DISCLAIMER: This article is a personal opinion of one of our activists. It does not represent the views of the group at this time.
The student movement is at its height, buzzing with momentum. In campuses across the United Kingdom, students are taking direct action and campaigning for a democratic, accessible and free Higher Education. In the past two years, we have seen the ranks of student activism swell and we have seen some victories to match with it.
Defend Education Birmingham achieved the living wage. At Warwick, the Vice Chancellor refuted the Russell Group’s call for £16,000 fees. We are achieving real outputs, and we shouldn’t stop there. There is victory in the process, and it is on those victories that, for instance, occupiers in the New University of Amsterdam have built a long and lasting movement.
In Warwick, we have put enormous pressure on senior management. The successful and historic Vote of No Confidence in the Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift; and the Summit on Peaceful Protest where management all but apologized for their role in the December incidents of police brutality are only two examples of how we have put pressure on the University.
Yet, in spite of this, the University continues to advance in a dangerous direction. From plain-clothes security to the outsourcing of teaching staff that I have revealed today in a Boar news article, the University are still not reverting the course within our own institution towards marketization, casualization of staff, and alienation of both students and staff.
Something needs to change. We need to exert more pressure, focused on a small number of key and actionable demands. Demands should be concise and the University must be able to meet them in the short run. These four demands below are merely illustrative of what the demands could be, and not in any way demands approved by the group:
1. An apology from the University on their blaming of peaceful protesters for the violence they suffered at the hands of the police, and the University’s role in facilitating this.
2. The lifting of the indefinite injunction on occupation-style protest on campus.
3. A security code of conduct that protects freedom of assembly and expression on campus.
4. The immediate halt to casualization of staff, through TeachHigher and other means.
These 4 demands can all be resolved by the University, if they so desire. They can lift the injunction. They can apologize for the VC’s ridiculous statements. They can have a Security code of conduct. They can abort TeachHigher and reverse the course of marketization and casualization.
These 4 demands are proportionate and fair. Only a messed up University could conceive them as radical. Most of them are backed by the democratic will of students. The lack of an apology was a central point behind the Vote of No Confidence in Nigel Thrift. The Students’ Union recently passed near-unanimously policy on creating a Security Code of Conduct. The SU also has policy against casualization and marketization, namely in its policy on Postgraduates Who Teach.
On the back of these 4 demands, we can justify and mobilize a spring and summer of discontent and disruption at the University. These four demands distill with clarity our message and permit us to channel the momentum of our movement for concrete goals. With these demands, we can be confident on our ability to succeed in the short-run.