University of Leeds statement: Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre occupation
Latest update on discussions between the University of Leeds and student occupiers.
Updated 8 December 2010The University of Leeds will be graduating 2,700 students next week, from Monday 13 December. The Michael Sadler building, currently occupied by some 40 students, is required for graduating students, their parents and visitors, for gowning, photography and issuing tickets. The Rupert Beckett lecture theatre- the centre of the occupation - is itself needed next week for guests who cannot be accommodated in the Great Hall: the ceremonies are streamed there live. The University would normally begin to clean and prepare the relevant areas, and to install equipment, on Thursday. The occupiers have now given an undertaking that they will facilitate full access for University staff to clean and prepare the Michael Sadler building for next week's ceremonies, and the University has agreed on this basis that they may remain until Saturday lunchtime. The University of Leeds is committed to promoting and positively encouraging free debate, enquiry and peaceful protest; and it has accommodated the occupation of the Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre and other parts of the Michael Sadler Building since November 24. A spokeswoman said: "The occupiers have had over a fortnight in which to make their point, but the occupation cannot continue indefinitely: the normal business of the university has to go on. It was always our intention to secure an amicable end to the occupation before next week's degree ceremonies; and we are pleased that that has proved possible."
Posted 7 December 2010
A letter from University Secretary Roger Gair has been delivered to students occupying the Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre.
The letter is a request to leave and is not an eviction notice. It says:
The University of Leeds is committed to promoting and positively encouraging free debate, enquiry and peaceful protest; and it has so far accommodated your occupation of the Rupert Beckett Lecture Theatre and other parts of the Michael Sadler Building. (For the record, and contrary to your claims, we did not turn off the heating last week, or set off the fire alarms; and nor have we disabled wi-fi in the area.)
You have therefore had a reasonable opportunity - almost a fortnight now - in which to publicise and build your campaign.
The University cannot however accept an indefinite occupation. We have to take account of the interests and the concerns of staff who work in the Michael Sadler Building, and we cannot ignore the disruption which your occupation is causing to the normal work of the University, for example preparation for next week's degree ceremonies, which has a potential impact on over 2,700 students - and their families and friends.
Above all, I remain concerned about health and safety. Although I acknowledge that you have removed some locks when asked to do so by my colleagues, I am disappointed that fire doors are still being locked at all, albeit mainly outside normal working hours. This clearly contravenes the requirements set out in my letter of 24 November, and gives me no confidence that you will work with University authorities to ensure the health and safety of everyone who uses the Michael Sadler Building. I was particularly concerned that fire doors were found to be locked when evening teaching was under way last week.
Against this background, I hereby give you notice that you are trespassing in the Michael Sadler Building, and that the University requires you to leave the building by 8 am on Wednesday 8 December 2010. If you do not comply with this instruction, the University may take appropriate measures to regain possession of the building, without further notice to you. Any attempt to occupy other University buildings will also be regarded as trespass and again action may be taken to remove you.
I must make it clear that the University will not seek to victimise or otherwise take action against individuals just on the grounds that they have been occupying parts of the Michael Sadler Building. It would however take disciplinary or other appropriate action in respect of any of the following
~ any action which jeopardises the health and safety of staff or students of (or visitors to) the University (including those occupying the Rupert Beckett) - or any failure to comply with any reasonable health and safety instruction;
~ any physical assault of University staff or students;
~ any theft of or damage to property;
and it reserves the right to take legal action against you to recover use of the building.
I would be happy to meet a small delegation to discuss these matters if that would be helpful.
Roger Gair, University Secretary
For further information:
Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email firstname.lastname@example.org