The occupation of Greenwich House, protesting the University's investments in fossil fuel companies, entered its sixth day todayLouis Ashworth

Cambridge has begun court proceedings to evict students who are currently occupying Greenwich House, one of the University’s key administrative buildings.

The University’s claim for repossession will be heard tomorrow afternoon at 2pm, after which the court will decide whether to allow the occupation to continue. The occupiers are currently pursuing an adjournment for the hearing tomorrow in an attempt to delay the eviction.

A spokesperson for the University of Cambridge said: “The occupiers were asked to leave the building by 9am on 22nd May but declined to do so. The University is now taking the necessary steps to bring the occupation to an end.”

The order was condemned by Zero Carbon, who told Varsity: “The University’s failure to even negotiate with occupiers is emblematic of their disgust for democratic engagement. We are only in Greenwich House because they have subverted every official process we have gone through. On Monday, the University Council was unable to even reach a decision, and today they threaten us with eviction despite our attempts at dialogue.”

Cambridge Zero Carbon has criticised “the University’s failure to even negotiate with occupiers [as] emblematic of their disregard for democratic engagement”. The University of Cambridge declined to comment on whether it has engaged in negotiations with occupiers short of taking the case to court.

The occupiers had previously stated that the occupation would continue until the University agreed to demands of “immediate commitment to full divestment from fossil fuels by the year 2022”, and of no disciplinary action being taken against occupiers.

The University declined to comment on whether it plans to take further disciplinary action against the organisers of, or participants in, the occupation. Cambridge Zero Carbon had secured open access to the public on the second day of the occupation, and had invited students to join them at Greenwich House, saying, “we believe the likelihood of disciplinary action is very low”, though noting that “the University has not ruled out that possibility”.

CUSU has also issued a statement condemning the University's court order as “completely antithetical to our attempts to get the University to meet with protesters and have a meaningful dialogue about the reasons behind the occupation.

“This act of intimidation is also part of a worrying trend across the country where the police and bailiffs are welcomed onto campus’ whilst the rights of peaceful protesters become more and more unclear.”

The building contains the finance offices barricaded by the group last month, as well as its research operations office, department of human resources, and estate management office.

University Council has delayed its decision on whether to commit to full divestment of its endowment from fossil fuels, after Cambridge’s divestment working group rejected calls for full divestment in favour of a policy of “considered divestment”, within a “positive investment strategy”.

Explained Making sense of the 2018 divestment working group report

The contents of the divestment working group report divided members of the University Council yesterday. The Council has therefore planned an extraordinary meeting within the next month to deliberate further whether to accept the recommendations that:

1. The University adopt a commitment to “continued divestment”

2. The University should commit to being carbon neutral by 2040

3. 100% of the University’s energy should come from renewable sources by 2030

4. The University should not invest in thermal coal or tar sands directly or indirectly

5. “10% of indirect investment should be placed with funds that embrace Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) funds that are “consistent with a carbon neutral future”

6. The University should commit to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment

7. The Investment Office should become increasingly transparent about its investment processes through an annual report, with “information on environmental and social funds”, as well as an “informative website”

8. The University should join the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), “or an alternative equivalent”, “to ensure it lends its voice and authority in engagement with industry”

9. A Centre for a carbon-neutral future should be established to combine research on energy production and use, climate, sustainability, and policy

Click to show


Mountain View

Analysis: Working group report a landmark, but misunderstands the pro-divestment movement

Zero Carbon held a ’D-Day Rally’ earlier this week on May 21st which was attended by around 200 students. As a result Zero Carbon continued their protest as they remained in occupation of Greenwich House. The hunger strikers, however, ceased their protest for health reasons and at the wishes of their family.

The actions taken by the University lie in sharp contrast to that of the Old Schools occupation in March led by Cambridge Defend Education, which ended peacefully following negotiations for two open meetings with the vice-chancellor, and that the University agree to not take any disciplinary action against the protesters.

The Zero Carbon Society has organised an emergency rally this evening outside the Senate House to protest the University’s actions, claiming that that Cambridge has “revealed its hand”, as it “hasn’t hesitated for a moment to rush to the courts and the police to stop a democratic protest for divestment”.