Wave of student occupations

November 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

The advantages of having multiple academic employers means I get to hear about many of these things first/fast…

Goldsmiths

As I was getting a coffee at Madisons in New Cross before my lecture today, a girl came in distributing flyers that read:

Goldsmiths is now occupied in solidarity with the November 30th strike and the global occupation movement. We reject the privatisation and marketisation of life, and the violent transfer of public wealth into private hands. We stand with all those afflicted by this vile agenda and against those who profit from this enforced misery.

SOAS

The SOAS occupation began yesterday. All I have seen on it so far is a statement from SOAS:

A group of approximately 25 people, some of whom are from SOAS, entered 53 Gordon Square yesterday and remained there overnight, despite requests to leave.

The School has just renewed a lease for the building with the University of London so that it can be refurbished as a much-needed study space for research students for the 2012/13 academic year.  

and a statement by the occupiers, which includes the following justification:

The building has been empty for three years, subject to a legal dispute over its ownership. One of the claimants, the School of Oriental and African Studies, has this year announced that the property is to be redeveloped as a new post-graduate centre. Concurrently, it has announced the appointment of a new dean of post-graduate studies, one of whose perks will be a luxury apartment in the top-floor of the building.

SOAS management are perhaps ignorant of the context in which 53 Gordon Square was left vacantly to rot. Since 2008, the recession has been steadily worsening. House prices have remained unaffordable, living costs for ordinary people have continued to rise, and desperately needed public space has been made over to Big Retail at fire sale prices.

We don’t need any more luxury apartments, any more than we need new senior managers to live in them. The Bloomsbury Social Centre will instead be a real community resource: the material instrument required to build for the November 30th strike. Students, workers and local people are all invited to use it.

I probably need to look into this further, but as someone who knows how little space there is for research students in SOAS and therefore has some idea of how much it might mean for research students to have access to that space for the 2012/13 academic year, I really wish the occupiers could have either picked a better target or at least provided a justification aimed at the research students whose space they are occupying. I recently attended a meeting of research students to discuss how to ensure their needs are taken into account in the negotiation of the new Doctoral Training Centre which was to be based at 53 Gordon Square.  In this meeting, several of those present expressed amusement at the idea of a luxury apartment for the new dean positioned directly above the workspace of the students for whom s/he is responsible. On that point many research students might be sympathetic with the occupiers’ view that “We don’t need any more luxury apartments, any more than we need new senior managers to live in them.” But they won’t be sympathetic with the occupiers in relation to the fact that they are going to lose much-needed study space.

Other news coverage

http://www.freedompress.org.uk/news/2011/11/24/universities-occupied/

http://bloomsburyfightback.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/statement-from-the-bloomsbury-social-centre/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/nov/23/student-protesters-back-public-sector-strikes

http://anticuts.com/2011/11/24/statement-on-university-of-birmingham-occupation/

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