CORPORATE GLORY HOLE (OR, WHERE I WENT TO UNIVERSITY)

Written by a Warwick Alumni, and first published here.

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I only write when I feel very strongly about something. I don’t always rarely achieve my aspired level of social comfort and vocal stillness. I swear a lot in attempts to convey any strength of expression – there is power in a well placed “CUNTING” or “FUCKERY”. I like that.

As expressed in my initial disclaiming post, I am not a writer or communicator, (this blog will probably just be for this post to be honest) I do not often wade in with well expressed opinions or clarity of thought, but it’s fine; not only am I good at different things, but I know plenty of people who can talk and think on point and trust me they do it fucking well. So they do that, and I drink and swear.

BUT: the reason I am writing is that I am having a very strong feeling about something – not an event, or a culmination, or a midpoint, or a start, but a feeling about something synoptic and very important to me, a feeling strong enough to make me sit down and tappy tappy tappy on my clapped out laptop and say what I shitting well think. I’m not going to be ‘blogging’, that’s not going to be a thing now, at least I don’t think so – but getting my thoughts on to paper and then on to a screen gives the time and space to momentarily turn the volume down on the Richard O’Brien in my brain, so I can get through the Crystal Maze and let the words fall into a vertical perspex tube in the right order.

The feeling I want to articulate is that I am not proud of Where I Went To University. This is complex to me because Where I Went To University and The University That Taught Me are two different ideas.

Where I Went To University is a glossy A5 pamphlet printed on paper that costs more per sheet than a cuppa, with deliberately identifiable colour selections, and company approved fonts. It is a slick short story about a young set of buildings in between the City of Peace and some fields, about how those buildings and their low airspace were turned into a construction site controlled by a management which were and are the eponymous corporate glory hole of this piece. About how those who built or branded on this space made it rain that sweet sweet dollar money into the raw laps of the management, and those who pass through the young buildings for their intended purpose of education just have to live with the mess, and are charged a cunt-tensing fortune for the privilege. That sweet dollar money keeps the glory hole in luxurious working order. Fresh paint on the wall, perhaps studded padding around the hole itself for maximum comfort, definitely ample parking in the vicinity, and most importantly security guards armed with CS gas stationed nearby to prevent any yobs intruding on vital visits to the spotless, comfortable hole.

I’m not fucking proud of that. (Not not proud of glory holes, I’m fine with whatever floats folk’s boats, I’m just trying to use that complete shitty image to convey the nature ofWhere I Went To University.)

The University That Taught Me is a different work altogether. There are no logos, cordoned off areas, or spotless walls there. The University That Taught Me is made of brains. Brains of some of the best people I’ve ever met. It’s made of tutors who teach so well you go home with a cured hangover and a sword made of anger, knowledge, and referencing with which to test your next ideas. Yes you bitch about it but it’s because your brain is having to work. Tutors who teach so well that you can feel that same bitching brain downloading new software in real time except that it’s not iOS, it’s your life being quickened by the possibilities made clear by these amazing humans working from tiny offices, crammed side by side full of everything they want to give you, these humans who teach so well that their reading suggestions make you want to do oral with the library, who make you look beyond the beautiful, ordinary walls of your seminar room. Who show you their brains so you’ll show them yours. Who make you think so far outside of yourself, your background, your strength, your comfort, so that you really learn to work.

These amazing tutors who bust every nut they have so that your brain can level up, and so you can start to level up on your own. They write, they edit, they talk, they schedule, they email, they sign, they do all this from their rectangular offices full of biscuits and deadlines and stress and the undiscovered, they do it all so that people are educated. They do it so that all of this important stuff doesn’t have concrete poured on it, get painted over, or put in a glass box and just stared at. They teach us because knowledge can be power and whatever experiences – positive, or negative – you’ve had with any tutor, that fact puts us all on the same team. Their sin bin is our sin bin, we are wearing the same colours.

THAT is what a university is – brains working. Not like the Brain from Pinky & the -, not like the brains compared to the brawn of an organization, but brains working because they can and because there is work to be done. The grey squishy stuff that makes you want to fuck people, that chooses each disastrous outfit, that is your self-talk, that has such wider capacities than those simple things, that determines your life, is the basis of the realness of a university. True experience of the essence of university is all of the shit from Dead Poet’s Society, and all the shit from History boys, it’s Dumbledore’s Army, it’s getting to smoke with the gang behind the bike sheds, it’s that scene in A Clockwork Orange where his eyes are held open, it’s an episode of Time Team where they find a whole Saxon village, it’s an intellectual breakup and the ensuing discovery of BDSM and swinging, it’s carpe diem, it’s tearing pages out of books when you find them wanting, it’s a messy benediction and it’s midnight mass at 9.00am on a Thursday when you’re still drunk and have no fucking money but your bus pass got you to campus in order to motherfucking learn –
BECAUSE:
if you’ve chosen to be there, if you worked your anadin-popping stress-dreaming sixth form arse off to be there, if you’re taking a financial commitment more significant than the average modern marriage to be there, your heart is with the team that’s taught, not the team that’s bought. Or dreams that are taught, not bought. Fucking whatever. I don’t give a shit about whatever pure cheddar phrases click for you over this feeling but seriously, I think it’s important. The old school idea of university as a place of study is precious and Nigel Thrift is turning Warwick’s environs into business Disneyland. Bizneyland if you will.

The University That Taught Me isn’t a pamphlet, it’s not printed, it’s not even written. It exists continually in the people I’ve met, the ambitions I now have, the things I’ve learned, the work I will make, and my respect for those who teach like those who taught me. I would not be the calibre of hungry, hopeful, interested and motivated hot mess that I am without the people who shared their brains with me.

Where I Went To University makes me ashamed. I am exhausted with shame at how something I was a part of treats people, treats lives, treats freedom, and treats education.

The University That Taught Me is a place for which I will be forever grateful, am immensely proud to be attached to, and have huge respect for. The people under whom I studied ARE the true university, they are the heart of Warwick and should be acknowledged for the work they do – educating yobs. A dehumanizing word; and, coming from the lips of the Vice-Chancellor at the end of a summit on police brutality, a perfect illustration of the difference between Where I Went To University and The University That Taught Me. 

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Announcing: Term 3 Public Meeting

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Warwick for Free Education are hosting a public meeting at the start of Term 3.

The goal of the meeting is to bring together a broad range of free education supporters from across the Warwick community (and further abroad). We want to welcome everyone: students, staff, long time WFFE-ers, and people who’ve never been involved before.

Please spread this information in your departments/friend groups and so on.

Facebook event

“Monday 27th April (week 2, term 3) // 5.30pm // Room TBC
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During the events of Cops off Campus and the Rootes Occupation in December, Free Ed activists presented a series of demands which were unilaterally rejected by university management. Not only did university management refuse to engage with or support students in the wake of unprecedented circumstances, they also purchased a drastic injunction effectively banning all subsequent occupation-style protests on campus in an attempt to yet further confine and delegitimize opposition and dissent at Warwick Ltd.

On Thursday 12th March, WFFE engaged in an independent summit on protest which was organised in response to the events that occurred on campus in December. We took part in order not only to defend the right to protest, but to emphasise the necessity of the struggle to free education, and challenge representatives from university management and West Mids police on the violent and repressive measures undertaken at their hands in response to dissent on campus.

Footage of the summit can be found here: https://youtu.be/2XMVCkPWfK4

The summit was a powerful expression for WFFE, and we have a lot to discuss following a successful Spring term and the great outcome at the summit and subsequent sit-in.

Whilst our weekly meetings are open-attendance, this meeting in particular is especially important in order to discuss and reflect on our trajectory, and formulate new demands and plans for the Summer term and beyond. Come along combabes!”

Warwick Anti-Sexism Society Support LSE Occupation

A statement by Warwick Anti-Sexism Society  1491758_403401203154147_6748730403425460336_n Solidarity with Occupy LSE – Free University of London! A group of activists have occupied the Vera Anstey Suite, the central meeting room of LSE administration, demanding a change to the current university system: a move away from neoliberal, market-driven education where a degree is a commodity to a liberated and open space where knowledge has no price tag.

Their demands include that LSE adopt a zero tolerance to sexual harassment policy, that LSE does not implement the Counter Terrorism Bill that criminalises dissent, particularly targeting Muslim students and staff, divestment from the fossil fuel industry and from companies that make a profit from Israel’s state occupation of the Palestine. See the full list on their page. As said in their statement, “Institutional sexism and racism, as well as conditions of work for staff and lecturers, becomes a distraction for an institution geared to profit.” This is something we’ve undoubtedly seen at Warwick and beyond. Universities are increasingly not on our side, providing welfare of wildly varying quality, having an unnecessary police presence on campus, caring little for paying a living wage (and salary differences for jobs that simply mirror the heteronormative, gendered divisions of labour that are seen in the “traditional home”) and keeping curricula as Eurocentric and male-dominated as possible. The current system is forcing us into massive amounts of debt, for institutions which make minorities feel unsafe, for institutions that do not count as safe spaces, for institutions that overly police us, for institutions where we do not feel comfortable to report cases of harassment, and for institutions which care little for the very Earth we live on and continue to support the fossil fuel industry. It’s wonderful that so many student groups, here at Warwick, in the UK and beyond, see this and are taking action. In their current occupation, which is planned to last until Thursday evening, the LSE group will be providing workshops, general meetings and discussions in a liberated safe space, free of sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia. Timetables are available on their page. Once again – solidarity with all at the Vera Anstey Suite, LSE! x

Warwick Anti-Racism Society Support LSE Occupation

This is a statement from the Warwick Anti-Racism society in support of the LSE occupation. You can keep up to date with the occupation via their facebook and twitter.   

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LSE IS OCCUPIED!!!!!

This morning sees the Vera Suite of the Old Building occupied by various student groups and activists. The occupation will be open at 11am and is planned to last until Thursday evening. The occupation will involve workshops and lectures to freely share knowledge.

The purpose of the occupation is to directly resist the current oppressive university structure- one where the curriculum does not reflect its diverse student body, market interests shape the university more than students themselves, and workers are bound in oppressive zero hour contracts. The occupation calls on management to divest from exploitative organisations, including companies that are making profit from the Israeli state’s illegal and racist occupation of Palestine. They also demand for the School to not implement the Counter Terrorism Bill, a bill that simply runs on the principle of targeting Muslim students who would dare dissent in any shape or form. You can find more of their demands here-https://www.facebook.com/notes/occupy-lse-free-university-of-london/why-we-are-occupying/404349579725976

We, the Warwick Anti Racism Society, support all of the demands of the occupiers and we salute our brothers, sisters and non binary siblings for holding the principles of democracy, equality and liberation at the heart of their occupation.

Right here at Warwick, our students are attacked with CS spray [1] for discussing Free Education. Our water machines come from companies that operate on illegally occupied land [2]. Our Vice Chancellor calls students that dare protest what THEIR university looks like ‘yobs’ [3] Our curriculum does not reflect its diverse student body, and our institution does little to nothing to eradicate the problem that there are only 17 black female professors in the UK. [4]

The Warwick Anti Racism Society therefore stands in solidarity with students occupying and can only echo their demands.

Long live the Free University of London!

[1] = https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/…/police…/
[2] = http://www.waronwant.org/…/17122-dont-drink-stolen
[3] = https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/…/video…/
[4] = http://www.independent.co.uk/…/uk-study-finds-just-17

our turn to talk

‘Free Education’ (poem)

Anonymous Warwick Student

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They say we are free here to do as we will
Yet you better be able to pay them the bill
And there’s so many meaningless things we must do
Our lives aren’t really free and you know that it’s true.
They say that we’re free and a knowledgeable nation
But they still won’t give me a free education.

They say that at school there’s no child left behind
But right now school’s a box that will stifle the mind.
When play turns to work and they take out the fun
That’s how they ensure no real learning gets done.
A restrictive curriculum with no choice of vocation
But I won’t let school stop my free education.

They say our universities are the best
But to get in you better pass the test
And pay an extortionate tuition fee
And with these narrow subjects this learning’s not free.
The unis are falling to commercialisation
But I won’t let capitalism stop my free education.

They say lifelong learning’s a buzzword today
Yet all life long we work just to bring home some pay
Eight hours a day and for five days a week
But you’re lucky you’re working, so be grateful and meek.
At the end of a work day all we want’s relaxation
But I won’t let a job stop my free education.

So take to the libraries, take to the street
And share what you know with the people you meet
Put your knowledge online for whoever to find
They can’t take away our freedom of mind.
I have found a conclusion, a new revelation:
We can take for ourselves our own free education!

In the Wake of Yob-Gate

John Murray

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Something remarkable has happened at Warwick over the last couple of years: management’s gross and escalating failures have resulted in a crisis of legitimacy,

This has never been more evident than in their latest press campaign, which verges so closely on parody (‘Free Education Campaigners Issue Death Threats to VC’). The yob-gate episode more closely resembles a playground scrap than it does the actions of an in-control management. So what should the campus left do when their management are reduced to making outrageous accusations in an attempt to desperately win over some form of public sympathy?

Well, it’s very clear that Thrift & Co. want the student body to react to their tabloid tactics. They want to bait the reactionary right to turn on WFFE and aligned campaigners, in an attempt to drive us out of the mainstream of student political discourse and onto the ‘radical’ fringes. But so far, this doesn’t seemed to have happened. Everyone appears to be treating their claims as absurd and defamatory (as indeed, they are), whilst also recognising that WFFE represents generally held concerns.

Like we said so many times during the summit, the SU has at least 5 democratic policies, voted on at All Student Meetings, which represent large elements of our opinion:

  1. Warwick Against Tuition Fees
  2. A Better Pay Deal for Staff
  3. Building a Democratic University
  4. Lower Living Costs on Campus
  5. No Confidence in Nigel Thrift

Therefore, we have a very strong claim to be acting on the basis of mass support. This is not to say that WFFE would be illegitimate without general support – a great number of brilliant movements have existed without a majority – but that in these specific circumstances our aims to clearly link up with the democratic opinion of students. Similarly, we have very close links with staff and are very grateful to be able to work alongside the staff union, UCU. On this basis, we can say students and staff support us.

I think the first step is to recognise that. We should be confident that we are not speaking for a super-niche fringe, and we should not act as if most students will never support us. We have a fantastic opportunity to link up with the general student body and reinforce our broad base of support. WFFE is a coalition campaign which needs to appeal to the widest possible set of students, and we should keep this in mind over the coming months. We are approaching a point where mass support will be vital.

This is because as management plunge (or continue plunging) into crisis we need to advance an easily understood structural critique of higher education in the UK. We need to make the point that Thrift is not the devil incarnate, he is a product of a neoliberal education system.

This critique, then, would form the basis of the second part of our response: to push for a mass movement on campus, and to win. Nigel Thrift has already backed down on supporting 16k fees, publicly stating that he doesn’t toe the Russell group line. Of course we have to do the hard work of building infrastructure which will last on campus for many years after we have all graduated, but there is also now an unprecedented potential for management to make key concessions.

Response to Accusations of Attacks on Nigel Thrift

A comment on the Coventry Observer article published earlier today:

This is the first time that Warwick for Free Education has been made fully aware of the ‘spitting’ and ‘death threat’ levelled at Nigel Thrift. We want to make it clear that these incidents have no links to WFFE in an official capacity and we in no way celebrate them.

However, we feel that these revelations further highlight the widespread dissatisfaction and anger towards Nigel Thrift and his behaviour as VC, and would like to take this opportunity to remind people that these views have been held since long before the establishment of WFFE. We must also not forget that a historic Vote of No Confidence in Nigel Thrift was recently passed overwhelmingly through our highest level of student democracy.

Further to this, it would seem that university management are becoming more hypocritical day by day – during the summit Nigel Thrift called us ‘yobs’, compared us to ‘children’ and patronisingly dismissed our actions as having no value. Yet now, in what is clearly an act of desperation, they are attempting to paint us as a group of violent criminals who bully and intimidate on a daily basis.

We absolute refute these absurd claims and will not allow our protest to be delegitimatised by them.

And finally, contrary to the suggestive tone of the article, and despite Nigel’s bizarre requests that we attend his house for supper, WFFE have absolutely no desire to go anywhere near his residence…

Recording of the ‘yob’ incident here.
Full video of the protest summit here.