Encampment to Cease Discussions with the University After Statement from the Vice-Chancellor


The organisers of the encampment outside Heslington Hall responded to the Vice-Chancellor’s detailed response to their demands, saying that they would not partake in any further negotiations. For the 16 days prior, the encampment has been calling for an institutional response, with negotiations opening up five days ago with senior management. 

The encampment promptly responded to the statement, with a joint Instagram post, depicting printed copies of the statement with a handwritten note “I ain’t reading all that! Free Palestine” written across the paper. 

Vice Chancellor Charlie Jeffery’s statement was stressed as a “personal reflection.” He expressed his concern about the “atrocities caused by Hamas fighters” before mentioning “the Israeli Government’s invasion”, adding the “conflict has to stop”.

Negotiations had taken place after representatives of the encampment made demands to University senior management in an open statement signed by 390 staff and students. 

Five demands were made, to support Gaza’s educational institutions, provide scholarships for Palestinian students, support Fadi Hania, a displaced Palestinian York alumnus, cut ties with arms manufacturers, and make a statement condemning genocide.

Jeffery responded to each of these, starting with the Sanctuary Fund which previously aided refugees from Ukraine and Afghanistan. He states that ‘these commitments and practices apply also in the case of Gaza’ but different conflicts ‘need to be considered in different ways’. As ‘there are no straightforward exit routes from Gaza’ for students and academics at risk and ‘the devastation of Gaza’s universities has been extreme’, supporting students and universities remains a challenge. 

The University is also exploring whether it ‘can sponsor Fadi [Hania] as an ‘academic at risk” after his GoFundMe reached its goal and Fadi and his family were able to leave Gaza. 

Jeffery then speaks about the dangers of restricting academic freedom, in response to the call to fully divest from the arms company. ‘I am forbidden from doing so in law’ he writes, stating that the protection of academic freedom ‘is fundamental’. 

On condemning genocide, in reference to the International Court of Justice case brought by South Africa, Jeffery states the University ‘does not have that standing’, as organisations are ‘operating with reference to legal concepts such as ‘genocide’.’

He does not ‘think it possible to distil the views of those many individuals into a single statement on a matter of law.’

The letter ended with Jeffery’s stance that the protests ‘will have no hindrance as long as it remains within the law’.  He states the ‘York tradition of freedom of speech is important’ in allowing ‘differences of view’ to be discussed on campus.

The encampment later released an emergency statement on Instagram, stating that the negotiations with senior management ‘have not been held in good faith’ and they ‘will not engage in further discussions’. The post also called for an emergency meeting to take place on Thursday at 7:30 pm at the encampment. As a result of this meeting, a joint statement was released by the encampment and PalSoc calling for an emergency rally to be held at Heslington Hall on Friday at 12.00 pm in a post captioned with ‘Shame on University of York’. 

Throughout the last two weeks, the encampment has been sharing information about rallies being held in town and on campus and has been holding a variety of workshops on subjects such as arts and crafts, activism and talks on Gazan history. It follows similar movements inspired by university encampments in the US. 

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