Down with Veolia: The University of Sheffield Palestine Society celebrates university’s decision to drop Veolia

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Students from the Islamic University of Gaza(IUG) to Sheffield University students               “Limits are here no more”  (photo: English Language Society/ IUG)

“So proud of my University and especially the Palestine Society which I have had the pleasure of being a part of over the last few years. Today marks a huge achievement in the student BDS campaign and hopefully more Universities will follow…” Sarah Mitchell, a BA student in the Civil Engineering Department at Sheffield University commented after her university’s decision to boycott all services from Veolia.

Sheffield’s active Palestinian Solidarity Group has achieved notable results in their campaigns. Yesterday, Thursday May 2nd marks one of the greatest triumphs that has been achieved after years of protests and lobbying by student activists.

The University’s Palestine Society stated:

The University of Sheffield Palestine Society are delighted that Accommodation and Campus Services have decided not to renew their waste management contract with Veolia Environmental Services. This comes after a year of concerted action and protest by the Palestine Society and the wider student body against the presence of Veolia on campus, as part of the Students’ Union’s campaign of Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against perpetrators of war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The University of Sheffield Students’ Union is one of the foremost centres of pro-Palestinian student activism, last October becoming the first Russell Group University to endorse the global BDS campaign, a year after becoming the first university in the country to establish links with a university in Gaza. Both of these policies were passed, by a large majority, in referenda open to the whole student body. Given this level of engagement with the Palestinian cause, the presence of a company like Veolia on our campus was simply unacceptable…

The waste contract held by Veolia was one of our main motivations for proposing the BDS policy last year. By passing it as official union policy it was possible to send a much stronger message to the university: that the student body as a whole does not want to incentivise companies, like Veolia, who suffer from such an abject lack of moral compass. Following the policy’s success in the October vote, we have worked with various groups to lobby and pressure the university into taking notice of the student voice. This has included an open letter signed by the Palestine Society and other campaigning groups, demonstrations on the concourse, letters from human rights groups in Palestine, Israel, and beyond, and direct lobbying from the sabbatical officers. It is enormously gratifying that university management appears to have been responsive to the concerns both of ourselves and of the wider student body. It is a testament to the thriving level of student engagement in campaigning and social activism here in Sheffield that we have now added the cessation of relations with Veolia to our list of historic firsts as a university. The hope is now that other student bodies around the country will gain inspiration and draw encouragement from this fantastic news.

Sheffield Students are so happy for this decision. In Facebook, I have seen many posts from students everywhere congratulate everyone in Sheffield for this great success.

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Students from other universities are also excited for this decision. Maseeh, a student from the University of East London, is very keen to know his university decision in December. He hopes it will follow Sheffield’s footsteps.

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From students in Gaza to students at Sheffield University, “we break the artificial borders, demolish all limits, and create mutual love and respect. We are jubilant for your tireless efforts and accomplishment.”

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About Malaka Mohammed

Malaka Mohammed is a Palestinian student from Gaza doing a PhD in Palestine Studies at Exeter University. Follow her on Twitter @MalakaShwaikh.

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2 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    May 3, 2013, 10:35 pm

    yeahhhh sheffield! and thank you malaka for bringing us such great news!

  2. ritzl
    May 4, 2013, 12:45 am

    Great news!

    It builds…

    I just watched a PBS (US) program on the anti-Apartheid movement here. That movement started out as a ridiculed idea (check), then through some quirks of fate became a broad issue (maybe check), then Reagan and Thatcher proposed the highly reactionary “constructive engagement” position (check), then it became an unopposable position.

    Admittedly mine is a highly condensed version of what happened wrt SA Apartheid, but you/we, imho, are in the throes of the reactionary (it has to be a reaction to very real political pressure in order to elicit this type of response) “constructive engagement” phase of the “getting Israel to accept the seriousness of its self-imposed situation.”

    BDS is having effect. Well done!!

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