SOLIDARITY WITH OCCUPY LSE FACING EVICTION

***UPDATE: the LSE occupation has now ended. Follow them here on Facebook for updates, and read their preliminary statement here.

NCAFC stands in solidarity with the occupiers at LSE, who have been threatened with eviction and legal action by their own university. As we have seen at so many other institutions, most recently at UAL, this is a popular bullying tactic used by managements to scare their own students into silence and to repress protest on campus. This decision clearly shows that the university is scared of how successful the occupation has been and how much the free education movement is growing. We condemn LSE management for making this outrageous move and we offer our full and unwavering support to Occupy LSE. We also call on LSE Student Union to offer support to their students at this difficult time!

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*ORIGINAL LSE STATEMENT*

 

This afternoon Occupy LSE received a letter threatening eviction (which may be read here http://bit.ly/1EqYT0h) from the management of the university who have said that if we do not leave by midnight tonight, they will pursue legal action. The LSE management have put security guards outside all the university buildings that connect to the occupation and there is currently a large and threatening presence outside the Vera Anstey Suite.

Occupy LSE condemns in the most stringent terms the recent actions of the LSE management in their attempt to forcibly end the occupation through legal action. LSE management are using baseless excuses to avoid dealing with the huge institutional problems we have raised.

This is an explicit attempt to use coercive mechanisms to shut down a legitimate expression of political dissent.
Occupy LSE has been in direct contact with the Director, Craig Calhoun, with whom we have conducted many hours of positive dialogue. We have negotiated in good faith and wish to continue dialogue with management, including a scheduled meeting with Craig Calhoun tomorrow. The only people attempting to end discussion is management, not the students.

LSE management have justified their decision for the following reasons:

1) Disruption of the working of the school, in particular the studies of other students by the last-minute, unauthorised disruption to the scheduled venue of EC221 yesterday evening
2) An increased risk to the health and safety of LSE staff and students, such as by the blocking of fire exists in the Vera Anstey Room
3) An increased risk to the security of LSE property, such as by facilitating the unauthorised presence in campus of large numbers of external people over whom we have no authority or duty of care, and by the granting of access to some non-lse people by the abuse of LSE ID cards
4) Abusive behaviour towards LSE Security Staff, and disorderly conduct late at night

These accusations are false.

1) Occupy LSE fiercely disputes the charge that we have disrupted lectures and “the student experience”. Due to an unexpected turnout of over 400 students that attended yesterday’s ‘Festival of Radical Ideas’, which was advertised, among others, by the LSE SU, the event was moved to the Old Theatre. The decision was made collectively by the 300+ people packed into the Vera Antsey Suite due to concerns over health and safety. While there was a class scheduled in the Old Theatre that overlapped with the screening, we proactively sought out a solution – by contacting the lecturer, Timetables and the students – so as to not disrupt the lecture. We would like to stress that we take education very seriously and know how stressful this time of year can be for students, as it is for us.

2) With respect to the blocking of the back fire door, it was moved as requested by the start of term but blocked again during last night’s festival, due to concerns of holding the space. It has now been unblocked and remains a completely unjustified reason for threatening legal action.

3) LSE is a public institution and is therefore accessible to the public. We would like to question why the 400+ attendees to our educational day yesterday have been deemed an ‘unauthorised presence’ when the university regularly hosts public lectures. We stand for an education that is free, liberated and accessible to all.
4) Over the last 6 weeks we have had a good relationship with security and staff, many of whom have expressed solidarity with the demands of the occupation and the call for free education. Occupy LSE completely condemns abusive behaviour of all staff, and anyone who abuses security would be in breach of our safe space policy and would have to leave the group. By “disorderly conduct late at night”, the management are referring to students studying in the dining room of the Old Building in order to meet essay deadlines. We struggle to see how this has been interpreted as “disorderly” and does not warrant call for an eviction of Occupy LSE.

The legal threat from management is in direct response to us organizing a day of events founded on the principles of free education. For the last 6 weeks the Vera Anstey Room has been used as an educational space, where hundreds of people have participated in discussions, events, seminars and workshops on a variety of topics. The events have all been open to the public, students or not, in reflection of the belief that universities, and educational spaces, are to be free, open and accessible to all.

We have set out demands, many of which have passed through the SU as motions (for example: free education, divestment, ethics code, sexual harassment).

When LSE management tries to criminalize dissent and our occupation, they are attacking not just its students, but the right to political expression. From ‘kettling’ students in the protests against tuition fees in 2010, students from UAL being taken to court, to the use of police and force against occupations at Senate House, Sussex, Warwick, and Birmingham universities, students’ political voices are being suppressed. LSE management seems to be eager to add itself to this list of educational institutions that are willing to use force against their own students.

With universities always more unable to justify the destructive policies they are implementing, violence seems to be the only engagement they are capable of. We’ve been taught in these very institutions that violence is the resort one falls to when incapable of interacting with the content expressed. We will not give in to these threats.
Please stand with us against this attempt to criminalize protest and to undermine a legitimate movement at our university.

SOAS rent strike over appalling conditions in privately-run halls

Appallsoasing conditions at SOAS’ privately-run halls have led residents to withhold over £100,000 in rent until a series of demands are met. SOAS student Tom King explains what is happened so far and why students have felt that a rent strike is the only option left.

 

The Residents’ Council has called the rent strike after facing issues with cockroaches and rodent infestations, water outages, hot water outages, delays to repairs far exceeding stated policies, problems with communication, not taking reports of bullying and staff misconduct seriously, staff and security entering rooms/flats without notice, accessibility (including the accessible ramp being closed off for two days and the accessible toilet being used as a store cupboard) amongst many other problems throughout the academic year.

 

Residents report that the lift in the block with wheelchair-accessible rooms was out of order for two to three weeks and one resident waited at least five months for a working lock to be installed on their flat door. The halls’ policy says all repairs will be completed within 28 days.

 

On top of this the arrogant halls’ management have ignored the Residents’ Council and the Students’ Union’s representations, and despite an angry open meeting with residents at the start of March little seems to have changed. Residents are fed up.

 

To add insult to injury the company which runs the halls, Sanctuary Students, sent an email with a vague commitment to a £1,500 compensation fund – around £3 per resident (and for residents of one of the two halls only). The Residents’ Council instead is demanding £800 each for all of the problems faced.

 

The situation just demonstrates the disaster of privatised halls. The accommodation was originally owned by SOAS but sold off to Sanctuary who have driven down quality whilst continually hiking rents in a bid for ever higher profits. The losers are students forced to pay nearly £150 a week in rent and those workers at the halls who undoubtedly see their wages and terms and conditions squeezed.

 

When meetings, emails and complaints don’t work, the only way to make Sanctuary listen has been to withhold rent and force them to negotiate directly with residents.

 

Faced with students’ direct action, management have resorted to making false claims to the media. In their statement to the press, they say “Although there were a number of reports of pests earlier in the academic year, the site was treated and we are pleased to confirm that we have not had any students contact us to raise concerns recently.” But the Residents’ Council has proof they had been made aware of cockroaches in flats just days before.

 

Unsurprisingly, they also didn’t mention to the press that it took until after Christmas for them to conduct a full spray treatment when residents had reported cockroaches on move-in day in September.

 

As well as the rent strike, students have been tweeting their horror stories on #sancsucks and they’re also urging supporters to sign this petition to apply even more pressure to Sanctuary to meet their demands.

 

Left dominates NUS conference: is this a new era?

Delegates following the end-of-conference meeting, showing solidarity for Fede, a SOAS student imprisoned for protesting in Frankfurt.

Delegates following the end-of-conference meeting, showing solidarity for Fede, a SOAS student currently imprisoned for protesting in Frankfurt.

Keep the pressure! Sign this statement to demand NUS calls a national demo and commit to supporting a serious strategy for winning free education. 

And don’t wait around for NUS to do things – organise and agitate where you are! Join NCAFC, and come to our summer conference

NUS national conference 2015 took place between 21st and 23rd April. It was the most left wing conference in well over a decade: the incumbent leadership (mostly built around Labour Students and networks of centrist or right wing sabbs) lost 4 out of 6 of the fulltime officer elections, and the motions debates passed policy far to the left of previous years.

NCAFC wrote and proposed most of the left wing motions that passed, ran candidates in the full time officer elections and the Block of 15 elections, ran two fringe meetings, held regular democratic caucuses, and produced a daily bulletin for delegates.

To get the fullest (and most entertaining) picture of what went down at conference, we thoroughly recommend reading our daily bulletins:

Policy (all of the motions proposed can be found here)

The conference began with a ‘Priority’ motion about delivering “a new deal for students”, which NCAFC amended in a series of radical ways. We expected the NUS leadership to fight our amendments, but they didn’t, largely because they realised they would lose anyway. As a result, NUS has resolved to end its apologism for Labour in government; to call for the reversal of all cuts funded by taxing the rich and public ownership of the banks; to call for freedom of movement and equal rights for migrants; and to end its ‘generational’ narrative of political disenfranchisement and talk about class and liberation instead.

The list of leftwing policy didn’t end there. Free education – with institutional democratisation and liberation of the curriculum – is now the common sense in NUS, and passed by a margin of 20:1; again, the incumbent leadership of NUS didn’t bother fighting it. Conference opposed all cuts in FE, and it called (during a parts debate) for the end of means testing. Motions calling on NUS to organise rent strikes sailed through, and by the end of conference, delegates were agreeing to pass lefwing text on things like the Counter Terrorism Bill without even hearing speeches (because there was a lack of time to hear motions – more on that later).

Not everything went our way: conference wasn’t convinced of NCAFC’s text on Living Grants (contradicting its previous brief opposition to means testing), it voted against a boycott of the National Student Survey (NSS), and, bizarrely, it once again voted against the banning of zero hour contracts – a policy which even the Labour leadership agrees with. Conference also voted (by a margin of just 4 votes) to approve the appointment of an external trustee with links to the last Blair administration, which we opposed.

In the last vote of conference, conducted by secret ballot, a motion to create a full time Trans Officer for NUS won a comfortable majority, but not quite the 2/3 majority that it needed to take effect.

As in most years, the majority of motions that got submitted didn’t get discussed – including, absurdly, all of the motions that related to actually doing anything – like calling a national demo, organising walkouts and doing weeks of action.

Elections

In the elections, the incumbent leadership were decimated. Leftwing candidates won 4 of the 6 full time officer positions, and Labour Students lost both of their VP elections. The elections were also characterised by a very strong and well orgainsed showing from the Black Students’ Campaign and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS).

NCAFC ran two candidates – Beth Redmond for President and Hattie Craig for Vice President Higher Education. In her election, Beth got a higher proportion of the vote than any leftwing Presidential candidate in recent years; and Hattie came third, losing out to another candidate Sorana Vieru, who was deemed to be more winnable and therefore attracted a lot of the ‘kick the leadership out’ momentum.

We also worked hard for Shelly Asquith’s campaign for VP Welfare, which Shelly won comfortably. Meanwhile, Piers Telemaque was re-elected as VP Society and Citizenship and Shakira Martin won VP Further Education, both on leftwing platforms. Abdi Suleiman, the left’s candidate for VP Union Development, lost out in a late upset.

The only two places where the centre/right continued to hold sway were the Presidency (Megan Dunn, formerly an NCAFC sabb who drifted into the leadership) and VP Union Development, where Richard Brookes won on a weird outsider-rightwing ticket. This will leave the office very finely balanced next year.

We will find out about the Block of 15, the Democratic Procedures Committee and Trustee elections on Thursday 30th April.

What does this all mean? Debates and questions for the left…

During and following NUS conference, a series of debates have sprung up about what this all means, and what we should do about it. NCAFC held an open meeting at the end of conference  to organise to get a national demonstration and digest the situaton. At that meeting, and during conference, a number of questions emerged:

  • Why has NUS turned to the left – how did free education become common sense? (Obviously it has something to do with the massive demo we organised, and the new free education movement).
  • What does this shift represent? Is this a “left wing takeover” or is it more that the right wing has fallen apart? Is this a real change in what NUS represents, or have already existing structures and networks just been persuaded of ideas (free education etc) which they will now co-opt?
  • What should the left now do? How do we make sure that NUS’s new leadership does what it said it would, and what should we ask it to do?
  • What does the NUS really represent? Does the fact that it has a leftwing leadership really mean that it represents “the movement”?

We invite contributions, debates and arguments on all of the above…

 

And we’ll leave you with our front page article from Day 2’s bulletin:

A day of mourning has been declared in the exiled offices of New Labour following yesterday’s free education vote. The huge mandate for left wing policy, and the wave of leftwing election victories today, has ended a decade of Blairite dominance in NUS.

We caught up with Jim Murphy to discuss what happened on conference floor. From behind a long black veil he told us, “it’s all over”, again and again. In the end his butler, patting him on the shoulder, asked us to leave.

The Bulletin contacted Tony Blair’s office at the King David Hotel for comment, but his staff told us that he had been put under citizen’s arrest.
We spoke to Chuka Ummuna about the vote; he wasn’t really listening, just staring at his Labour Party membership card, reading the new Clause Four under his breath over and over again.

Confronted with the news, Lord Adonis claimed not to know who we were, and insisted that we stop calling him in the middle of the night.

In the end, it ends with a whimper.

Solidarity with the Birmingham Library Protestors!

NCAFC condemns the management of the library of Birmingham for their decision to ban dozens of anti-cuts activists from reentering the public building in the near future. We stress that these activists – almost exclusively students – consist of the library’s core regular users, and thus care most about the prosperity and longevity of their building.


We believe that the draconian measures implemented by library staff are a betrayal to activists who are willing to fight against austerity on the building’s behalf, and will only further alienate members with a vested interest in maintaining their place of learning and study.
NCAFC denounces such an act of false consciousness – ushered on by the intimidating police, whose presence at the peaceful protest was beyond superfluous – attempting to make enemies of library staff and working-class students alike, both of whom are at the receiving end of humiliating austerity.


We likewise rebuke the government for its series of cuts to essential public services, facilitating the closing down of 150 libraries on average per year. We condemn our government for investing £188.8 million in creating Europe’s largest public cultural space, only to thereby abandon its duty to subsidise for the services necessary to sustain it. In implementing such devastating cuts, NCAFC believe that the government have abandoned those who most benefit from the space; the most disadvantaged in our society, including the unemployed, disabled, sick and elderly.
NCAFC gives our solidarity to the brave activists who partook in Friday afternoon’s protest, organised at the behest of students from King Edward VI College, Stourbridge (with the support of Birmingham Against the Cuts, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, Birmingham Trades Union Council and Friends of the Library of Birmingham). Many of the banned students are from BME and underprivileged backgrounds, to whom the library serves as their only space for studying and learning outside of college/ university. With final examinations looming, it is essential that they have access to the library and its services at such a crucial period of their lives.

As representatives of thousands of students and workers across Britain, we call upon the library of Birmingham to revoke its banning orders from the activists who were acting in good will to defend their cultural space. NCAFC calls upon the library management and staff to unite with the activists in the common struggle to end government cuts and restore the library facilities to the capacity it was built for. The library of Birmingham belongs to the people of Birmingham, and only by working together can we reverse the damage done to our public space.

UAL management forces students out under threat of arrest: the fight continues!

10420189_1579277828978603_3413652750324775521_nAfter a number of weeks, University of the Arts London (UAL) students have been forced to leave their occupation of the reception area in Central Saint Martins. The occupation was the first phase of a campaign to fight against the scrapping of 800 places on foundation courses at UAL, jeopardising dozens of jobs and entrenching the division between further and higher education at the university. The occupation also fought on the basis of a broader layer of free education demands: for campus democracy and against institutional racism.

Students left the occupation on Tuesday 14th April, with a hundreds-strong demonstration that rallied outside the court and then outside the occupation. Follow Occupy UAL for updates and photos.

Management had originally attempted to personally victimise 15 named students in the process of getting the injunction – threatening them with many thousands of pounds in legal fees.

In leaving the occupation, students managed to win a commitment from the university to review the cuts to foundation courses, as well as a guarantee that that management would not pursue any costs or disciplinary measures against anyone in connection to the protests. However, the campaign is far from won – and neither is the determination of students to fight. More protest is expected in the coming weeks and months. Watch this space for details!

Check out the Channel 4 report here

Other news reports:

The Garissa Massacre and Kenya’s Post-Colonial Legacy

NCAFC Black Caucus condemns the heinous actions of al-Shabab in Garissa, Kenya, killing at least 148 people, and injuring 79 or more. We are in complete solidarity with the students of Garissa University College and the people of Kenya and Somalia. We likewise rebuke the Western media for its apparent blackout in regards to the reporting on the university massacre; the lack of coverage – reinforcing the lack of respect and inferiority black bodies hold in the global south. NCAFC  Black also condemns the base accusations of populists who seek to claim this to be a religious-sectarian conflict, as the vast majority of victims of al-Shabab are Somali Muslims in Somalia. We uphold that the Garissa attack is the latest episode in an ongoing historical and socio-political struggle in East Africa, one in which the Kenyan government bears equal responsibility. A complete elaboration of this shall be released in a second following statement.

NCAFC Black  Caucus acknowledges that such an attack has not occurred within a vacuum, and is the latest manifestation of the region’s colonial and post-colonial legacy. British Imperialism arbitrarily carved Kenya out of several East African territories, the largest chunk of which was the predominantly-Somali northeast. The two largest ethnic groups in Kenya – Kikuyus and Luos – were during the colonial period granted privileges and played off against each other at the detriment of the Somali community. Marginalised from the country’s very inception, Kenyan-Somalis have identified more with their ethnic counterparts in Somalia than with the rest of Kenyans. In a 1962 referendum, residents of the country’s northeast voted overwhelmingly to join Somalia. Refusing to accept the results, the Kenyan government have since engaged in a campaign of targeted marginalisation of its Somali community. (Ref: Garissa-Gubay massacre, 1980, 300+ Kenyan-Somalis killed; Wagalla massacre, 1984, 5,000 Kenyan-Somalis killed.)

The Financial Times reporting on the creation of a Kenyan colony in 1920

The Financial Times reporting on the creation of a Kenyan colony in 1920

The joint brutality of the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia (2006) and Kenya (2011) have alienated the Somali community as such to grant support for the terrorist organisation al-Shabab. The largest number of victims of al-Shabab are not Kenyans, Ethiopians, or others, but Somalis in Somalia. al-Shabab have imposed incredible tyranny on the population which has disabled them from rebuilding their war-torn country. The international community, including Africans, have been not only oblivious to the plight of the Somali people, but have turned them into a disposable political football since the collapse of their state in 1991. Britain’s colonial legacy in dividing Somalia was consummated by Ethiopia and Kenya in March 2013, whereby the two countries forced the fragile government of Somalia to partition yet another portion of itself; a quasi-independent entity known as Jubaland. This strip of land in southern Somalia and bordering on Kenya and Ethiopia is the illegitimate heir of both of these countries. Apart from international aggression, Kenya has seen that its domestic Somali subjects likewise face persecution, the latest manifestation of which is the “Kasarani Concentration Camp” opened in 2014, whereby thousands of Somali refugees including women, children and the elderly have been held in atrocious conditions, whilst humanitarian organisations have been denied entry. Since the Westgate attack last year, the Kenyan government have arrested 4,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Somali refugees. Somalis in Kenya live in fear of unwarranted arrest, beatings, rape and murder at the hands of the Kenyan government, and it is with them also that NCAFC stands. NCAFC do not cherry-pick in condemnation; we oppose all acts of terrorism and brutality, be it from al-Shabab, or from the Kenyan government.

This article was written by Zakir Hussein Gul, a Kenyan member of the NCAFC Black Caucus and N.C.

 

The university is a factory: a response to the strategy discussion

middlesexoccupationThis is a response to the discussion piece published on this website: ‘We need a strategy! 3 next steps for the free education movement’. 

The author of this piece is Sean Farmelo. Sean is a recent graduate from Birmingham and is involved in Defend Education Birmingham and Plan C.

Do you have a contribution you want to make to the discussion? Email it to [email protected] 

The Free Education movement has latched on to the post-2010 upsurge of anger against increased fees. It has also made attempts to link up with unions and workers against casualisation and privatisation in the university. What it hasn’t fully articulated yet is a strategic attack on the university as a factory, which views students as workers themselves. NCAFC needs to work towards a strategy that firmly relocates the student within the labour movement.

 There are calls within NCAFC to build on the free education movement and towards a student strike in the same way that CL(ASSE) in Quebec did, and perhaps also to build an alliance with other groups against austerity. This would be initiated in winter 2015/16, and would be set in a new context, potentially with Labour in power.

Campaign Against Climate Change are calling for a series of student occupations during the COP21 conference – they are looking to do this across Europe, but do not have the clout or connection to student movements. This call should only be answered if it links strategically with the struggles and demands of the free education movement. Students are workers, and in a society premised on fossil fuel consumption they will be integral towards the struggle to break that premise.

This can’t be done through calls for divestment of funds alone; it is important to see the university as a site which does more than just invest in fossil fuel capitalism, it produces it. Through research, and through its curricula and class composition, it aids the production of workers shaped for fossil fuel capitalism – engineers, bank managers, economists. To tackle this, our response needs to have its basis in striking against the smokestacks and engine rooms of the university.

In Birmingham we used to say that we occupy because we can’t effectively withdraw our labour from the university, and occupations are a way for us to cause economic disruption. Although this is true, as the university has put many barriers in front of students and occupations are one of the only forms of struggle available, it is perhaps not ambitious enough. Occupations should be undertaken because they create arenas for discussion and pressure the university in a public manner. But we should not think that this is the only way to disrupt the main arteries of the university. Universities are in the business of producing research and handing our degrees in return for money, this is the angle of production we need to see as crucial to leverage.

Quebec provides a template for us of how student struggles can be situated within the broader struggle against austerity. In 2012, the student strikes held a focus on tuition hikes, although this was widened to the rest of the society when the Charest government attempted to outlaw protest wholesale. This year’s iteration of protest is being dubbed the ‘New Maple Spring’ and was launched under the broader banner of ‘Unite Against Austerity’, explicitly seeing their role as students in a broader struggle against capitalism – which affects everything from the struggles of indigenous first nation people to that for women’s liberation.

The technique they have used, that of the student strike, requires a huge groundwork of preparation which would be near impossible to pull off in British universities by this winter, although it might be possible to build in certain departments on campuses. In Quebec, significant amounts of work went into developing a political consciousness on a departmental level so that when the vote went out for striking, students had the numbers and legitimacy to militantly picket what they call the factory line – stopping lectures and seminars and refusing to hand in work. Although marches in London are a good opportunity to bring the movement together to make a statement to the government, this should not be our main focus (whether NUS support one or not). Instead we should focus on making our workplaces, the universities, contested areas of struggle.

European movements are discussing the ideas behind the process for a transnational social strike in a series of international meetings. These meetings are tying together groups – unions, collectives and social centres – involved in the Blockupy process. Blockupy has previously focused on the ECB in Frankfurt, but has become a broad platform from political parties like Die Linke and Syriza to autonomist collectives. Our strength comes from our power to refuse work. This work isn’t always waged. Capitalism is a system that depends on us taking on evermore than we can cope with and externalises whatever costs it can, be they environmental, or in the case of education, the cost of university tuition and the lack of a wage or grants.

The idea of a social strike, as it was originally developed, relates to the concept of the social factory – the idea that the sphere of production has escaped the factory and seeped into the rest of society. The era of the strike is associated with the era of the Mass Worker, with very large workplaces, clear lines of antagonism between workers and managers, and with collective break times and visible factory gates giving opportunities for communication and agitation.

Now most workplaces have been broken up through outsourcing to the global south, work has become more precarious and the kinds of work we tend to do have changed. This precarity can also be seen in the university, with loss of tenured academics, and postgraduates being pitted against each other for REF scores. Institutions themselves battle it out for league table positions. The building of collective knowledge has been sidelined in favour of individualisation of work and research. This is not to say that the university ever performed a different role than producing for capital, just that it has become more pronounced in recent years due to commercialisation through Coalition reforms.

In Italy the call for a social strike is coming from the social centres and base unions which have a strong academic presence. They have to a certain extent recognised their struggle as students as one firmly rooted in their communities and associated with the struggles of those fighting against the Jobs Act. Although not as successful as they could have been had they properly linked their struggle with other sections of the Italian working class, they show that it is possible for students to tap into and fuse with wider struggles in a way that goes beyond what is commonly seen as solidarity between causes.

The student movement in the UK has been traditionally tied to students’ unions, a connection which has framed struggles through a representative lens. Students have of course retained themselves as grassroots independent campaigns, but they’ve attempted to win unions positions and use the unions in both low and high ebbs of struggle. In general student unionism has been pursued because of the platform and resources it has accorded leftists. Self-organisation in relation to departments has mainly only occurred when departments have been under threat of course cuts or job losses.

However this type of organisation within departments would relocate the struggle of students as one more aligned with traditional labour union activity, building the self-determinant power of students with relation to their needs. This would mean workers/students focusing on their activity of reproduction as future workers and the creation of research within the university.

Proposals from members of Defend Education Birmingham have included holding self-organised reading groups to collectively tackle exam preparation and co-operatively go through course reading whilst building solidarity. The idea is that departmental groupings can be more than just drinking clubs linked to student unions and begin to develop students into self-organised and powerful groups.

 We should be attempting to put out material which frames the dimension of students as workers using the examples of Quebec and Italy to develop strategies based on the reality of British institutions. This would mean starting an in-depth discussion about how to proceed with broader diversification of the student movement beyond anti fees anti cuts, towards one for wages for the work students do. From there we might be able to begin the groundwork of developing a student strike, and only then can it be effectively linked in with wider struggles like that around COP21 and the transnational social strike. However, this fusing of movements and groups in a manner that goes beyond the alliance is crucial, and is something we should work towards – too long have single issue campaigns shirked the issue of building shared struggles.

UAL occupation: we won’t back down

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This press release is cross-posted from the UAL occupation – get in touch with them here.

Students enter third week of occupation as management offers rejected 

Phone: 07897922813, 07821731481

Students at University of the Arts London have been in occupation at Central Saint Martins, a UAL Campus since Thursday 19th March following the sudden announcement of plans to cut hundreds of foundation places and staff jobs across UAL.

Formal negotiations have been taking place with management, and quickly gaining pace. UAL offered a review of the cuts to Foundation, but would not commit to no redundancies. UAL also shut down many of its sites early today in fear of escalation of the occupation.

Following a mass meeting of the occupiers, Occupy UAL today voted to continue their occupation and to continue to demand an all-out end to cuts and redundancies.

An occupying student student said: “The occupation has so far been legitimised by UAL as they have reached out to negotiate with us. So far, their offer has not been sufficient, so we continue holding the space and demanding no cuts.”

Hannah Roberts, Education Officer at the Students’ Union said: “We continue to support the occupation and its aims. We hope UAL will deliver a review on these decisions regardless of ongoing action, and commit to actually listening to the voices of students”

On Wednesday 25th of March, a demonstration was organised in the form of a march from the London School of Economics (who are also in Occupation), past UAL’s High Holborn Office to the LCC in Elephant and Castle.

The march, attended by hundreds of students, was prevented from entering UAL campus when they found the main doors locked by security – contradicting against the proud history of art school student and staff political protests.

 

The occupation’s statement on facebook reads:

Following negotiations with management, Occupy UAL has decided to remain in occupation, and to re-iterate our central demand that there be no cuts to Foundation courses, nor redundancies for staff.

We received an offer late this morning with an attached condition that we end our two-week occupation. UAL offered to conduct a joint review of Foundation with the Students’ Union. In principle, we believe a review is needed. We also believe that this concession demonstrates management’s admission that students and staff have not been listened to throughout this process.

However, we did not feel confident that this offer sufficiently met our demands: a review does not guarantee no cuts. We conducted a vote and collectively decided to continue our action.

We would also like to address the closures of UAL campuses which have taken place today. We are extremely concerned by management’s decision to limit our access to vital resources without warning, and believe this is a cynical attempt to drive student support away from the occupation. These moves have undermined our trust in management’s good faith during negotiations.

We would like to state that Occupy UAL is always open to members of the student body and all are welcome to use this space for their studies, or to engage in discussion around our demands.

This occupation has so far proven to be a legitimate tactic in forcing concessions, is quickly gaining support, and we are determined to escalate. Hence why we are calling a London-wide demonstration on the 15th of April, in support of saving Foundation courses; details of which will be confirmed at a later date.

Sign this statement: we support a fighting NUS!

11037349_884196414956067_1039808284572757940_nSign this statement: email [email protected]

This year, a new generation of the student movement has emerged. The free education demonstration in November, which saw 10,000 students march on parliament, reflected and helped to kickstart a campaign for a transformation of our education system.

Across the country, students are occupying, demonstrating, lobbying and convincing – against the privatisation of education and for an education that is free,democratic and liberated.

At national conference this year, it is vital that NUS backs its members, develops a strategy, and plays its role in broadening the movement for free education. We need action, not just words!

That is why we are coming together to call on national conference to vote for:

1) Free Education is about more than fees: for living grants, institutional democratisation and liberation in education.
2) Build a fighting movement: call a national free education demonstration in autumn term to kickstart the fight.
3) Build a long-term movement: support a call for a broad cross-society alliance, with a public conference in October and regular local free education demos leading to bigger action in 2016. Use clear political demands like a reversal of cuts, taxation of the rich and public ownership of the banks to rebuild education and services.
4) Support our members in taking action: support students in occupation and workers in struggle in striking, in education and beyond, and call for cops off campus.
5) Fight racism and discrimination in education and beyond: confront the participation and BME attainment gaps, and decolonise Eurocentric curriculums. Fight for the rights of migrants and asylum seekers, against deportation and detention, and for freedom of movement. Fight the islamophobic Counter-terrorism bill.

 

Email [email protected] if you would like us to add your name

Hope Worsdale, NCAFC National Committee and member of Warwick For Free Education

Hattie Craig, NCAFC Committee,NUS VP HE Candidate.

Tanju Çakar, NCAFC National Committee and Free University of Sheffield member

Beth Redmond, NCAFC committee, NUS President and Block of 15 candidate

Roza Salih, NUS Scotland International Students Officer and Vice President Diversity and Advocacy at University of Strathclyde Students’ Association

Tania Sauma International Students’ Officer Universty of Manchester SU, NCAFC National Committee

Omar Raii, UCLU External Affairs and Campaigns Officer

Mostafa Rajaai, NUS International Students’ Officer Elect

Rachel O’Brien, Community Action Officer, University of Birmingham Guild of Students

Shelly Asquith, SUarts president and candidate for VP welfare

James Elliott, NUS NEC, NCAFC National Committee

Christy Mc Morrow, Sheffield Students’ Union President-Elect // The Free University of Sheffield // Co-Chair of Sheffield Labour Students // NUS delegate

Nat Panda, People and Planet, Warwick SU postgrad officer elect

Hannah Webb, NCAFC, UCL Defend Education and NUS Block of 15 Candidate

Abdi Aziz Suleiman, NUS NEC

Daniel Cooper, NUS NEC

Zakir Hussein Gul, NCAFC Committee

Raquel Palmeira, NCAFC LGBTQ rep, Workers’ Liberty students

Ben Towse, NUS Postgrad Ctte & NCAFC National Committee

Michael Segalov, Communications Officer at Sussex University and Block of 15 candidate

Sarah Dagha, NCAFC Black Students’ Rep

Mahamid Ahmed, LSE SU Postgraduate Students’ Officer and NUS NEC PgT place-elect

Zekarias Negussue, NUS NEC Black Rep

Luke Dukinfield, NCAFC NC

Shreya Paudel NUS international Students Officer

Elaha Walizadeh, NUS London Women’s Officer

Minesh Parekh, Sheffield Students’ Union Education Officer-Elect // The Free University of Sheffield // NCAFC NC

Mohammed Mumit NCAFC NC

Hannah Sketchley,  UCL Union Democracy and Communications Officer / NUS London Convenor / NCAFC NC

Natalia Renwick NCAFC Committee

Haaris Ahmed, Welfare Officer at City of Glasgow College, NEC Block of candidate

Malaka Mohammed, University of Sheffield Education Officer, NEC Block of 15 candidate

Deborah Hermanns, NCAFC Committee

Sai Englert, NUS NEC Postgrad Research Rep

Kirsty Haigh, vice president communities NUS Scotland and NUS NEC

Dan Goss, Warwick SU environment and ethics officer

Callum Cant  Warwick for free education , Ncafc NC and Block of 15 candidate

Helena Hinkle, NCAFC Committee

Fred Craig, NCAFC Committee

Rosie Carter-Rich, Uni of Sheffield NUS delegate and Sheffield Students’ Living Wage Campaign

Nathan Rogers NCAFC FE rep

Josh Berlyne, The Free University of Sheffield and NCAFC Northwest, Yorkshire and Humberside Rep

Annie Teriba, NCAFC NC and NUS delegate

Miguel Costa Matos, NCAFC and Warwick SU NUS delegate

Urte Macikenaite, EUSA Vice President Services 2015/2016

Why non-binary?

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This article was originally written by Helena Dunnet-Orridge for NCAFC Women’s bulletin at NUS Women’s conference 2015 (NUSWomensBulletin2015)

Recently the National Campaign Against the Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) decided to include non-binary identified people in their women’s caucus. This decision was not unprecedented, but rather part of a wider trend in the feminist movement to be more inclusive. As a reasonably prominent non-binary activist within the movement this question has been of interest to me for a long while. Many feminists contest this issue, or simply do not understand it. This is endlessly frustrating to me and yet quite clearly part of a wider issue within the feminist movement and feminist politics: the refusal to integrate and learn from queer theory in any meaningful way. Queer theory and gender theory are, in a theoretical sense, the newer version of feminist theory. Where feminist theory has historically lacked a true analysis of gender, queer theory has supplied and expanded upon it. Where many feminists have been astoundingly ignorant on queer, especially trans, issues queer theory has picked up the pieces. Many feminists are learning from this and progressing, but it is not fast enough, it is not happening enough. We owe that, of course, to neo-liberal discourse and a mainstream focus on liberal feminism. Yet, even Marxist-feminism trails behind in terms of its analysis of gender politics. I strongly feel an implicit dismissal and latent transphobia within feminism that is at odds with how the movement should, theoretically, function. Within feminism lies the central notion of gender, within queer theory lies the liberatory power of moving beyond marginalising views of sexuality and gender.

Then, why, you may well ask, am I interested in being involved in ‘women-only’ spaces? It is to challenge the idea of them; the static nature they seem to possess with regards to gender and its oppressive assignment by society. I understand the need for these spaces – to be away from privileged cis men, and I fully support that notion. But we need to challenge our ideas of maleness and how people are and are not privileged with greater assimilationist narratives. Including non-binary identified individuals is one step towards doing so, for we are allowing the ambiguity some space within feminism, within gender politics. The exclusion of trans women in particular from women-only spaces is based on a reductive and purely materialist, liberal narrative – the idea that one can only be included in oppression when one has always been party to it, the ignorance enough to suggest that being coercively assigned a certain gender at birth is the only predicate upon which we are oppressed and our gender experienced. We do not experience gender merely through a general recognition of our ‘natural’ gender, but along the lines of societally implemented roles which, often, one does not fit into. This is not yet an argument which has been won. Although it is popular to ‘accept’ trans women within women-only spaces, many seem hazy as to the reasons why. I know this because they question the inclusion of non-binary people in those same spaces – with a true understanding of gender categorisation this would become clear immediately. Being within an ambiguous, anti-normative definition of gender automatically throws reactionary hate and discrimination into the mix. Being oppressed by ones gender is not limited just to cis women, but to trans people in general. Our goal within feminism is to end oppression based on gender identity – the core of which is women’s liberation, but also trans liberation. They are not separate, but intimately linked struggles. The way in which we understand gender strongly affects the way in which we address oppression based on it. It is not enough to simply understand that trans women ‘are women’, as though this were a fixed tautology. Trans women cannot be understood to have an identical struggle to cis women, though they both suffer from the same oppressive patriarchal core of ideas and their enforcement within society. Why not, then, also invite trans men into our spaces? A fair number of trans-exclusionary feminists genuinely take this view, in the sense that, to their understanding, these people are not, in fact, ‘real’ men but women so oppressed that they adopt the characteristics of the oppressor. However, we must clearly recognise that trans men, although also oppressed along the lines of gender, do gain a level of privilege within their transition and inherently identify with masculine ideals. In the same way that cis men can reject these rigid masculinities, so too can trans men. However, there is a common assumption that because trans men have experienced the oppressive nature of being perceived as a woman previously they will automatically reject participation in it, post-transitional process. This is not the case. Attempting to be masculine within a patriarchal world very often takes its toll, and the pressure to conform to this patriarchal model of masculinity is increased tenfold for supposed ‘interlopers’ and men who are seen as in some ways ‘inauthentic’. Inclusion of trans men, then, is problematized due to their tendency to participate and ‘join in’ with the same oppressive behaviours of cis men. Their identity and participation within hetero-patriarchal structures is certainly far more complex than that of cis men, particularly when we take into account those who are ‘stealth’ or chose a minimal amount of formal transitional processes and therefore do not have the privilege of ‘passing’. Their participation in feminist spaces will always be in tension. Yet we see many self-selectively exclude themselves with the acknowledgement of their gender status, rightly or wrongly. It is, to many, insulting to be ‘devalued’ by being invited into ‘women-only’ spaces.

If we are to problematize the categories of gender then ‘women-only’ spaces become ambiguous and dubious at best. Who can we include and who can we exclude? Does anyone genuinely have that authority? Adding non-binary people to women’s spaces is a huge step towards genuine discussion of gender categorisation and the complexity of queer identities within them. By explicitly stating that a space is for ‘women and non-binary people’ rather than simply ‘women*’, as though inclusion were an after-thought, an addition, a negligible tack-on symbol, we are opening that narrative. Similarly by using the term ‘trans*’ we are ignoring the attempts of truscum (trans people who believe that only medical transition awards you the label of trans) to vouch for ‘true transgender identity’ by marginalising non-binary identities as a mere addition to trans rather than inherently a part of it. By generically stating ‘women and trans’ we also refuse to engage critically with the debate on transgendered masculinities, although I am much more open to this stance than I am to others.

Truly, all categories of self-definition ought to be problematized. Who is ‘queer’ and therefore allowed in queer spaces? Who is ‘of colour’? Who is white and who is not? Who is disabled, how are they disabled? We must always disturb these narratives, put them on trial, determine their usefulness. Are they serving us, or are we serving them? NCAFC are taking this step because my very presence pushed for it. We need to force other groups to have this conversation not out of convenience, but out of genuine desire to debate and politically decide upon their stance. I hope NCAFC can come to do this, too and I have high hopes for all of the activist’s engagement with the issue.