Student activism on campuses across London has recently surged, with occupations springing up at the London School of Economics and the Central Saint Martin’s campus of the University of the Arts.
Students at LSE took over the Vera Anstey Suite over the continuing marketisation of our education system, and at the time of going to press (24 March), have been there for over a week.
They have produced a list of demands calling for free education, workers’rights, genuine university democracy, divestment and a focus on liberation.
Over 400 people rallied round the occupation, with protesters marching to the Royal College of Surgeons to show solidarity with cleaners who are fighting for the London Living Wage, the right to holiday and sick pay.
On Thursday 19th, inspired by events at LSE, students at the University of the Arts occupied a large reception area in an administration building of Central Saint Martin’s. Management at UAL have plans to cut nearly 800 foundation places. They have failed to consult with students or staff, meaning dozens of staff are to lose their jobs in September.
A planning meeting took place on Sunday evening, where representatives from UCL, KCL, Goldsmiths, LCC, LSE, SOAS and many other campuses talked about plans for London-wide actions and began planning a series of events. Activists also plan to set up a blog, Free University of London, to help build the network.
Activists had hitchhiked from the occupation at the University of Amsterdam all the way to London.
While existing occupations in London carry on, more occupations are planned; it feels as though it is part of something much bigger. We have strong connections now to student activists in cities across Europe, and we are all inspired and spurred on at the distance between us all and the fact that we all seem to be fighting the same battle. Student protests against neoliberalism have also emerged in Quebec, Macedonia and Ireland.
This connection with the wider movement in Europe is acting as a catalyst for people to be able to see the wider picture, and put the marketisation of our education systems in the context of a broader movement outside of student politics.
Reckless is as reckless does
The newly elected president of Loughborough University Students’ Union, Ed Reckless, was banned from the union during his campaign, because he physically assaulted a woman on more than one occasion during the SU club night.
He had to be escorted in and out of the building when he found out he had won.
The official disciplinary procedure from the union states that if someone has assaulted another, they are to be “banned” for a minimum of five weeks and fined £30. The SU have clearly taken this to mean banned only from physical spaces as opposed to any union activity.
When confronted with the accusations, Reckless responded saying he was “highly intoxicated” and “acted very out of character”, calling himself “clumsy” and “heavy-handed”.
NCAFC Women have been working with the women’s officer at Loughborough and activists there who think the SU’s response to the assaults is not good enough. The first stage of the campaign, a petition calling for Reckless’ immediate resignation, received over 2000 signatures in under 24 hours.
“Lad culture” (read: sexism/misogyny) is rampant on our campuses with many student union’s working with feminist societies to lead the combat against this kind of behaviour. How are the students at Loughborough supposed to feel when the person leading that fight has assaulted women?
Reckless is yet to comment on the campaign calling for his resignation.
Sign the petition here.