Sunday, 25 January 2009

Update on Negotiations

At noon today, 36 hours after the occupation started, we secured a meeting with University officials where negotiation of demands would begin.

We have since entered into formal negotiations with a small delegation of officials from Cambridge University which includes the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, the Registrary, the Chairman of the Law Faculty and the Senior Proctor. We are pleased that the University agreed to begin the negotiation process on the weekend as we are keen to minimise disruption to University lectures.

The University authorities asked us to send three delegates with whom they would engage behind closed doors. However, the group felt that it was important for our principles of democratic representation to be maintained during negotiations with University authorities, and that all students who wished should be allowed to attend the negotiations in person.

As a compromise, we elected four delegates to act as spokespeople who were given a mandate to negotiate with University officials on behalf of our collective within a public forum, where everyone interested could be present. This would ensure accountability while allowing a focused and productive discussion. However, the University refused this proposition.

The delegation of University officials recognised us as “a large occupation”. Although the University delegates did not deny the need for an accountable forum, they felt that the presence of so many students (a full lecture hall) would be intimidating.

Dialogue continues through a formal written exchange. Once we receive an official statement from the University delegation we will discuss their proposals and vote on them through direct democracy. We now await their official statement in writing.


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  2. I don't suppose you appreciate the parallels between your dismissal of legitimate negotiation and the situation in Gaza.

    Making a stink for as long as you don't get your own way is exactly why things have gone on so long over there.

    Presumably this will end up with you being forcibly removed from the Faculty when you actually start spoiling people's days on Monday morning. If only it were that easy in the Middle East.

  3. Yes, because Israel has negotiated with Hamas haven't they. Talking to Mahmoud Abbas doesn't count because he doesn't represent the Gazan people and neither does talking to Egypt who are so worried that Hamas' Egyptian Parent Group will bring democracy to Egypt, they'll do anything to destroy Hamas.

    The requests by the occupiers aren't really demands. They're asking negotiations to be open to make sure the negotiators aren't threatened as has been the case at some other sit-ins. There isn't really a parallel seeing as the Cambridge occupiers are actually willing to negotiate (unlike another occupier we know, ahem Israel).

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  5. i am going to laugh my considerable balls off when you get thrown out pending rustication.

    and regarding your final demand here is a lesson in law, not even the thickest criminal demands the right to commit the act yet expects the punishment to be overlooked. grow some fucking cohones you children.

    i hope mummy and daddy aren't too disappointed, but somehow i think they will be.

  6. It is clear that certain people are bigoted and brainwashed so don't take to heart what they have said o fellow occupiers of Cambridge University!
    Your cause is without doubt just and is also legal so don't give up hope nor lose heart.

    In solidarity, a participant of Warwick University occupation, S0.21

  7. Cambridge, please check your e-mail! The other occupations are trying to get in touch. We need a phonenumber. Remember to contact the media, Oxford have been very good at this, but more outreach needs to be done.

    As for the negotiations: At LSE we sent a delegation, though what I would suggest as a further compromise is that the delegation be rotated, and that meetings are recorded with a dictaphone, or that you take an extra person along just for taking minutes.



  8. A bit more of a report on the flavor of discussions taking place at the occupation, from Indymedia:

  9. It's a great reflection of our wonderful society that you can do what you are doing.

    I doubt you would last very long if you decided to mount a similar criticism of Hamas's wrongdoings somewhere in Gaza.

  10. How about forming a group, based on all of the wonderful ideals of direct democracy etc. and deciding what your general aims, 'constitution' and decision making procedures are *before* taking direct action.

    Then, once you have formed a group, use those methods decide on some specific things that you want the university to do (I'm going to plug the SMART acroynm again) petition the university and college authorities to take the actions that you think they should be doing, get into negotiations with them and stage direct action focussed on only one or two demands if it is needed.

    If direct action events are "single issue" it's alot easier for students to decide if they want to participate in the action (I agree with most but not all of the demands so would not want to join the protest). It also makes it easier for the authorities to respond and harder for them to dismiss you.

    For example, why not use this protest to get the University to agree to aims 1 and 2... issue a statement condemning aggressors on both sides and calling for cease fire and also commit to a day of fundraising activities for charities involved in humanitarian activities in the area (although why students can't do this themselves I don't know).

    Both of those demands are reasonable and easy for the university to implement in the timescale of the occupation (unlike stopping colleges investing in arms manufacturers); if the university doesn't agree to them then they will look very bad and students who are not necessarily voting members of your 'collective' can decide to come along and support the action if they agree with it's specific aims.

    After the protest your core membership can continue to negotiate with the university on the other demands and could organise further direct action in the future if it feels that the university is being intractable/unreasonable etc. on specific points.

  11. Hee hee hee!

    I remember student politics. It was pretty laughable back in my day but I think this has to be the daftest protest I've seen in a while.

    Trust me - one day when you're older and wiser you'll look back on this and realise the naivete of thinking:

    (a) that a UK university - where there's a wide range of opinions on every subject - should intervene in international politics on one particular side

    (b) that anybody would take any notice if they did

    (c) that you're doing something somehow admirable by causing such disruption

    Don't get me wrong, I support some aspects of your cause, but this is *not* the way to win sympathy for it. There are legitimate ways to make your feelings known to people who can actually make a difference. This isn't one of them.

    Such foolishness is usually harmless, and will be quickly forgotten, but it's a pain for the University staff who have to live with it.

    Fortunately, some of them will be able to get their revenge when writing your job references!

  12. AJ - I think their latest post answers most of your questions, but I wanted to come back to you on SMART.

    I'd say they ARE all specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic targets, and somewhat timebound - but they are an opening for negotiations, so they don't need to be and if they were too specific it wouldn't help.

    Will be interested in your response to their latest post.

    Peter - "nobody would take any notice if [the uni did intervene]" - except maybe the people in Gaza who'd have more funds and educational materials to rebuild their lives, know that one of the most famous places of learning in the world condemns Israel's attacks on them and who come here on the new scholarships.....?

  13. It may not be that productive to debate this issue too much but I will give you my view on this...

    The first demand has no timescale (although I suppose the intention is that it should be immediate). There are some issues with it's measurability... will whatever statement the university comes up with be damning enough to satisfy protestors? Will subtleties of the wording be unsatisfying? But those are minor points.

    The second demand has no timescale (or if it is meant to be immadiate is unrealistic in my opinion). There are many issues with this demand, it is measurable but lacking in specifications... Which universities? How many books/computers? Are we going to give them old books/equipment that we don't want? (isn't that patronising) or buy new ones (where does money come from) - where are all these old books that we don't need?

    The second demand is also lacking in realism... where will the money come from? Is the unversity governing body (who negotiations seem to be with) in a position to meet this demand - most of the books/equipment are owned by individual departments and it's up to them to decide what they do with them, isn't it? (I'm not sure on this point, I have a very limited knowledge of the constitution/structure of the university)

    I also find the phrase 'academic aid' misleading, the demands are for material and financial aid to an academic institution. (and there is always the facetious point that the university could send two books, two computers and a pound coin and the demands would be satisfied)

    The third demand is great as far as SMART is concerned and my personal favorite. (although I don't see why RAG, or the protestors couldn't do this anyway)

    The fourth demand is lacking in that it does not specify when the scholarships should start. I also think that it is inappropriate in that afew hundred protestors are effectively asking the unviersity to put (probably tens of) millions of pounds into a brand new scholarship fund, particularly in the current financial situation... I think that you need alot more students (at least a majority of undergraduates) up in arms before you can make demands of that scale to the university

    The fifth demand again has no timescale. It is also unspecific in that 'arms trade' can be a problematic thing to define (what about hedge funds that may invest in arms etc. etc. etc.). I think it is also innapropriate because the action has been taken against the university (and law fac.) so they have little leverage to make demands of individual colleges (whose finances are autonomous to those of the university)

    The final demand is unrealistic in that there is no way that it can be legally binding because it is exacted under duress.

  14. Let me work this out -- the University offered to negotiate your demands, but you reached a total impasse because they asked for three delegates and you insisted on four?

    My goodness.

  15. Ah, sorry -- the impasse was over whether the negotiations would take place in a packed lecture hall or in private. But you must see their point of view. You could always have a vote on the outcome of the private discussions.

  16. The impasse was over three things, as far as I can see.
    1) the suggestion that the university have four representatives while the occupiers have only three - I'd guess this is an attempt at intimidation by outnumbering them.
    2) the absolute refusal to conduct their negotiations in a transparent, accountable and democratically acceptable (though not ideal) environment.
    3) the claim that four representatives of one of the most prestigious universities in the world would be 'intimidated' by a silent crowd of around 100 students in a normal lecture hall environment...
    Much like, say, the environment that every lecture the faculty staff give, every working day of their careers?

    Or are senior positions awarded on the basis of shyness these days?

  17. In defence of 3, I generally don't heckle in my lectures.

  18. Clearly you haven't seen a discussion held by this group, or you would completely cast aside the idea of heckling. Proctors, security staff, the chairman of the faculty and so forth have all held discussions with the group without being heckled, in a calm and civilised manner even when the individuals in question are telling them they can't have food or blankets and that their friends and guests will not be allowed into the building. Why should that suddenly change when it comes to negotiation?

  19. Good on you Cambridge students. Don't lose heart you'll get there in the end.

    And to comment on some of the snider comments.

    AJ is way out of date on his management bullshit. SMART may sound good but it's a tired acronym used by those with no imagination desperate to try and work out what they should be doing. If you're so clever AJ why don't you go down there and get involved rather than snipe from the sidelines. The comment about Oxford is particularly insufferable. As though it's the only other place that matters.

    Peter Haydyn says "Fortunately, some of them will be able to get their revenge when writing your job references!" Oh yes being a student activist really undermines your career prospects - tell that to Gordon Brown, Peter Mandelson, Trevor Phillips and Sue Slipman amongst many others. (Probably most of these are not role models the Cambridge activists will want to emulate but that's not the point).

  20. Sorry if I appeared to be 'snide' I have not been able to get there this far, although I plan to pop in this morning.

    I broadly support the intents of the protestors and I have been (mostly) attempting to engage in reasoned discussion (despite the innapropriateness of this medium) about the protests and make constructive criticisms (some of which have been adopted, which could suggest that I am helping) what is it about protests that means that they should be immune from criticism? Is asking questions like "how could the protest be better?" wrong? If you support a protests aims but think that its methods are questionable or (unintentionally?) provocative then isn't the right thing to do to question it?

    I'm not going to defend SMART, it is just an acronym as you say. I think that it made a valid point about the demands as I have elaborated above.

    The Oxford comments were just showing how, in a spirit of love and solidarity etc. Cambridge protestors could learn afew things from the Oxford protestors - how is that insufferable? I *did* specifically choose to compare to Oxford since, like it or not, it does touch a certain nerve in most Cambridge students that other universities don't.

  21. 1.)all this talk of "where is the money to come from?" seems laughable. Cambridge university OWNS Cambridge, almost all of it up to the river and then Isolated polts in chesterton and a huge amount of land outside the city. It also OWNS parts of london and receives huge payments in rent. I don't have a head for statistics but could someone work out how many poor countries have a GDP lower than the funds available to the university.

    2.) as a direct responce to Peter Haydyn: even if your points weren't unsupported and quite frankly indicative of one who lives a sad and lonely life I find it hard to take seriously any post which begins with the words 'hee hee hee'. for gods sake SORT YOUR LIFE OUT.

    3.)I take it that there are many who feel that we should abandon democracy as 'daft'. And that we should meet with the authorities appologise for exercising our right to protest and return to the apparently favoured position of not giving one about dieing foreigners.

    4.) I'm not a student and i've been involved in the occupation since the very beginning. I have suggested on several occasions that the university have me arrested but it seems that they havent got it in them. personally I dont see my actions as trespass: will someone please look in to the annexing and enclosure of common land of the residents of cambridge( including myself) for the university buildings or just to keep the lower orders away from their future lords, a view which it appears still exists.
    To be honest I don't care about the legal discorse on the other blogs As a non-student I'm not covered by the amnesty anyway. Let the uni do their worst but I'm taking a stand for the people of Gaza and the ignored people of cambridge, chesterton, arbury, cherry hinton, romsey, abbey and newnham.

    5.) the idea that this was the result of some outisde cabal who occupied the university building and then trapped others inside is totaly un founded. a suggestion was made to an open meeting that an occupation take place and the meeting *voted* *democracticaly* to occupy.

    6.) I think all of these comments attacking the occupation on here and on the myspace page are not founded on "reason" but are the result of pure intellectual snobbery and ruling class ideology: "Occupy a building?! how very oikey of them. Why don't they stop making a fuss and leave the unrest to the great unwashed" '
    having looked at the blogs of the other occupations a strange pattern immerges: amon those dominated by working class students (as far as any exist) in the old poly technics or in the metropolitan universities there have been some attacks but most posts are messages of solidarity or constructive critisism; the negotiations have been more constructive and they have had a far better relationship with the staff and students. In the more middle class universities there have of course been more attacks but generally it is either supported or ignored by students. It is only in this upper class institutions that the nutters come out to play .
    the occupiers must realise that the majority of the condemntion of their action comes from the upper and middle classes. the occupations are talked about with approval in my factory, my working mens club, in the pub and in my union meetings. there are of course always critics but the majority are glad that some one is DOING something no matter the unsubstanciated claims of disruption: "I'm glad the grads (local slang for all students) are doing something worth doing for a change. "