Leeds University trade unions publicly support encampment students in open letter to VC

The unions called on the university to meet the students’ demands as soon as possible and to ensure better protection after an incident


Leeds University’s trade unions have announced their support for the ongoing pro-Palestine encampment taking place outside Leeds University Union.

In a letter to the university’s vice chancellor and secretary, Leeds UCU, UNISON and Unite unions expressed concerns for the safety of students currently participating in the encampment after it was reported that an incident had occurred where students were threatened by a hostile group.

 

The letter called on the university to make sure demonstrators have “sufficient support” from campus security and that security are “focused on ensuring the safety of the students.”

In addition, it requested advice on what measures had been put in place “to ensure the safety and wellbeing of colleagues in security.”

It recommended the provision of a “place/person” for individuals to “talk to in confidence, if the nature of this work is causing more than the usual stresses.”

It also asked the university to “meet the students’ demands as soon as possible in order to avoid further escalation.”

The trade unions said the letter followed reports that students taking part in the encampment were at increasing risk: “As you may be aware from social media or from the students themselves, over the past nights the students have faced escalating threats of violence and disturbance late at night.

“This culminated last night in one of the group harassing the students threatening them with weapons, including a knife.

“The students have also been subjected to aggressive sexist and racist derogatory language, which should not be tolerated by any member of the university community.”

The encampment, which began on 1 May, is occupying the green space outside LUU in solidarity with Palestine.

Demonstrators, who are protesting under the name Leeds Students Against Apartheid Coalition, have criticised Leeds University’s “complicity in Israel’s crimes against humanity.”

They have called on the university to end all links to Israel: “As the prospect of an invasion of Rafah threatens to kill Palestinians on an unprecedented scale, it is more urgent than ever for us to end institutional support.

“The university’s complicity is but a manifestation of the marketisation of education institutions, which prioritise profits over teaching quality, working conditions, and basic morals and ethics.”

A spokesperson for the University of Leeds said: “The university is monitoring the situation to ensure the safety of participants, as well as our wider community of staff and students. The surrounding area remains open.

“Whilst we respect the right to freedom of expression within the law, we are working to minimise disruption for everyone on campus.

“We know that many in our community are distressed and directly impacted by the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza, and we will continue to do more to support our students, act to protect the cohesion of our community and tackle hatred wherever it is found.”