Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

University of Cambridge graduations go ahead as Cambridge for Palestine clear tents on Senate House lawn





The sun shone on Cambridge at the weekend, bringing a frantic week for Cambridge students to a pleasant conclusion with the Senate House lawn open to graduates, and a ‘Journalists against Genocide’ protest organised by NUJ Cambridge voicing solidarity with the pro-Palestine camp on King’s.

The Senate House lawn had been occupied by the Cambridge for Palestine group mid-week: tents were erected, with placards displaying the group’s support for Gaza, whose citizens have now endured more than seven months of bombing in the aftermath of the 7 October Hamas attacks on southern Israel which left 1,200 dead. Since 8 October, more than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel’s military - the majority of deaths being of women and children, according to the United Nations.

Senate House lawn on graduation day, 18 May, 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom
Senate House lawn on graduation day, 18 May, 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom

The Cambridge for Palestine group set up their tents on the lawn between King’s College’s buildings and King’s Parade on 6 May, saying they would remain until the University of Cambridge and its colleges agreed to “disclose all of its research collaborations and financial ties with companies and institutions complicit in Israel’s genocide and then to divest from these”.

Having taken over the Senate House lawn on Wednesday, a spokesperson said the university had “taken the very difficult decision to make alternative arrangements for the degree congregations this weekend”.

Graduating students take photos outside Senate House at Cambridge University on Friday. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA
Graduating students take photos outside Senate House at Cambridge University on Friday. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA

Then, on Thursday, Cambridge for Palestine said the University of Cambridge had "agreed to negotiate" and the tents were removed for the lawn, which meant that visitors from all over the world were able to enjoy a sunny day with uninterrupted graduation ceremonies on Friday and Saturday.

On Friday and Saturday, lines of students in gowns processed from their individual colleges to Downing College, the alternative venue where graduation ceremonies took place.

Graduates were allowed to take photographs of each other in their robes outside Senate House afterwards, with security officers manning the gates to the yard.

On Saturday afternoon, NUJ Cambridge branch members Terry Macalister and Shafiur Rahman attended the pro-Palestine encampment, with Terry at the megaphone critiquing “mainstream media’s coverage of the war” and highlighting the threat to journalists working in the region.

Terry Macalister, left, with Shafiur Rahman, Journalists Against Genocide, on King's Parade, 18 May, 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom
Terry Macalister, left, with Shafiur Rahman, Journalists Against Genocide, on King's Parade, 18 May, 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom

“We’re here to show our solidarity and express our deep concern with what’s happening in Gaza,” he said on King’s Parade, “and particularly the 35,000 who have lost their lives there. It’s not just about the 35,000, it’s also about the 80,000 who have been damaged, injured, maimed - never mind the mental health issues that are going to ensue for the winder community that have been subject to the most barbaric bombardment we have ever seen.”

“The second thing I want to say is to express solidarity with these students who set up this camp. We’ve got the most admiration for what they’ve done.

Graduating student passes the encampment protest over the Gaza conflict on the grounds of Cambridge University on Friday, 17 May, 2024. Picture: Joe Giddens/ PA
Graduating student passes the encampment protest over the Gaza conflict on the grounds of Cambridge University on Friday, 17 May, 2024. Picture: Joe Giddens/ PA

“Thirdly, as a journalist, Shafi and myself are deeply deeply concerned, worried and upset about the fact that more than 100 Palestinian journalists have been killed - that’s an extraordinary number in seven months.”

Saying the response to the 7 October Hamas attacks “which we condemn” has been “absolutely appalling and disproportionate”, he added of the deaths and casualties: “We really really want that to end and we would obviously call for an immediate ceasefire”.

He went on: “And we are concerned about general media coverage in the Western world, which is not being given the kind of balanced reporting that we were brought up to believe was what journalism was all about, and why we became journalists.

Camp life continues as Terry Macalister, left, with Shafiur Rahman host Journalists Against Genocide contribution, 18 May, 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom
Camp life continues as Terry Macalister, left, with Shafiur Rahman host Journalists Against Genocide contribution, 18 May, 2024. Picture: Mike Scialom

“We thought it was about integrity, we thought it was about independent critique, and we feel this has not happening in the way this conflict is being reported.”

The NUJ Cambridge branch will donate £100 per month to the International Federation of Journalists Gaza Fund for the next six months.

The University of Cambridge characterised what happens next as a discussion.

Professor Bhaskar Vira, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, said: “We were glad to meet our students as we have been willing to do from the first day of the protest. While we understand some will see it as a negotiation, we see it as a constructive dialogue with our students.”



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More