Open Letter To University Security Staff

3 Feb

Students and staff from the ‘Really Open University’ group,  today distributed an open letter to security staff on the University of Leeds campus. This was in response to the arrest of our friend on Thursday of last week, as well as an expression of solidarity with security officers as university workers and in order to highlight the fact that we are all on the same side of this struggle. The text of the letter is below.


An Open Letter To Leeds University Security Workers

On Thursday night last week (28/1/10) one of your security officers arrested a friend of ours protesting the impending cuts. His act was to have spray painted anti-cuts slogans on the temporary plywood walls recently erected around the building site opposite the Student Union.

As students and staff, we are on the same side.

We wish to make it clear to University security that there is a political struggle taking place on campus. The planned £35 million of cuts are an attack on our education, jobs and futures, to which we cannot be made passive observers. Our struggle is not with you: you will no doubt also be facing cutbacks and job losses, and as such we will lend full support to you if you take industrial action.

Your fellow workers at the University of Sussex have informed us that they will be losing six out of a security team of sixteen with no cut in workload or a pay rise. As with the activists and workers in Sussex we are fighting against all job and pay cuts. We are fighting for proper rewards for those who actually work but have not shared the benefits of obscene profits. Our interests do not lie with the Vice Chancellor, a man who earns £237,000 a year, that’s £39,000 more than the Prime Minister.

Though some of our action may be deemed illegal, and we understand your commitment to preventing them, however we ask you to consider first whether you consider our actions JUST before assessing their legality. We would ask you not to allow yourselves to be used as a private campus police force by the same university bosses who are implementing cuts.  Our struggle is to defend jobs, fight the cuts and transform the university!


Really Open University


2 Responses to “Open Letter To University Security Staff”

  1. SOL February 7, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

    I strongly back Leeds staff and the UCU in fighting against cuts.
    I also strongly disagree with the actions of the Student Union, who acted completely undemocratically in their letter campaign against UCU strike action. It’s great that so many people are outraged at the SU’s actions and want to see reforms made.
    However, I also strongly disagree with taking part in actions which “are deemed illegal” before every other option is exhausted. Even with best intentions, acts like this often polarise an argument, and de-legitimise the group involved.
    University should be about open, democratic debate. Not about going to an extreme to make a point.
    We should be doing everything in our power to stop the job cuts at Leeds University, but we should be better than the University Management and the SU. How can we complain about the managements conduct when we then vandalise their property.
    The UCU vote on strike action allows dramatic action, that the majority agree is justified and necessary. Spray painting a wall does not represent the view of the majority and has little (if any) constructive influence.
    I agree with the aims of the Real Open University, and I also agree that sometimes taking illegal action is required and can be justified. However, in the case I don’t believe it is justified.
    The Real Open University should be more careful to ensure that they do not alienate students who would otherwise agree with their campaign. Assuming that the end justifies the means is often irresponsible, and can have very negative consequences.

    • reallyopenuniversity February 10, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

      Thanks very much for your comment. It is great to hear that you support staff here at Leeds Uni, and that the actions of our supposedly democratically elected Student Union do not represent everyone at the University.

      The graffiti in question was created on temporary boarding that will be thrown away once construction has finished. The boards were rapidly painted over; when non-political graffiti was added the University left it. It is also surprising the lengths the university has gone to persecute the individual concerned. Indeed the police were very surprised that this person was handed over to them by University security who would normally deal with such things with a slap on the wrist. This leads us to believe that the decision to repaint the boards and prosecute the individual arrested was a political one.

      It is worth mentioning that the UCU HAS been trying to go through legal means; it seems to be with regret that they have come to this, that they do have to strike. They had tried to go through the negotiating table but Michael Arthur et al pulled out, citing a fabricated demand as an impasse. It is clear as day that the ‘legal channels’ were exhausted before they even began; what is crucial is that we can recognize this and act before it is too late.

      The Really Open University believes that sometimes direct action is needed to convey a political message and that sometimes direct action is best achieved by breaking the law. Groups and individuals have unequal power within our society, and those with more money and more power have greater ability to continue their dominance within the legal framework. The university has the means at its disposal to spread propaganda through legal means because of the vast amount of wealth made from this very power structure. It is sometimes necessary to step out of the legal framework in order to challenge these power relations.

      We accept that criminal acts may alienate some people and are sure that individuals involved accept the repercussions of their actions; we do not believe this changes the necessity of such acts. Workers need to know that we support them fully in their strike. We do not glorify criminal acts over legal acts or vice versa.

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