Warwick SU to hold Vote of No Confidence in VC Sir Nigel Thrift

Warwick Students Union will vote on a motion of no confidence in their Vice Chancellor Sir Nigel Thrift following an All Student Meeting on Monday 2nd of February.

The motion was proposed in the wake of a turbulent year for Warwick.

On December 3rd, a police response to student protest was widely criticised by organisations such as Amnesty UK after a peaceful sit in ended with the use of tasers and CS gas. There is now a full independent IPCC inquiry into the events.

This was followed by a thousand-strong demonstration against police violence on campus the next day and solidarity demonstrations and actions around the country. Students went on to occupy a university building for eight days, before the university sought a high court injunction to end the occupation. In the injunction the university named two students as being potentially liable for unlimited legal costs, but in the end these were not recovered.

Students also went on to campaign against Nigel Thrift receiving a £16,000 pay rise, which brought his salary to £348,000. An ironic ‘Pay Day party’ was organised for the 15th of January – the day Nigel Thrift earned more in 2015 than the lowest paid member of university staff will in the whole year. 150 students gathered and marched on University House, the main University administration building, before being locked out by university security.

The university has also regularly clashed with its staff.

The national USS pension dispute led to a marking boycott after staff were threatened with losing a third of their pensions.

Professor Thomas Docherty was suspended for “insubordination” after sighing in a departmental meeting, in a move widely thought of as an attempt to discipline an academic who was openly critical of the UK university system. His suspension lasted almost half a year, and has been criticised throughout the academic community.

The university has also announced that it will make 20 workers from the Warwick Medical School redundant due to the department’s poor financial performance. Comments in the THE have linked redundancies at the University of Warwick to the ability to attract a minimum of $75,000 in research funding, with UCU comparing their situation to “market traders in the City, who are judged solely on the amount of money they raise”. This has led to widespread staff anger, and staff creating a petition which has close to 1,900 signatures.

Thrift, who was named in the New Years honours list, was knighted for “services to Higher Education”, and will be leaving the University this year after an unexpectedly short contract renewal of only 6 months.

The debate will take place on Monday the 2nd, with voting taking place online over the next few days.

Callum Cant, a 3rd year English Lit student at Warwick who was named on the injunction that ended last year’s occupation, said: “This is a chance for the student body to show we have totally lost faith in the management of Warwick Univeristy.”

“Nigel Thrift has consistently acted in a way which has damaged our community, and we want to show that he no longer has our support.”

“His knighthood is a farce. How he can be knighted for services to higher education when there is an unprecedented level of anger amongst his own students and staff I don’t know.”

Links

Dec 3rd protest

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/dec/03/warwick-university-students-police-tuition-fee-protest

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/04/west-midland-police-trigger-happy-amnesty-warwick-demo

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/jan/26/ipcc-investigate-alleged-student-assaults-during-tuition-fee-protest-warwick-university

December 4th demonstration and 4th-12th Occupation

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/warwick-university-protest-901

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/warwick-occupation-injunction-203

Thomas Docherty suspension

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/thomas-docherty-to-face-insubordination-charge-in-tribunal/2014711.article

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/11187063/Professor-suspended-from-top-university-for-giving-off-negative-vibes.html

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/thomas-docherty-suspension-to-be-lifted/2015892.article

Medical School redundancies

http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/warwick-university-places-20-jobs-at-risk-over-failure-to-meet-fundraising-targets-9918970.html

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/simplistic-redundancy-metrics-criticised/2016357.article

Nigel Thrift Knighthood

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-30637336

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no confidence prof

Utopia

I’ve not been going to lectures recently.  That’s not simply because of a disenchantment with my degree, featuring an examined module (called Key Skills) specifically engineered to equip us with interview, CV composition and ‘self-marketing’ techniques, but rather because campus harbours nothing but dread and anxiety for me now.  Since the imposition of these bail conditions, I have felt utterly severed from its world.  I have felt, even more than before, as if I have no place there, that I no longer belong to its community.  For all intents and purposes, this is not simply a conjuration of worry and dejection: I have been banished.  The distance is not simply emotional, nor mental, nor ideological (although the feeling of alienation is undissociable from our material conditions): it is real, it is overt, and it is sanctioned by the power and authority of the state.

Now, in Western liberal democracies such as ours, power always implicitly operates as such (or more explicitly, if you’re not able-bodied and white as I am): it is rooted in its very nature as it assumes dominion over us, even against our will, substantiated in the threat of violence if we do not comply.  However, experiences such as this expose and delineate those mechanics, that reality – the reality that our freedom can be seized from us if we channel it in rebellion and subversion, that it is conditional upon our subordination to the prevailing order.  What freedom, it is of meaning, is predicated upon submission?  What freedom, if it is of meaning, is predicated upon our acquiescence to systematic injustice?  What freedom, if it is of meaning, is predicated upon our acceptance of the knowledge that those freedoms we are afforded are only ensured because others are exploited and unfree?  Should we not question the constitution of a freedom which requires violence as its gatekeeper?  Should we not question the character of a system which produces such a concept of freedom, and imposes conditions wherein identities are cultivated that must be regimented and subdued by violence, the infliction of which but further inflames those identities?  Should we not question a political climate which is desiccated and searing so, that we seethe with fever and fatigue and thirst as we traverse its desolation, grasping at mirages of oases which flow in gold, a fire kindled only to smoulder and rage within us, demanding release, asphyxiating us with its smoke?

For the police and University have not simply nullified my ability to protest on campus, but rather negated the potentialities of adventure which Warwick should present to us.  They have diminished my University experience to its one, elementary core function, to a transactional service remunerating my fee ‘investment’ – to study that which capital and the state has prescribed, to hone myself as a tool for their ends, to indebt myself for the elusive promise of a higher income and a pre-emptive start upon the employment ladder (no matter who we tread upon to reach there); to trace my path along the JP Morgan footsteps strewing campus.  They have appropriated my agency to define and mould my University experience, to explore it critically and creatively and morally.

They have mechanized it within the constraints of exchange, to provide me solely with the commodity for which I have paid.  I am not simply like a customer within that world anymore – that is all I am.  I go to the checkout, accumulate the information as my pre-purchased goods, and then I leave.  There is no interaction beyond that which is necessary, no lingering, no straying, plagued as I am by the relentless foreboding of the store CCTV and security surveillance.  It is a relegation of my University experience to its operational and abstract exchange value, a seizure of everything save that which bears value within the market and can prospectively contribute to capital.  They have fundamentally sanctioned away everything that I crafted as enjoyable and empowering and nourishing and inspiring within that world.  They have rendered it illegal that I be the architect of my University experience, that I penetrate and delve beyond the content of a curriculum and rigid timetable, and that I conceive of myself as more than a vessel engineered within this blueprint of capital.  They have leached away what texture, artistry, nuance, variety and wonder dared to embellish my University experience and functionalized it as a bleak, disconnected procedure of consumption.

Before, at least, there was the illusion of choice, though the whims of the market still predominated, in their final instance, over it: that has been shattered.  The emotional and ideological manner in which I processed Warwick, the neo-liberal framework in which we theorize the University, has been crystallised in a state-enforced reality: this ecology has been restructured, entrenched and ossified.  The ache of incompletion, the scorch and laceration and yearning of that flame beneath our skins, that fire we cannot quite channel or effuse: it is no longer simply abstract, but a realized temporality, with form and substance, assumed upon that bail sheet, in the siege of worry levelled by the prospect of a prison sentence, in the looming of bail dates, in the despair induced by the piercing sirens of cop cars.  More than the direct threat of violence, I am stayed by the terror of their capacity to dictate who I can and cannot be, their capacity to regulate the format of my existence.  The illusion that this present, this time and space, is comprehensively my own has been deconstructed.

And though that truth may now be conditional, though this present may not yet fully be ours: our future may still be.  They can isolate me from those around me: they cannot sever those bonds.  They can inflict physical violence upon me: they cannot ravage our dream of a different world.  They can debilitate my individual spirit, but they cannot – they will not – arrest our collective fight.  They can circumscribe us within their borders – but we will always struggle to stray and wander and flourish beyond them, to realize new expanses and construct new landscapes and find new horizons.  They may have an entitlement to seize away our freedoms – they cannot seize away our longing, they cannot assimilate our passion, and they cannot extinguish our resolve.  They cannot claim our hope.

We do not want their acerbic oases, we do not want their illusory prospects of riches and success and ‘opportunity’, we do not want a prosperity founded upon decay.  We want our utopia, and we will damn well take it.

The Provost Missed His Pay-Day Party. Nobody cried.

Organise, Educate, Escalate

We had a great time at the protest outside Provost Michael Arthur’s office today. It was a no-show for poor old Provost, however, even though we’d brought him cake!

(…seriously though, we despise the Provost)

Joining this protest against inequality at UCL were members form the UCL Justice for Cleaners Campaign and UCL UCU, who spoke about how cleaners are organising a campaign for better pay and conditions and how the top UCL fat cats are getting rich from cutting university workers’ pensions.

payday4 The protest took place outside the Provost’s Office and Jeremy Bentham’s creepy cabinet.

payday9 We handed out lots of flyers!

payday8

The banner of UCL UNISON, the trade union of the Justice for Cleaners Campaign. The banner of UCL UNISON, the trade union of the Justice for Cleaners Campaign.

payday 2

payday 3

One of the speakers at the protest from UCL UCU. One of the speakers at the protest from UCL UCU.

Cake to commemorate that Provost earns as much in 19 days as a cleaner earns in a year. Cake to commemorate that Provost earns as much in 19 days as a cleaner earns in a year.

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Fees By Stealth…But What About Non-EU International Students?

justice4sanaz

The student activist interwebs have been buzzing in the last 24 hours concerning a statement made by Liam Byrne, the Shadow Minister for Universities, who indicated that Labour would scrap university tuition fees and replace them with a graduate tax.

Interestingly, it was Labour party under the control of Tony Blair that instituted tuition fees in 1997. Prior to that, university education, at least for British citizens, was free. Groups like the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) have come out with strong reservations concerning Labour’s tuition fee policy. Hannah Sketchley, NCAFC NC, said: “Labour is clearly just trying to woo the student voters, and this move shows that students can drive the education agenda. However, we can’t let ourselves be wooed by this one promise – Labour are still promoting an austerity agenda and slashing benefits, especially for the under 25s.”

NCAFC came up with this clever…

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Recognising our Victories

This is a personal blog by Leffe Melon-Kholi, and is not an official WFFE statement.

One of the demands of the PPU Warwick occupation two years ago was that Nigel Thrift publicly oppose the Russell group stance supporting 16k fees. When we held a sit in on December 3rd, the same sit in that was attacked with CS gas and tasers, that was also our demand – if Nigel wasn’t going to support the democratic opinion of students (which is for free education) then he at least shouldn’t be actively lobbying against it.

Now, after everything that has happened, he has come out and said it. This is not a huge victory of earth shattering proportions. It is a small step, showing that our tactics work and student pressure can force the university to change.They claim they won’t negotiate with us, and they try and obscure our victories, but there is definite movement in the management stance. The SU is discussing a code of conduct – one of the demands of last term’s occupation – with uni management. We have so much yet to win, but it’s important we recognise what we have achieved so far.

The full interview can be found here.

Q: If you were a prospective student facing £9,000 fees, would you study or go out to work?

A; All the evidence shows that going to university works for most people most of the time. But I think that we shouldn’t put fees any higher, allowing for inflation. There are issues of intergenerational justice that need to be faced.

Similarly, the labour party has today been talking about lowering tuition fees and introducing a graduate tax. As Hattie Craig – one of the students named on Warwick’s anti-occupation injunction – said: “In a year where the student movement has reignited the fight for free education, Labour is cynically latching on to the clear want for a different funding system. However, it is not the funding system that we are asking for: we will not stop until we win free education, funded not by a graduate tax but by progressive taxation.”

We have to push on from these small changes in direction. They indicate the start of a process, not its completion. That is why NCAFC is challenging the Labour party to do better – much, much better – and why WFFE will continue fighting on Warwick campus.

The movement is living, breathing – and winning. Let’s not forget that, as we continue the campaign through the months ahead.

10928863_10205804158052613_3972162149696376075_n

Arrestees have Bail Conditions Extended

The three people arrested on December 3rd in the Senate House sit in today had their bail conditions further extended. They have been on bail for over a month, unable to see each other, unable to come onto campus for anything other than scheduled lectures, and unable to attend any demonstrations.

They have yet to be charged with any offence, and have still had no opportunity to prove their innocence.

Their bail conditions now extend to mid-February.

WFFE supporters accompanied them to Coventry Central police station to show our solidarity in the continued face of police repression.

As a Guardian investigation in December 2014 revealed, this situation is not unique, as the police regularly use bail conditions to punish protesters without trial and attempt to repress political movements.

This is a deliberate attempt to make their lives worse and force them into a situation where they will no longer protest. This will not succeed, and we will continue to support each other.

bail 1

As Luke, one of the arrestees, said:

“The stress, anxiety and emotional turmoil of the past few months have today been renewed, in a completely tactical political move to repress dissent and bludgeon and traumatize into submission those who peacefully confront the structural violence of our social order. It is to disconnect me from my campus, isolate me from a caring and wonderful activist community, and to inflict me with the fear that if I do not conceptualize my educational experienced as a unilateral, functional transaction of study for market opportunity, if I express myself or act in such a way that is too subversive, I can and will be violently arrested. They have succeeded in inflicting this fear, they have succeeded in ensuring I dread going to campus every day, but they will not succeed – not now, nor ever – in subduing my will to struggle. I express my utmost solidarity towards those who attended the police station with us today, to those arrested with me, and to all those who have contributed towards this fight – you provide me with a strength no cop nor university manager can suppress and I love you all.”

Announcing: Thrifty’s Payday Party!

On Thursday 15th Jan, our beloved Vice Chancellor Sir Nigel Thrift will have already earned more this year than the lowest paid employee at the University does in an entire year.

Warwick for Free Education are holding a party for Nigel to celebrate this wonderful milestone as Nigel works his way towards his full annual salary of £348,000.

People have been tough on poor old Nige in the past.

They’ve said that a ‘left wing’ academic shouldn’t be hoovering up a managerial super salary of £348,000 and calling the police on his own students. They have said that successive pay rises (16k this year, 42k the year before) whist staff face 15% real terms pay cuts is an insult. They have said that the injunction he bought for tens of thousands of pounds is nothing more than an authoritarian protest ban. They have said that his barefaced lies in the wake of police brutality at Senate House last term show that he is unfit to run a university.

We think that’s jolly unfair. Nigel is a nice chap, and we want to celebrate that.

So join us on Thursday 15th to reaffirm just how great our VC is, and how he is worth every penny.

P.S. Party Hats not CS Gas

Thurs 15th 4pm outside Senate House

https://www.facebook.com/events/586491044816766/

nigels payday party