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Exam Schools occupied: Exams in East School cancelled

Pro-Palestine protesters from an autonomous group have occupied a hall in the East School in Exam Schools before the start of some examinations. The exams, which were meant to take place this morning in the East School, have been cancelled.

Oxford Action for Palestine (OA4P) have advertised this on their Instagram saying: “They need support outside Exam Schools.” Some protesters from OA4P are expressing their support outside Exam Schools. OA4P told Cherwell: “the action was unaffiliated with OA4P and was undertaken without OA4P’s knowledge.” They further asserted that: “The support for Palestine on this campus extends far beyond OA4P.”

Around 6 protesters can be seen inside Exam Schools carrying pro-Palestine flags and hanging exam papers out of the windows. A student told Cherwell that an initial group stayed in Exam Schools overnight and a second group of around 20 “with masks and backpacks” tried to enter the building.

The gates to Exam Schools have been locked and students are not allowed to enter or leave the marquee where they wait to go to their exams. Exams being sat this morning include preliminary and final examinations.

Students have been informed there will be a “minor delay” and exams in the East School have been cancelled. The other exams taking place elsewhere in the Exam Schools will still happen.

There is police presence inside Exam Schools and arrests were made.

A spokesperson from the University of Oxford told Cherwell: “The University is disappointed with this morning’s occupation of the exam schools and the absolutely unacceptable disruption caused to our students. We are putting into place contingency plans to ensure all students will have the opportunity to sit their examinations with as little disruption as possible. It is unclear who the occupying group are representing, as they claim to be acting without the knowledge of the OA4P encampments. While the University supports the right to peaceful protest within the law and our rules, this action plainly goes beyond the bounds of acceptable protest.”

Students sitting exams in Exam Schools this morning described the stressful and loud environment they had to work in. One student told Cherwell: “Inside exams we could hear protesters the whole time… people were crying because they were really stressed and couldn’t concentrate.” Invigilators advised students to “put tissues in [their] ears” and “apply for mitigating circumstances.”

The exams scheduled in the Exam School this afternoon will go ahead. In an email sent to staff, the University said: “…it is too short notice to relocate these exams” and that “a decision will be made about tomorrow’s exams very shortly.”

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