UCL student tenants organising for action on poor conditions and high rents

halls assemblyBy Angus O’Brien, UCL Defend Education

On Thursday, 30th October, students at the Ifor Evans Site (the UCL Halls in Camden), held the inaugural Halls Assembly to discuss the state of their living conditions (for a flavour of this, you can read this report from the London Tab) and what they are going to do about it. It is likely to have been the first of such a meeting, at least in current student memory at UCL.

Discontented with the poor conditions and the cost to live on the Ifor Evans Site (the majority of students paying either £132 in Max Rayne or £167.70 in Ifor Evans per week), the assembly has created a plan to take action. In the next few weeks, a demand for information and transparency as to where the students’ money is actually going is to be made, alongside the signing of a petition containing 5 demands to be sent to the UCL Accommodations Department.

The unhappiness with living conditions has been exacerbated by two facts in particular: one, that rents have risen since last year, seemingly without evidence of any corresponding investment by the university and above the rate at which student loans and grants are rising. This has caused a loss in real terms for all student tenants in comparison to previous years. Secondly, UCL is running its accommodation with an excess of £10 million a year. The proliferation of this fact has caused disgust on the site as UCL is essentially making a profit from its own students, a notion reflected in the fact that they refer to their student tenants as ‘customers’.

But more tangible factors have also played a part within this student movement: broken fridges, toilets and showers, extortionate fines, inequality of conditions between floors and rooms only seem to scratch the surface. Cockroaches, believed to be living in the walls, are being found throughout Max Rayne, showing that nothing has been done about this an issue that has affected students for numerous years. Walking around the site, it is hard to find any evidence of investment since the residence opened in 1979. Coupling this with increasing rents and the wholesale lack of willingness to deal with the greater problems, it’s no wonder students are disillusioned.

It must be said at this point that the writer of this report is personally tied to this movement, but, nevertheless, would like to make a prediction. These students are being ripped off by their own university, but by holding assemblies, creating action groups and working together, the tide may just turn back into their favour. The Camden Halls could well turn out to be the catalyst for a wider student fightback against the extortion they are being subjected to by their universities.

The demands to be made by the students at the Camden Halls are, in brief:

  • reverse the rent hike
  • equal standards across the site
  • accountability and direct student influence
  • transparency in spending
  • sustainable investment for students, not profit

Are you organising for your rights as student tenants? Or do you want advice on getting started? Let us know by emailing [email protected]!

Trade unionists support the demonstration for free education and donate to NCAFC

ucl_ucu_strike_28jan2014_marchingThis Thursday, a general meeting of the UCU trade union branch at UCL voted with no opposition to back November’s national demo for free education and to donate £300 to NCAFC’s work. We are very grateful to our trade union comrades for their support.

The UCU and other trade unions in education have long backed the abolition of tuition fees, even during the period when our own union, the NUS, abandoned this stance. Our campaigns, our protests and direct actions have always been strengthened by the solidarity of campus workers. Likewise, NCAFC has built for student solidarity with workers’ struggles in our colleges and universities and beyond. This is not just because it’s the right thing to do but because we’re stronger together.

It’s particularly apt that UCL UCU should offer its support, as it was at UCL that the NCAFC was founded in 2010. As we enter this next stage of the fight for free, democratic and just education, we are grateful for the continued support of campus workers is a real boost. And since NCAFC’s work is carried out entirely by the volunteered efforts of its members, and funded only by members’ and supporters’ donations, financial contributions like this are warmly received and very much needed. Organising and campaigning require resources!

NCAFC members will be approaching more trade union branches over the coming weeks, and we hope that this is just the first of many supportive branches. If you are a trade unionist and would like to propose that your branch support us and the campaign for free education, please get in touch by emailing [email protected].

Join the (UCL) Occupation-Nation

Occupied Creativity (Dance-Off Videos)

UCL Occupation

Brighton University Occupation

UCL Occupation in The Guardian (video)

Aaron Porter issues support for occupations

This morning at 11am, NUS President Aaron Porter visited UCL Occupation to apologise for his “dithering” over support for autonomous student action, and agreed to advocate occupations as a legitimate form of protest against fees and cuts, as well as pledging political, legal and financial aid for all existant and future student occupations.

Occupiers issued the following list of demands to Porter, all of which were agreed to unconditionally:

  • to publicly support all student occupations- on the frontpage of the NUS website and all available media.
  • to call immediately for a new wave of occupations as a legitimate form of protest against fees and cuts.
  • to organise financial, legal & political aid for all current and future occupations.
  • to call a national day of action on the day of the parliamentary vote on tuition fees.
  • to officially support any staff taking further industrial action on cuts in the education sector.

The occupation of the Jeremy Bentham Room in UCL began on Wednesday at 12:15pm as part of NCAFC’s national day of action. Occupiers held the President, who has become a widely controversial figure in the student movement in recent weeks, to account.

He also criticised the NUS for being “spineless” over recent years by refusing to support student protests.

The UCL Occupation intends to continue indefinitely until its demands of the university management, including the issuing of a public statement against fee rises and HE budget cuts, are met. You can support those demands here.

A number of NCAFC activists are involved in the UCL Occupation. The liberated Jeremy Bentham Room is in fact the location of NCAFC’s founding convention.

Tweet your solidarity with the UCL occupiers: http://twitter.com/ucloccupation

Aaron Porter talks at UCL Occupation

Jon Moses at UCL occupation interviewed by The Guardian (sound)


Left-wing sabbatical officers speak!

These interviews originally appeared at www.workersliberty.org

[Read more…]

NCAFC National Meeting

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts is going to be having its national meeting in London on the 5th of June. Please come along, we’re going to be discussing how to organise the campaign so that we can hit the ground running at the start of the next academic year. With the Tories about to announce loads of cuts in education, this is a really important campaign, and a really important meeting!

The meeting will be taking place in University College London from 1PM on Saturday the 5th of June. For more information, check out the Facebook event.

We will be electing an editorial board to ensure regular and timely communications about events, news, and action. Please try to send a delegation from your campus to this meeting to let us know what you’re up to and plan jointly with other anti-cuts campaign groups. Also, it would be great if you could send us a report from your campaign, so that we can stick it up on our website.

There will be a fare pool for those coming long distances, and crash space can be arranged for those who need it. If you have any questions or concerns, see the contact page and don’t hesitate to send us an email.

The NCAFC national meeting isn’t the only thing coming up! Here’s a list of events occurring over the next month:

Saturday 22 May: Right to Work Conference
11-5 Friends Meeting House, London

Tuesday 25 May to Sunday 30 May: European Education Congress 2010
Bochum, Germany

Saturday 29 May: Defeating Cuts in Education conference
Brighton (venue tba)

Thursday 10 June: UNISON Day of Dissent

Demonstration at UCL – students and staff surround Provost’s office

At 1PM on the 3rd of March, over 200 students and staff at University College London began a demonstration at the Gower Street Campus. They were demonstrating against cuts that the management of UCL, one of the richest universities in the world, is planning to make. Although jobs and services across the university are at risk, the heaviest cuts are currently aimed at Life Sciences and Modern Languages. Students at Westminster, having ended their three-day occupation, marched to join the demonstration at UCL, where they were greeted with cheers. A UCL student said, “the turn-out at our demonstration today, and the confident mood among staff and students, has been really helped by the Westminster students, and we’d like to thank them for the steps they took.”

The demonstration marched down to Malet Place, and entered the main university building. To the cheers of staff we met on the way, the demonstration marched up through the corridors, to the office of the Provost, Malcolm Grant, and demanded that he come out and explain to staff and students why a university that made a huge profit last year should be making vicious cuts. He declined to come out, and instead had security keep students and staff from his door. Around 100 students sat down outside for over an hour and chanted and discussed what the campaign should do next. At this point it was announced that students at Sussex had occupied while staff announced a 76% vote for strike action, and the Vice Chancellor at the Univesrity of East Anglia was besieged by students demanding transparency and negotiations. At around 4PM the protesters left, vowing to come back soon. Organising meetings are ongoing, and the UCU’s strike ballot is still being prepared.

Learn more: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=137261462441

UCL UCU: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/unions/UCU/index.htm