The occupation of UCL’s registry building, a corridor of offices which houses all the administrative functions of the institution, is continuing to grow in numbers and strengthen in determination. We occupied in solidarity with striking staff, whose pay, conditions and pensions are under attack by UCL management, a situation over which lecturers are courageously taking action, and which deserves our solidarity.
UCL management have – somewhat predictably – attempted to intimidate and bully students involved in the occupation, using the only language they understand: money. They have stated that they will impose severe costs on named, but as yet unknown, individuals involved in the occupation. We, and many staff at the university, find this arbitrary bullying both outrageous and unjustified. It highlights the fear that management have when students and staff unite together as one and urge all students across the country to recognise this fear and join with their staff to fight cuts to higher education in all its forms. Simply put, their attacks against us show that we’ve got them scared.
Management constantly attempt to divide us into consumers and service providers, but we completely reject this imposed financialisation of our relationships. When management release statements apologising to students about the inconvenience of the strike, pretending that management and students are united against staff, we see quite clearly how little they value either the intelligence and principles of students, or the nature of the lecturers’ dispute.
Malcolm Grant, our provost, earns £365,000, and yet feels it is appropriate to attack the working conditions of all staff at UCL in order to save money. Rex Knight, our vice chancellor, repeatedly tells us how much he disagrees with the ideological attack on Higher Education – and yet is willing to threaten to bankrupt students who protest against it. They both reveal to us the rotten corruption and arrogance at the heart of our educational establishments across the UK, an arrogance that only fuels our determination to expose and protest the state of our marketised universities. Occupying students – at SOAS, Manchester, UEL, Glasgow and elsewhere – are manifesting these constant protest against marketisation, a protest which is going on all the time.
We utterly reject that the fight for a publicly funded, free and emancipatory educational system somehow ended (or began) on December 9th. Once again we state that we are in the midst of a much wider ideological war, and Higher Education is simply one battle in that larger struggle. This is why we now stand firmly as one alongside staff at UCL – and will continue to do so.
We will not be intimidated or bullied. Management misjudge our determination if they think we will be. They seem not to understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, or why their threats only make us stronger. To reiterate: we are occupying in solidarity with striking staff. By doing so, we are helping their goal of disrupting the university and infuriating management. And it looks like we’re winning.
Solidarity all the way,