On Question Time, and the Masquerade of Democracy

dec 3

At the Vice Chancellor question time a few nights ago, we witnessed the new VC, Stuart Croft, respond in no substantive, decisive or principled fashion to any of the questions about an education system in jeopardy. Questions about Prevent were glossed over, questions about pay polarity within the University deflected, questions about injunctions and the living wage and maintenance grant cuts dismissed. He declared that there are no ‘simple solutions’, that some of these are ‘national issues’ over which the University has no sway – as if Universities are simply subjects of neo-liberalism and not engines for some of its worst advances.

Although the actions and agitations of Warwick For Free Education have contributed to the pressure which impelled the new Vice Chancellor to host this Question Time, last night’s performance and rhetoric continue to expose the contradictions and deterioration of democracy within the marketized University. In his first all student email and at the Question Time last night he gestured towards a different, more genial atmosphere and mode of governance, whilst committing to no political response or decisive action on the new devastating set of Higher Education reforms. We recognise these gestures as a ploy to placate our anger and coax us into forgetting the past, as an attempt to conceal the draconian responses of this University to our campaigning beneath vague indications of more dialogue and more engagement. This dialogue only ever seems to result in pledges for more dialogue – and never action.

We have not forgotten. We have not forgotten the police violence, the emotional impacts of which plague many of us to this day. We have not forgotten the injunction, which represses our right and freedom to protest. We have not, and cannot, forget the pain and violence the processes of marketization inflict on our community of students and staff. We will not forget, and we reject entirely the notion that a change in personality of the figure who governs our University could ever be sufficient to defend our vision of education and our collective wellbeing. Our interests are, and have always been, opposed to the managers and administrators of the neo-liberal University, those who accrue obscene salaries whilst workers suffer casualization and real wage cuts, our living costs rise, and our campuses are privatized. Not only has our new Vice Chancellor exposed himself as little more than a politician, the same as Nigel Thrift before him, his structural position constrains and pressures him to adherence to the dictates of the market.

We reject the notion that there is some common ground that can be reached between us with enough dialogue, especially when it is situated on the terms of management. We reject that a termly Question Time where we are not responded to decisively, let alone even promised progress, is anything but an act of political theatre intended to palliate antagonisms between the University community and management. We reject the notion that this should be the extent of our democratic agency. We demand fundamental change.

To abandon our protest, our organizing and our struggle to the remote maneuvers and equivocation of a managerial class, which has demonstrated time and time again their lack of concern and regard for our welfare, is only to pacify ourselves. When our maintenance grants are being abolished, when the Higher Education reforms threaten to decimate public Higher Education, when state-sanctioned Islamophobic monitoring and surveillance courses through our University structures – and our management remain at best neutral and at worst complicit – the time for polite conversation has passed. Systemic violence and exploitation is being enacted upon the most marginalized within and outside our educational institutions, and we cannot wait on the hollow rhetoric and nominal gestures of management to resolve these issues for us. When our voices are disregarded amidst the advance of the market, intervention is rendered our only option.

The new Vice Chancellor has exposed and demonstrated his position – and we will respond in kind.

Sit-In at Nigel’s Office!

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After a 70% landslide No Confidence vote from Warwick SU, WFFE have decided to come and deliver the good news in person.

This is an unprecedented display of student dissatisfaction and demands an unprecedented response. If the university wants us to take seriously its claims of democracy then this is the time to respond.

Make amends to students and staff or face ongoing action 🙂

No Confidence in Nigel Thrift, Free Education Now.

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Warwick Students’ Union Votes No Confidence in VC Sir Nigel Thrift

At 1pm today, Friday 6th Febuary, Warwick Students Union announced that its members have voted to express no confidence in their Vice Chancellor Sir Nigel Thrift. The motion passed with a 70% majority.

The historic no confidence motion cites pay inequality, the violent response to a student sit in on December the 3rd 2014, staff redundancies, and the suspension of academic Thomas Docherty as reasons for a loss of confidence.

The vote comes in the 50th anniversary of the university’s founding, and shortly after Nigel Thrift was knighted in the New Year’s Honours list for “Services to Higher Education”.

Students debated the motion at their All Student Meeting on Monday 2nd and voted online over the intervening period.

Miguel Costa Matos, Proposer of the motion and 3rd year politics student, said: “This is a historic vote, which shows that despite his knighthood, Nigel Thrift has lost the confidence of those he is meant to support.”

“Something has gone seriously wrong when students find themselves in opposition to university management. In a functional education system, a university would be run in the interests of students and staff, rather than against them. Unfortunately, Nigel Thrift is evidence that this is not the case.”

Hope Worsdale, 2nd year maths student, said: “This is not a unique situation. Across Higher Education, students and staff are deeply dissatisfied with the way they are being treated.”

“We need to contest the idea that universities are businesses which should be run by technocrats in the interests of corporations. We need education run in the interests of everyone, and ultimately that means Free Education.”

no confidence prof

Further Information

Press Release on the All Student Meeting

https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/press-release-warwick-su-to-hold-vote-of-no-confidence-in-vc-sir-nigel-thrift/

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

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

The geographies of capitalism, a king of Geography, and the destruction of political dreams

Anaemic On A Bike

“It would be difficult to deny the difficult days that the world is going through. One might say that the four horseman [sic] of the apocalypse have moved from a quiet trot to a full gallop and this increase in activity has been accompanied by the rise of Right-wing politics of various kinds which are clearly associated with a series of state and corporate ideologies and practices that must be denied any more room in the world and that, in time, must be rolled back.” (Nigel Thrift and Ash Amin, What’s Left? Just the Future, 1995, 236)

Did you foresee when you were writing this, Nigel, the danger of you becoming a horseman of capitalism? When naming as a value for the Left, “a constant and unremitting critical reflexivity towards our own practices” (Amin and Thrift, 1995, 221), at what point did you relinquish and decide on the other side? In proposing for the Left, “an…

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