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Occupation to end in peace

Written by: on December 6, 2011

The University has agreed that the occupation outside Coventry House will be able to remain until Wednesday 7 December.

During a meeting at the Students’ Union with members of the University and the occupation it was verbally agreed that the University were willing to wait until Wednesday 7 December before taking any action.

Students’ Union (SU) President Leo Bøe said: “From the beginning all three parties [The Students’ Union, the University and the occupiers] agreed that we wanted the occupation to end under peaceful terms and this is a reflection of that.”

There have been several stages of negotiation leading to this decision.

On the evening of Thursday 1 December, SU President Leo Bøe and Education Officer Sean Ruston met with Vice Chancellor Nigel Thrift and Deputy Registrar Nicola Owen to discuss the ongoing occupation. The following day, a letter was sent from the Deputy Registrar to SU President Leo Bøe regarding “the matter of the student encampment occupying the lawn outside Coventry House”.

The letter outlined that the presence of the camp brings “reputational risks for the University”, especially regarding the number of visitors the campus attracts at this time of year. “Whilst the occupation on the lawn has been peaceful, the immediate impression which is given to visitors to the campus… is negative”, it noted.

Furthermore, the letter outlined that “the continuation of this encampment places unsustainable demands on the University both from a staffing and financial perspective… [as] the University has… provided security resources at additional cost to provide oversight of the safety of the area.” It noted this had “led to a diminution of resources” which it felt it could not uphold.

Despite the newly agreed date for the departure of the camp set as Wednesday 7 December, the letter sent to Bøe stated that following the failure of the University’s request that the camp be removed by Wednesday 30 November, they could “place very little reliance upon… assurances that the students intend to be gone by Wednesday 7th December”.

The letter concluded that the SU should “intervene in this matter and seek to persuade and engage with those encamped to remove themselves by 12pm Sunday 4 December 2011 prior to the University considering its position further.” At the time of print on Monday morning, the camp were still occupying the space.

In a press release sent to the _Boar_, Occupy Warwick stated “[The University] have requested that we move our tents and let out supporters disperse. We are currently unable to conform to that suggestion. We have re-affirmed that this movement will end at a time of our choosing… Wednesday 7 December 2011.”

The Occupy Warwick movement have been camped on an area of grass between Costcutters and Coventry House since Wednesday 23 November giving a range of free lectures and holding discussions between students and staff on a variety of topics.

“We are, above all, a place for education”, they have said. “Our information tent is a point for discussion, for learning and for teaching.”

Polarised opinions were aired by both students who were not involved, as well as participants of Occupy Warwick.

Ruth Pearce, one of the participants, commented on the success of the protest: “We’ve seen numbers peak at 60 at a lot of events”, adding that the movement is “about increasing awareness and the camp itself… is a visible symbol of dissent”.

Student Jacky Minty said: “It’s important we have something like this… People actually do want to make a difference. [They] aren’t just caring about themselves… we’re thinking about the next generation.”

“The occupiers are doing a very brave thing against a tide of very brutal scepticism”, said Charlie Hindhaugh, a first-year Politics student. “There’s definitely a clash of ideologies and a clash of visions.”

Despite calling it “the politest and most intellectual Occupy movement I’ve ever seen”, Warwick Conservatives speaker Kit Long criticised the movement. Long said that the protesters are “occupying University property without University permission… If somebody occupied my garden and sent me a series of demands, I’d call the police… so I understand why people are angry.”

Long added that the protesters have “got to come up with a series of demands that are reasonable”.

Another participant of Occupy Warwick, Kate Arnold, said of the “people who haven’t agreed with us” that “their arguments haven’t been that coherent”. She added that “the response from the majority of students has been really fantastic.”

Peter Dunn, the University’s Head of Communications, said that “the University reserves the right to act to secure the campus for students, staff and visitors.”

The University were unavailable to comment on these developments.

_Note: The photocaption on the paper issue of this article reads: “The camp was established outside Coventry House on Wednesday 30 November.” Correction: The occupation began on Wednesday 23 November._

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