Climate and Gaza protesters continue occupation of UGent building

The students who have been occupying a building at Ghent University since Monday have decided to continue their occupation. The climate and Gaza activists find it "unacceptable" that the university is not engaging in dialogue with them.

Around 100 students from the action groups Ghent Students For Palestine and End Fossil Ghent started their announced occupation of the university's Ufo building on Monday afternoon. 

The students are demanding that the university come up with an action plan to cut all ties with Israeli institutions and put sustainability at the heart of its budgetary and educational decisions. 

UGent did not respond to their demands and did not authorise the occupation. The university did make arrangements with the occupiers, whose number has now grown to 300. 

'No choice but to continue'

The students had set Wednesday as the end of the occupation, to give both the university and the occupiers a clear timeframe and to ensure safety. But on Wednesday night the activists decided to continue their occupation. 

The students had warned that action would follow if the university did not meet their demands, which included presenting action plans to end all collaboration with Israeli institutions complicit in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

"A university should engage with its students instead of ignoring us"

In particular, the lack of response from the university's rector has angered the students. "We find it unacceptable that the UGent administration does not respond to our demands and does not enter into dialogue with us," they said.

"A university should engage with its students instead of ignoring us. So we have no choice but to continue the occupation," said the students.

Staff show solidarity

On Monday evening, the university sent out an overview of the cooperations with Israeli partners it has reviewed since implementing its human rights policy in 2018. 

"UGent currently has no cooperation with parties involved in serious human rights violations. Not in Gaza, not in East Jerusalem, not in the West Bank," said the university's rector, Rik Van de Walle. 

"We are very happy that the staff are behind us"

University staff and professors also showed solidarity with the students occupying the building. According to the activists, around 50 members of staff have joined them.

Students and staff will release a joint statement after the weekend. "We are very happy that the staff are behind us. This shows once again that the university is not taking its social responsibility," the students said.




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