Summary of all the crazy shit that’s been happening with university workers and students lately in Britain
- Two key points of focus for what’s happening at the moment: the privatisation of the student loan and a 13% pay cut in real wages to university staff.
- The privatisation of the loan is pretty similar to how mortgage debt is sold off: private companies buy the student debt for a fraction of its value and charge the student for the full amount. This impending sell-off represents a retrospective change in contract between students and the SLC (student loan company, a public organisation). It will basically mean bailiffs, retrospective addition of interest to the student loan, retrospective increases in fee repayments, and a lowering of the earnings at which you start repayments (£21,000 currently to something like £17k).
- The way the pay cuts have worked: the government basically offered a 1% increase in pay to university staff unions (lecturers, but also cleaners, maintenance, service staff, etc) which translates to a 13% cut in wages for various economic reasons. Meanwhile, the vice-chancellors of many universities have given themselves salary increases as well as bonuses. At my own university, Exeter, our vice-chancellor earns around £1million pounds a year with salary and bonuses together. He’s given himself a 13% increase in salary every single year since he became VC. As well as this, he has a chauffeur drive him everywhere, takes a huge entourage around the world all on first-class plane tickets, and owns two houses in Exeter (one is in the city which he rents out, and the other is this huge monstrosity on campus which the staff were telling me is paid for entirely by the university expenses, including all bills and tax). All of this is on university expenses and it’s the same story elsewhere. Students are paying for the bonuses of university management, not for the front-line service they receive from the staff.
- So the protests are basically part of student-worker campaign against privatisation, with staff running strikes and picket lines on the edges of campus initially and students taking mass direct action on the inside. One thing that separates this from previous student actions (such as tuition fees) is that there’s an overwhelming rejection of the NUS (the national union of students, which functions very much like a careerist trade union you find in most big workplaces). All actions have taken part outside of the NUS, with syndicalist student groups organising departmental assemblies covering staff and students in the same department. Perhaps more importantly, there’s an increased focus on the interests of staff and students being one and the same, and they are uniting against university management against corporatisation of the university.
What’s happened so far
- Tuesday was the date of the second university staff strike in 6 weeks. Spontaneously, student groups from around 9-10 universities (including London, Sheffield, Sussex, Birmingham, SOAS, Ulster, Edinburgh, Exeter, and others) carried occupations with various degrees of success in solidarity.
- Birmingham students had been occupying for about 3 weeks, so they just sort of carried on. Two or three of the occupiers had already been served charges of £10,000 each, with the university holding them personally responsible for all actions taken. Their occupation began with 150 students.
- Sheffield Autonomous Students (a new nationwide anarcho-syndicalist student initiative) occupied the tallest university building in the country overnight. Sheffield uni gained the legal powers to pull out an injunction within an hour on any student protest, and students must ask permission before taking part in any protest.
- Sussex autonomous students and other groups had been occupying for quite a long time as well. There, 5 students were suspended for taking part in the peaceful occupations, where no criminal damage was carried out. They have also been banned from campus. This news came yesterday, and resulted in a 500-person spontaneous demonstration made up of staff and students outside the occupied building.
- The one that’s currently making the headlines is the University of London. Initially, they had occupied the huge building at Goldsmiths college, which used to be a town hall and now houses the financial offices. They got dispersed on Tuesday, and then moved to Senate House, an even bigger eyesore at UCL. Ironically this was the day of the national ‘cops off campus’ demonstrations, and saw huge police brutality at the occupation. Outside the occupation, staff and students battled against police, who arrested journalists, confiscated and smashed student laptops and phones, and beat students. They even brought in the territorial support group, yknow, the ones that killed Ian Tomlinson.
- There has now been a national call from the Autonomous Students Network for a day of action next Wednesday on all university campuses against the universities basically using police to prevent any sort of outcry against the agenda of management and investors. Things are escalating incredibly quickly, and, with time to step back and organise over the Christmas break, the students and staff are only going to return in bigger numbers and more well-organised in time for the national week of action against fees and cuts in universities in February.
- shit’s kicking off we might see another May 1968 stay tuned
His body isn’t even cold yet and the New York times has already put out a shameful article declaring Nelson Mandela to be an “icon of peaceful resistance”. News outlets around the Western world are hurrying to publish obituaries that celebrate his electoral victory while erasing the protracted and fierce guerrilla struggle that he and his party were forced to fight in order to make that victory possible. Don’t let racist, imperialist liberalism co-opt the legacy of another radical. Nelson Mandela used peaceful means when he could, and violent means when he couldn’t. For this, during his life they called him a terrorist, and after his death they’ll call him a pacifist — all to neutralize the revolutionary potential of his legacy, and the lessons to be drawn from it.
Don’t fucking let them.
A STATEMENT FROM THE UNION OFFICERS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON UNION
We have no access to the ULU website, so are using this website as an interim.
For contact from ULU call 07964791663
Send solidarity to: firstname.lastname@example.org; @SHoccupation
Today, over a hundred students occupied the management office of Senate House at the University of London. It was one of the biggest and most widely supported protests that the student movement in London has seen in years. The protests demands centred around the campaign for sick pay, holiday pay and pensions for outsourced workers – 3Cosas – and the threats to close down ULU, the university’s student union. It was also inspired by a wave of occupations and strikes for fair pay in HE, and raised a number of issues around the price of accommodation and the privatisation of student debt. For the full occupation statement, click here.
This evening, the University of London colluded once again with police to evict occupiers, in a violent attempt to harass and silence dissent on campus. Their actions are a disgrace, and show their disregard for both the welfare of their students and their own university community.
Hundreds of police descended on the occupation at around 8.30pm and broke into the occupation. We are still investigating what happened inside, but initial reports indicate that protesters were assaulted by both police and security: thrown to the ground, kicked and punched, and dragged to the ground by their hair. When supporters gathered outside to show support for the occupation, they were beaten back and assaulted. A number of arrests were made, and protesters are demonstrating tonight outside Holborn police station.
Occupations are a legitimate form of dissent. When our university exploits our staff, shuts down our student union, and are utterly unaccountable to the students and staff that give it life and make it function, students have no choice but to gain leverage in whatever way they can.
Tonight’s events constitute a significant escalation of the dispute on campuses. At Sussex University, five students have been suspended by their university management for taking part in similar action. We send them our solidarity: sign the petition to defend them by clicking here.
The terms of our dispute are clear. On one side is a university management that is attacking its staff, shutting down student representation, and that systematically colludes with police in order to keep control of its affairs. On the other is an increasingly united campaign of the academic community – in all its forms – committed to reclaiming our university. We are clear which side of the line we fall on.
Anyone who thinks that what happened tonight was reasonable is not fit to run a university.
-This week has been messy, intense & unclear on many fronts, but one thing that is completely certain for all parties is that students are here to stand up for their rights, their lecturer’s rights & the rights of the many ill-paid workers of the Universities of London.
Here is a link to the statement made by occupiers during the protests.
And here is a link to a petition calling for the reinstatement of students who were suspended over protesting at Sussex University.
One of the most important messages here is that even in the face of illegal police force, and unfounded suspensions, students are still rallying in support for these issues. Unfortunately there has been little media coverage of these issues, even from small University based newspapers, so appears to be up to students themselves to share this information.
The great thing about being Mayor of London is you get to meet all sorts. It is my duty to stick up for every put-upon minority in the city – from the homeless to Irish travellers to ex-gang members to disgraced former MPs. After five years of slog, I have a fair idea where everyone is coming from.
But there is one minority that I still behold with a benign bewilderment, and that is the very, very rich. I mean people who have so much money they can fly by private jet, and who have gin palaces moored in Puerto Banus, and who give their kids McLaren supercars for their 18th birthdays and scour the pages of the FT’s “How to Spend It” magazine for jewel-encrusted Cartier collars for their dogs.
We should be helping all those who can to join the ranks of the super-rich, and we should stop any bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching and simply give thanks for the prodigious sums of money that they are contributing to the tax revenues of this country, and that enable us to look after our sick and our elderly and to build roads, railways and schools.
Indeed, it is possible, as the American economist Art Laffer pointed out, that they might contribute even more if we cut their rates of tax; but it is time we recognised the heroic contribution they already make. In fact, we should stop publishing rich lists in favour of an annual list of the top 100 Tax Heroes, with automatic knighthoods for the top 10. ACTUAL ARTICLE by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
A nation that refuses to fund its schools while building prisons will so literally reap what it sows that the aptness of the metaphor is dizzying.
haha obama is such a cool dude. he has a tumblr and knows what OTP means. whats a drone strike