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Cambridge occupation latest: soup wars and proctor mumble

manos | 26.01.2009 15:52 | Education | Palestine | Repression | Cambridge

Today was the first day of lectures, that had to co-exist with the occupation at the Cambridge law Faculty. A couple of notable events included an ultimatum to vacate from the university, the Great Soup Battle, and the the meek attempt to intimidate the occupiers by requesting them to give their names individually.

The Blog of the occupation summaries the procedural demands of the university vis-a-vis the occupiers (namely to get out!), you will find what actually happened at the end of the report:

The Chairman of the Law Faculty issued a statement to Cambridge Gaza Solidarity in person at 11:30am. The validity of the statement was agreed to by senior members of the university. The terms of the statement are as follows:

1. That we are disrupting academic life.

2. That since bringing food into the Faculty constitutes a health and safety problem, we are forbidden to bring food to the Law Faculty.

3. That we are in breach of matriculation requirements in regards to the need to obey reasonable demands.

4. That there is concern about the presence of non-University members in the Faculty, and that the University now withdraws license for them to be here.

5. That the Senior and Junior Proctors will arrive at 2pm to take a new roll of people present. This roll is to be passed on to the colleges.

The Chairman was not ready to enter into dialogue with us about the statement. We particularly felt it was of pressing importance to address the second point of the statement – that we are forbidden from bringing food into the Faculty – as this seems an infringement on our right to protest peacefully and stands to compromise our wellbeing.

Furthermore, we have already provided the University with a list of names and feel there is no need to produce another such list. As a compromise, we have voted and decided that we will provide the University with a list of the colleges of those present.

We thus do not feel that this statement is a productive move forward in the negotiation process, and feel that the statement largely constitutes an intimidation tactic on the part of the University.

We can only repeat our call to enter into proper negotiations with the University.

A first hand report of what actually happened:

I am just returning from an interesting lunch break at the occupied
faculty, where the "proctors" (this is the batman looking person in
charge of discipline in Cambridge-speak) were expected to enforce the

First let me recount the first episode in what will be known for ever
and ever as the Great Soup Wars of 2009. The chairman of the faculty,
and otherwise respectable gentleman who is also a QC, was refusing
entry to the soup pot on grounds of health and safety. Respect to the
students that at no moment lost their cool despite the clear
provocation and attempt to escalate the situation: they engaged with
the chairman, while underhandedly the large pot was moving under the
crowd. When it emerged on the other side of the "checkpoint" a law
student cried from a balcony something like "the soup got away!" and
everyone proceeded to lunch. The first battle of the GSP was won!

At about 2pm, and prompt, the proctors (batman that is, for those only
looking at pics) arrived. They asked again for everyone's names. It
came as a little shock to them when a facilitator jumped in and
coordinated the discussion, that included proposals and amendments. At
some point the junior proctor said, "wait a second, you are not
chairing (sic) this meeting", at which point the crowd responded with
"yes she is"! Overall they should be thankful, since this allowed the
discussion to move forward. A general assembly was called where it was
decided for those who wish to add their names to the list of people
occupying that was compiled on Friday. People were not happy giving
again names, or just refusing totally (that was seems as a lack of
solidarity). Those who decided so wrote theirs names down to a list
that was handed over to the proctors. They looked a bit stroppy, but
still happy they got at least something.

Overall this encounter was an empowering experience. First it really
shows the limitations of the universities' rule. They can demand
names, and only get a vague list of people who self-define as
occupiers. They can try to stop food coming in (how pathetic anyway!)
and they fail even then. In both cases the facilitation helped defuse
a difficult situation, and reach quick decisions.

A final note has to be added: the proctors, of course threatened the
students indirectly with disciplinary action (and it seems this is why
they were so keen to attach names to faces), and repeated that they
considered students did not comply with a "reasonable request from a
university officer" -- the bullshit formula, giving them powers of
arbitrary rule, taken verbatim from the quasi-medieval disciplinary
regulations of the university.

This is the point where the student movement in Cambridge has to use
its institutional memory. Last time campaigners were brought up in
front of serious disciplinary charges by their college was in 2003 in
Kings. On appeal the students (who originally were banned from the
university, and town!) for years, all got off AND THE SENIOR TUTOR
RESIGNED! The details of this priceless case, as well as background on
the obligations and the standards of justice that colleges and the
university have to abide to can be found on the Indymedia archives --
a recommended read:

The occupation continues until the demands are met!





26.01.2009 18:05

Well done cambridge, keep up the struggle.

and nice one manos, on maintaining the institutional memory of struggle in the corridors of learning :)
What manos didn't mention was his role in reinstating the king's 4, and bringing down the Senior Tutor.