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Oxford College JCRs pass motions in support of pro-Palestine encampment

Several Oxford University junior common rooms (JCRs) have passed motions expressing solidarity with the recently established pro-Palestine encampment.

St Anne’s College JCR is the latest to release a public statement in support of the pro-Palestine encampment, joining a string of colleges JCRs expressing solidarity with the protesters.

Within the past week, Balliol College, Corpus Christi College, Jesus College, St Hilda’s College, Somerville College, University College and Wadham College (through their Student Union) have all passed JCR motions, frequently accompanied by a public statement, which show support for the encampment and reiterate Oxford Action for Palestine’s (OA4P) six demands to their respective college.

The motion passed by St Anne’s JCR expresses support for the encampment, calls for “an immediate and permanent ceasefire,” condemns “the current genocide within Palestine being carried out by the Israeli government” and calls on both St Anne’s College and the University to fulfill the six OA4P demands.

OA4P has demanded that the University disclose its assets, in order to divest funding into Israel and arms companies, as well as boycott all institutional connections with Israeli universities. It has also urged the University to cease its association with Barclays and publicly commit to supporting the rebuilding of the higher education sector in Gaza.

In a statement given to Cherwell, Alfie Davis, the 3rd year St Anne’s College student who submitted the motion, emphasised the importance of showing student support for University divestment, especially given that the Principal of St Anne’s, Helen King, is the only Head of House on the Finance Committee.

Davis said they were “proud we’ve collaborated with students across the college community to write both this statement and motion. (…) Colleges and college heads have a lot of power to make change within the University, and it’s vital we keep in mind that colleges have significant investments of their own. This motion is a vital first step for the JCR to ensure St Anne’s helps fulfil the six demands of the encampment.”

Balliol College’s JCR released a statement via Instagram, sharing the motion it passed on 12th May. The motion expresses support for “the Liberated Zone in solidarity with Gaza” and states “hope that all of the demands set out by the encampment (…) are met by Oxford University as soon as possible.” The statement encourages all other JCRs to “support the encampment and place pressure upon the University to act.”

The JCRs at Corpus Christi College, Jesus College, Somerville College, University College and Wadham College have all passed similar motions, echoing OA4P’s language and demands. Jesus College’ JCR also committed to issuing a public statement on social media.

Over 120 Lady Margaret Hall (LMH) students and alumni have signed an open letter, dated 11th  May, expressing “firm support for those of the encampment outside the Pitt Rivers Museum” and an intention to “continue to push for the total divestment of UK educational institutions from organisations enabling genocide in Gaza”. 

In addition to the letter, LMH JCR passed a motion on the 12th May to form a subcommittee which will discuss student demands for the College and for the University. The LMH JCR Secretary, Emma Davies, told Cherwell that the sub-committee is intended to be “an open and inclusive platform” for all JCR members and “a safe space to discuss issues regarding Palestine, decide what action to take, and do so with a unified stance.”

The recent shows of support for the encampment follow previous efforts by many JCRs to donate money to charities operating within the conflict.

The JCRs of Pembroke College and St John’s College, which haven’t passed a motion in support of the encampment as of the 16th of May, have both sought alternative ways of addressing the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, highlighting the widespread concern of students regarding the ongoing conflict.

A spokesperson for Pembroke’s JCR told Cherwell that the JCR “passed a motion back in Michaelmas calling for a bilateral ceasefire,” and is now “looking into avenues for financial disclosure and divestment on a college level.”

St John’s College’s JCR recently elected Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) as their main charity of the year, meaning their donation will go towards preserving “the health and dignity of Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees.”

Update: Hertford College JCR has released a public statement in solidarity with the Palestine encampment, which reiterates the demands of OA4P. (17/05/2024)

Update: Brasenose College JCR has passed a motion in solidarity with the encampment. (28/05/2024)

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