younger has offered to personally help with the document, should we request this. The executive board meets weekly, and we are assured that we can be put on the agenda if we give notice of this by the end of the week before. John Hogan and Paul Younger (both on the exec' board) will ask if we can send delegates from our group to present our dossier. If this is refused, Paul Younger has said he will present it on our behalf. After this, we will take steps to take it to the Finance Council.

3. Newcastle University will 'actively support' our campaign and its projects - demand met:

a) a collection of computers, books etc for the Islamic University of Gaza (ICU)

Basic agreement with this, providing we link up with other universities in the area who are doing the same to perhaps share the costs of transport etc. The University Representatives admitted that we have a lot of surplus equipment that can be put to good use elsewhere, and also stated that the University already have mechanisms in place for sending academic materials to developing countries.

b) the visit of a student delegation to the ICU to establish their requirements/how we can best help them:

Basic agreement with this, and even some suggestions to build on this in a number of ways, including in the trip institutions in Gaza, the West Bank and also Israel. Dr. Trottier and Paul Younger both have colleagues in these places and are happy to liaise with them. John Hogan expressed his view that this trip would have to be from an 'educational' perspective, rather than a 'political' one, when of course we acknowledge that it will be both educational and political. The purpose of our campaign is to help people in Palestine, but we would be interested in visiting institutions in Israel too and making links with Israelis that support the Palestinian cause.Paul Younger suggested this trip could happen this summer, and at least be partly funded by Newcastle University. He also mentioned his interest in coming with us.

c) the university will actively support the campaign in following up on those needs.

NB. Our initial demand for scholarships remains in essence - we demand that those in Gaza have the same right to an education as we do. Our negotiations of the demands before leaving the occupation convinced us that scholarships are not necessarily the only or best way to help. We discussed how it would be better to find ways to help Gazan students remain in Gaza and study freely. Either way, we felt that we should establish what the needs are before we assume how we best can offer support.

d) the University supports us in campaigning for an ethical trade policy with regard to Israel

But this one remains 'our project'... Paul Younger explained how Newcastle was a 'fair trade' University, but we remain un-convinced that this makes much difference with regard to trading with Israel. However, we did discuss before leaving the occupation that there were many problems with demanding a blanket boycott of Israeli goods - largely practical. We perhaps need to assess this demand again, and work out what we really want from the University.

Paul Younger is going to 'start from scratch' on a Policy for Cooperate Responsibility this year, and has said that we can be involved in the making of it...

e) Newcastle University will publicise the DEC appeal for aid on notice boards around campus

4. Newcastle University supports new and ongoing collaborations with IUG, including distance education tools to link Newcastle students and IUG students - demand met:

Paul Younger and Dr. Trottier's contacts will be vital in this, and they are willing and supportive of the initiative.

5. Newcastle University will conduct a public review of the rules and regulations which currently restrict political activism on campus. Furthermore, the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign will no longer face restrictions on leafleting about our events, meetings etc on campus - demand met:

John Hogan has assured us that should we face problems again when we are campaigning on campus in a peaceful manner, we should call him. This is good news for our campaign, but we made it clear that this was not enough - there are specific restrictions on 'political' flyer's, leaflets etc which do not apply in the same way to other kinds of information dissemination. John Hogan agreed that it was problematic that political events were scrutinised this way and also agreed that 'offence' or the receiving of a complaint was not a legitimate excuse to stop the action. He will conduct a public review and we will be involved/kept up to date on this.

Phew! Well, that's the basic jist. When we receive the University's versions of the agreements, they will be blogged here. We feel that our campaign is now in a stronger position to carry on putting pressure on the University and that our progress today simply wouldn't have happened had we not taken direct action. We are not satisfied with what we've got, but we see it as definite progress and are therefore optimistic.

For the last week of term, we'll be doing lots of research into arms investments, building our network and support with staff and students and continuing a campaign of awareness raising on campus. Keep checking back!



The start of negotiations

A group of us are currently in negotiations at the Students Union with Pro-Vice Chancellor Professor Paul Younger, university Registrar Dr. John Hogan and specialist in the Middle East Dr. Julia Trottier.

So far we have summarised why we decided to occupy the university and the action that we took prior to occupying. We then outlined how the occupation went and what happened and why we left. After this we formally stated our demands (re-itterating that these were already negotiated, revised demands and thus the bare minimum of what we want post-the occupation) and requested a signed declaration from Paul Younger that no student who took part or supported the occupation would face disiplinary measures now, or in the future. He signed this straight-away.

The university then addressed our demands one by one.

At present we're breaking for lunch and discussing our response.

The discussions do seem to be fruitful initially but their are some minor issues re. semantics, wording and the responsibility of the university as an educational charity.

We're here until 4pm and there is a strong feeling, I believe, that we will be far from drawing a line under this by then.

In other news the Newcastle Chronicle has printed an article on our action that is less than supportive of our cause. It is also unrepresentative of everything that we stood for and the approach that we took to the action. We will be contacting them.


Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Demands re-draft, and the next step - WE ARE LEAVING THE OCCUPATION

It's been a very exciting couple of hours! After talks within our group which were looking like a decision to leave the occupation after 28 hours with a vague promise of a meeting with the registrar, we re-drafted our demands and are now preparing to enter negotiations with senior members of University Management. The demands were re-drafted to make them clearer and more concise, with more detailed directions. Our final demands now read as follows:

*Newcastle University to issue the same public statement as Oxford University expressing “concern for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza” and stating, “it is regrettable that many civilian casualties occurred in educational institutions.”

*Adopt the same ethical policy towards the arms trade as towards its tobacco industry policy, with a timetable of implementation. This includes indirect investments.

*Newcastle University supports the Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign’s coming projects of a) collecting computers, software, books etc for the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG) and b) the visit of a student delegation from Newcastle University to IUG to establish their needs, c) the ensuing student projects to follow up on those needs, d) developing an ethical investment and trade policy with respect to Israel, e) publicising the Disaster and Emergency Committee’s appeal for aid.

*Newcastle University supports new and ongoing academic collaborations with IUG, including distance education tools to link University of Newcastle Students and IUG students.

*Review of rules and regulations that will allow political activism in a variety of channels. This includes leafleting, flyers, posters, and meetings.

John Hogen, the Registrar, has signed the following statement and we are to meet tomorrow to begin negotiations on our terms:

We will leave the occupation this evening on the condition that:
John Hogan will meet with Newcastle University Gaza Solidarity Campaign at 12pm on March 12th, on equal terms for meaningful negotiations on our revised demands to begin. The Vice Chancellor and/or Paul Younger will be present as well as Dr. Trottier.

Julia Trottier is a member of academic staff with a great knowledge of the middle east, who has been recently a lot of help to the occupiers. She came to talk to us in the occupied space and to express her support. Paul Younger is Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement.

We are excited about the talks tomorrow. The occupation itself has ended at this point because we have been promised that the necessary steps will be taken immediately for our demands to be realised. We have no guarentee, of course, that our demands will be met, but are confident that the appropriate people will be present at these talks to continue our campaign effectively. This was our democratically chosen condition for the occupation.

We will not rule out further direct action if the University management go back on their word.

We are aware that tomorrow's meeting is in many ways more important than what has gone on so far. We will know more tomorrow about where we really stand and whether negotiations look like they will be successful.

It's been great! We are tired and now we are going to the pub to plan for tomorrows important meeting - the next step. THANK YOU FOR YOUR MESSAGES OF SUPPORT.