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Deal or No Deal Part #2: Protesters going nowhere as standoff drags on

On Wednesday night, student protesters were celebrating what they thought was a partial victory in their months-long campaign, claiming to have secured an undertaking by the University of Melbourne to disclose links to weapons manufacturers. But 24 hours later, they are still on campus, and not happy. James Costa reports.

Deal or No Deal Part #2: Protesters going nowhere as standoff drags on

Chalk graffiti on the walls of Arts West, which protesters have renamed Mahmoud Hall to commemorate a Palestinian student killed in Gaza, who won a scholarship from the Australian Government to study in Australia. Image: Kristian Oka Prasetyadi

Report by James Costa

The tense stand-off between pro-Palestine student protesters and the University of Melbourne dragged on today (Thursday), with protesters refusing to pack up their 29 day encampment, or leave the Arts West building they have occupied for eight days, until the administration sends an email to all staff and students announcing it will disclose weapons research ties.

Unimelb for Palestine organisers have told The Citizen that protesters on both sites had “collectively agreed” not to pack up until the university sends the email, a commitment protesters claim they had secured in verbal negotiations.

On Thursday at 2:30pm, the university quietly updated its website, “Conflict in the Middle East and activism on campus”, to include a subheading titled “Research Transparency”. Unimelb for Palestine said they were only made aware of the update an hour after it was posted, via a non-university email.

This action appears to have failed to meet the expectations of the protesters.

The update states that the university was aware of community interest in its research with external organisations, and wished to “restate its long-standing position on research.

“In an effort to provide greater transparency and remove ambiguity about research being conducted… [it] is committing to additional disclosure of its research grant arrangements as they relate to research projects, the parties who support that research and the quantum [financial details].”

The university did not directly reply to any questions from The Citizen regarding the protesters claims or the updates to its website. The website said that “further updates” would be available “commencing in June.”

Last night (Wednesday), the student protesters claimed a partial victory in their months-long campaign demanding that the university disclose and divest links to weapons manufacturers involved in the Israel-Hamas war.

Earlier that day, a protest organiser had announced: “The university will be sending an email out tomorrow (Thursday), to all students and staff, making a public commitment that the university will disclose all of its relationships, not only with defence … but when it comes to all research”. University media officers would not confirm the deal, saying only they welcomed “the willingness of the occupiers to leave the Arts West building and remove the encampment from our Parkville campus”.

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THE CITIZEN is a publication of the Centre for Advancing Journalism. It has several aims. Foremost, it is a teaching tool that showcases the work of the students in the University of Melbourne’s Master of Journalism and Master of International Journalism programs, giving them real-world experience in working for publication and to deadline. Find out more →

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