On Monday students from UCL occupied the administrative wing of their university in solidarity with their lecturers who, as part of the UCU, were holding strike action after a row over their pensions and pay cuts. On their website the students state the following reasons for entering occupation:
- To express solidarity with our lecturers and other staff who are taking part in the University and Colleges Union (UCU) strike to defend their jobs, pay and pensions on 22nd and 24th March.
- To urge UCL management not to raise tuition fees at their Council meeting on 24th March.
- To also urge management to reconsider the restructuring and outsourcing of estates and facilities, and implement the London Living Wage.
- To raise awareness of the national demonstration against cuts on 26th March.
The current occupation is the third held by UCL students for various reasons since the students demonstrations late last year. Each time students have entered occupation, presented their demands and subsequently left occupation on amicable terms with the management. They ensure that the facilities they use are returned to the condition they found them in and use the space in the space in the same way you would expect any university students to treat their facilities: with respect and due care.
However, on this occasion the management took great offence to the occupation and came to the space demanding an audience with the students responsible and subsequently issued a statement (approximately 24 hours after the initial occupation) that students should leave by 17:00 yesterday or face disciplinary action and have costs associated with the occupation and legal action pursued through the courts.
I arrived at UCL shortly after the statement was issued to students to find that many had been shaken up by both the threats and the behaviour of the management who had demanded they speak with occupiers earlier. Students were left wondering if their degrees were threatened because of their unwavering support for their striking lecturers and whether they would have to fight legal cases and face fees that could be in the tens of thousands. Simply not a position you would want to be in. But many have stayed on in their solidarity and still face the management who have said CCTV footage is being used to compile a database of the occupiers.
UCL occupation has in the past shown a great deal of solidarity for the wider student and anti-cuts movements. It often acted as a hub in the #dayx demos of last year and some occupiers have gone on to create the Sukey system designed to keep protestors safe at events such this saturday’s March for the Alternative. This is why we must show our solidarity now!
We should do whatever we can in solidarity because when we need it the movement will be there to support us back!