Bristol University: inside the student occupation

  • Post last modified:March 15, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

The Canary is publishing in full a first-hand account of the current student occupation at Bristol University. We got in contact with one of those currently inside the management building. This is their account of what is happening, why it is happening, and what the students hope to achieve.

Bristol University: refusing to ‘engage meaningfully’

I am a student currently engaged in an occupation of the executive management building at Bristol University. We are taking this action to protest the university’s complicity in the ongoing genocide in Gaza and its broader ties to the arms trade. You can find our open letter and detailed list of demands here.

Our occupation began on Friday 8 March as a response to the university’s silence and inaction regarding their complicity.

We have since escalated our protest, moving the occupation to the executive management building:

Despite this, university administration has refused to engage meaningfully with us. Instead, they have attempted to silence our voices and discredit our cause.

Our vice chancellor Evelyn Welch has offered to meet with us to discuss our demands, on the basis that we first end our occupation and vacate their offices. She has also postponed meetings with staff unions, UCU and Unison, both of which have publicly backed our campaign, in an attempt to avoid pressure from staff regarding their response (or rather lack thereof) to our occupation.

Not only did she postpone their meeting, but she has also blamed us, the student occupation, as the reason for the postponement. However, after repeated attempts from multiple members of staff to contact Welch today, the UCU and Unison have managed to get in contact with her secretary and may have been able to get their meeting rearranged for a sooner date than it was originally postponed to.

‘Perpetuating violence and oppression’

The significance of our occupation cannot be overstated.

Not only does it highlight the university’s role in perpetuating violence and oppression, but it also exposes the broader complicity of UK universities in supporting industries that profit from human suffering.

Our actions have garnered local media attention, and Sky News will soon be featuring a story on UK universities’ involvement in the arms trade and their response to student protests, including our occupation as well as those happening concurrently at Goldsmiths, Leeds, and now UCL.

Bristol University has a history of leading progressive change within the higher education sector. They were among the first to declare a climate emergency and divest from fossil fuel investments in response to student-led campaigns.

We believe that our demands for divestment from companies complicit in human rights abuses are in line with the university’s commitment to social responsibility.

Bristol University must end the ‘harassment of Palestinian students’

One of our key demands is simply to end the harassment of Palestinian students on campus.

It is unconscionable that a university claiming to be dedicated to decolonising education would tolerate such behaviour.

We have heard firsthand accounts of the trauma experienced by Palestinian students, and it is imperative that immediate action is taken to address this issue. The fact that they cannot even agree to meet this demand as a bare minimum is incomprehensible.

The action will continue.

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