University of Cambridge claims Old School occupiers are ‘derailing preparations’ for coronavirus outbreak

They have asked the occupiers ‘to leave immediately’

The University of Cambridge claim that the occupation of the Old Schools by Cambridge Defend Education has disrupted plans for dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

A University spokesperson issued a statement to The Cambridge Tab: “Although the University is fully supportive of staff and students’ right to peaceful protest, the extended occupation of The Old Schools at a time of heightened anxiety about public health is irresponsible.

“By entering additional working areas in the building, members of Cambridge Defend Education have forced all staff to operate in temporary locations across the University.

“As a result, they have displaced and disrupted the teams directly charged with crucial contingency planning for a Coronavirus outbreak. By derailing preparations at a critical point, members of CDE are putting the health of University staff and fellow students at risk. We have asked the occupiers to leave immediately.”

Photo credit: Solidarity College Cambridge

In response to this statement, ‘The Occupiers’ told The Cambridge Tab: “Earlier today we met with two members of University Management – Ms Emma Rampton and Dr Martin Vinnell – who made clear that the power to meet our demands rests with Stephen Toope. However, over the phone today Toope stated: ‘I am not willing to meet with you’ (at 5.15pm).

“We find weaponsing coronavirus against the occupation extremely disingenuous, as the Vice-Chancellor refuses to enter the negotiations that would end the occupation. Additionally, the occupiers offered to cooperate in any way we can, and return relevant documents to management, who refused the offer.

“Students occupying Old Schools in solidarity with striking staff have not taken this action lightly. We made it clear when we entered the occupation in letters and emails to Stephen Toope and other senior managers in the University that “we are very willing to leave – on the condition that our demands are fulfilled”. We have received absolutely no response to our demands thus far.

“To reiterate, we now have five demands, as our call for UCU recognition was met by the University yesterday. This clearly shows the University has the power to meet our demands and end the occupation:

1 – The VC, Stephen Toope, make a public statement calling for UCU’s demands to be met by employers and the national pensions and employment bodies.

2 – The VC set out the University of Cambridge’s plans for meeting the national and local UCU demands, alongside those of UNITE and UNISON.

3 – The VC sign the Undoing Borders ‘Pledge Against the Hostile Environment’.

4 – The VC agree to an open meeting before the end of term as part of a commitment to meet with students and workers twice termly.

5 – Students and workers face no disciplinary measures for taking part in peaceful direct action in support of the strikes.”

Photo Credit: Solidarity College Cambridge

The Old Schools have been occupied since 3rd March as part of a protest in solidarity with UCU’s strike. The occupiers have set up a Facebook page where they refer to themselves as “Solidarity College Cambridge”.

They have hosted a series of public events throughout the occupation, including football on Senate Lawn, Ceilidh and yoga. Tomorrow they have “Art in the Dark” at 6pm and an “Alternative Fashion Show” at 8pm.

Figures released today from the Department of Heath and Social Care confirmed the first case of coronavirus in Cambridgeshire. The total number of UK cases as of 9:00 GMT is 373, with 2,261 tested.

Cover photo credit: Solidarity College Cambridge