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Reino Unido: Education Activist Network
Building and coordinating the resistance in further, higher and adult education
Actualizado: fai 1 día 36 min
(For more details on why we picketed David Willetts, it is well worth reading the piece also on the EAN website, in conjunction).
Students from all over Oxford gathered today to send a resounding message of no confidence in universities minister David Willetts, in a picket at St Peter’s College that lasted around two and a half hours. At the start there were around 150 to 200 students assembled, enough to fill a large part of the street outside the hall.
Today’s protest reflects a growing anger among the student body, as the first year hit by the fee rises enters Oxford. Turnout was considerable, and swelled further by students from Brookes and Ruskin. The mood was energetic and militant, and Willetts was prevented from speaking for more than ten minutes due to the protest.
From the occupation of the Radcliffe Camera to the large and lively protest against Vince Cable in Oxford in 2010, we have a strong tradition of opposing attacks on higher education. The message today was clear- stopping Willetts being welcomed to Oxford was just the beginning. The next step is to join the thousands of students that will be in London on November 21st. We need to demonstrate that when Willetts and his colleagues attack our education, we will fight back.
See you in London on the 21st.
MMU has now decided that a disciplinary hearing will go ahead on the two charges that Ian ‘constructed and widely distributed an email, which intended to undermine the credibility of a Head of Department’ and that ‘distribution of this email constitutes a failure to comply with a reasonable management instruction’.
This unbelievable decision is despite local, national and international calls for the suspension of Ian Parker from MMU to be lifted. Not only is Ian prohibited from discussing his case with colleagues in the university, entering university premises or accessing his work email, but he is prohibited from speaking publicly about the charges. Not only is the response of MMU to these charges grossly disproportionate, but MMU continues to respond to newspaper inquiries with the insidious claim that external speculation around the reasons for the suspension is ‘wholly inaccurate’, thus damaging Ian’s reputation.
As a first step to repairing his reputation, and in line with Ian’s own call for all documents relating to the case to be released publicly, we call on MMU to at least state openly what the charges are. Anyone who would like to support him could now simply demand of MMU that they tell the truth.
These messages can be copied as messages of solidarity to the MMU UCU chair Pura Ariza (firstname.lastname@example.org) and it is imperative that, at the same time, support should be stepped up to support Christine Vié (email@example.com) the MMU UCU vice-chair who has been singled out for redundancy.
Details about the case, including letters of support and the petition link are at http://www.asylumonline.net/ian
Times Higher Education:
Last Year our tutors and lecturers at Oxford University sent out a resounding message of no confidencein David Willets. This Friday 9th November he is being welcomed back, on a shared platform, as part of a humanitus programme lecture series.
As universities across the country face funding cuts; courses are being demolished and staff outsourced- St Peter’s have invited the figurehead of this overhaul to speak. Whilst ignoring the irony given the broad themes of the lecture series; the arts, social sciences and humanities (the degrees most at risk of becoming redundant due to their “unprofitability”) -the insensitivity and political ramifications of this matter.
Willetts’ presence as a speaker sends the signal of recognition and condonence for his position and policies. This will be particularly painful to first years in the audience who are part of the first cohort of an extortionately indebted generation. More widely it will be a sign of ‘back to business as usual’ as Oxford’s priviledged position enables it to abandon its defence of the values of Higher Education without significant material consequence.
The landslide vote of 283 to 5 in the Sheldonion Last June signalled a commitment to the values of a public education system. Staff from accross the academic and political spectrum joined together to express their diagreement with the government’s higher education policies of privitization and marketization.
Willetts’ higher education white paper proposed the slashing of funding to higher education institutions; the aboltion of courses that were deemed ‘not profitable’; ‘unviable’ universities being allowed to go to the wall and the outsourcing of staff. Private companies were encoraged to get involved in Education effectvely enabling public money to be turned into private profit. This marketization of universities along with budget cuts and the raising of fees to £9,000 create what Oxford history professor Robert Gildea called “a red carpet for the rich” describing the reforms as “reckless, incoherent and incompetent”.
Oxford academics in their vote, were confirming what a series of independent experts and the Public Accounts Committee had already made clear; that 80% cuts, trebling tuition fees and cuts to research facilities are unfair, unnecessary and unsustainable. Whilst success has been made insofar as the government has ‘indefinitely’ postponed the white paper; universities across the country, including some of the ‘top’ Russell group universities such as Manchester are experiencing job cuts, outsourcing and courses being slashed.
Oxford is lucky enough to be in a strong position to retain standards and independence from the government. Due to much of its revenue coming from wealthy donors and alumni as opposed to central government cuts to resources are having less of a devastating effect here than they are across other Higher Education Institutions.
However, as one of the most reputable higher education institutions in the country, Oxford must stick to the principles it so strongly committed to last year. Tutors and Lecturers were voting not as academics or individuals but as citizens concerned for the future of the Higher Education community. When Kate Tunstall closed last year’s debate with: “This is a big thing for Oxford to do; it’s also not just the right thing to do, but the good thing to do. Let’s take a deep breath and, in unison, in concert, hold a single, stirring note: the positive sound of the tradition and values we wish to defend”, staff and students were in accord.
Inviting Willets to speak disregards the united front the Oxford Students and Academics took. Permitting him a platform as part of a series of high profile lectures, sends a contradictory message to that of no confidence.
When we voted no confidence we showed a commitment to the values of a public higher education system and support with Higher Education Institutions across the county. A protest has been called with the support of EAN and St Anthony’s GCR. We must signal to prospective students, the higher education community and the government that we still have no confidence in David Willetts.
Emily Cousens, Oxford University student & Education Activist Network
by Nathan Bolton, President at Essex SU & Education Activist Network
After attending the NUS Higher Education Zone Conference in Manchester this week, I thought I’d blog my thoughts on the event, as well as addressing some wider political questions around the demonstration and the movement.
For those who aren’t aware, the NUS Zone conferences are billed as events to steer policy of the Union in the run up to the annual conference and shape the political dialogue within its democratic structures. In fact, the conversations are one way, from the leadership to those assembled in front of them, and the ability of individuals to seriously influence policy are negated by the undemocratic nature of the event. Whilst this is not unexpected – it is important to set this premise to put into context the rest of the post.
The event therefore for the Left is little more than an opportunity to sound out the leadership on the activities of the Union and speak with Sabbatical officers around the country – particularly now about the 21.11.12 national demonstration.
It is clear that there is a feeling of disorientation within the student movement since the defeat of 2010. This is clear in campuses across the UK where students are pressurized by the prospect of student debt, the necessity of a ‘good’ degree (2:1 or 1st) and Universities stressing graduate ‘employability’. The effect of this is to accentuate competition between students and weaken the bonds of solidarity between them.
This disorientation stretches even to the Left – students who became activists in 2010 notice most keenly that the level of struggle is much lower and without a vote to use as a signpost their responses range from demoralisation to ultra-leftism. So what does that mean for the movement?
The NUS leadership and the demonstration
From the experience of Manchester last week, it is clear that NUS has spent the summer and first weeks of term attempting in vain to quieten dissent – both from the Unions on the right, who are as against the national demonstration as they were in annual conference, and those on the left who feel that the demonstration, and particularly its slogan fail to fulfill the mandate passed at conference.
NUS is not in a position to either provide political leadership for the demonstration, nor put its organisational weight behind the further action post-demo which is so important. The perspective of the leadership at the Manchester conference can be summed up in short: ‘Students are angry, education is under attack but NUS has neither the political ability or will to defend education. We need a demonstration of 10,000 who will glibly shuffle through London, go home and lead soft campaigns “in the community” and become the door knockers for Labour in 2015′.
NUS wants a small demonstration as a stick with which to beat the left. It would for the leadership prove to the student movement that the tactics of the street and the strike, as shown most brilliantly in Quebec, are not applicable to the UK. This bankruptcy of the NUS, especially with the ‘Quebec model’ looming large will reignite the arguments for a new campaigning national students union, like that of CLASSE. So what are our tasks and do we have the capability to live up to them?
Tasks of the left
The NUS at the Zone Conference was fixated on the idea of ‘public value’ – how does our movement and our Union theorise the idea of Universities as a public good? This is clearly a step forward. The language used by both NUS and other Sabbatical officers shows a shift toward the rejection of marketisation of education and uses many of the rhetorical flourishes of the left.
Despite this shift, it is clear that what NUS lacks is the political capability and will to lead a defence of education on the basis of these values. It cannot again be in the situation of 2010 where the movement nearly moved outside of its control. Sabbatical officers and activists are invited to discuss the ideological avenues of what education would look like as a public good, but not crucially how to fight for it and win.
We are in a position in which free education, student grants and the reversal of cuts to arts and humanities are as “utopian” as the proposal of £6,000 fees of the Labour Party. In this climate, we need to re-orientate the movement around these simple principles and demands.
- Education is not under attack in isolation. Austerity due to the financial crisis has pushed governments to cut state expenditure to increase profitability and prove themselves as defenders of ruling class interests. We need unity with all those who are losing out as a result of austerity measures.
- The single biggest blow to marketisation in education would be if we no longer had to pay for it – we must demand immediately free education, funded by taxing the rich.
- Fees are not the only barriers to education – many students are priced out of halls, equipment and the other essentials that a student requires. We must demand the installation of a system of living grants.
- Investment in education, both HE and FE to relieve under-staffed and under equipped institutions funded by taxation of the rich.
On such a programme, we need to work toward the maximum possible unity between the existing national and local education campaigns such as the Education Activist Network, Campaign for the Public University, Free Education Network, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the local anti-cuts groups and assemblies. Our focus must be on forming a coherent strategy for both making the demonstration highly political and carry these demands, but crucially be able to initiate activities after the demonstration to take the anger that will be on display on the 21st back to our campuses into something unified and effective.
It is without doubt that this academic year will be difficult -but we must throw ourselves into making the demonstration on the 21st big, but crucially promote our local networks to build organisations outside of the NUS which can lead the movement to such victories was were seen in Quebec.
This article does not necessarily reflect all those active in the Education Activist Network. Have your say – email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Education Activist Network is organising an open organising meeting at SOAS at 7pm on November 7. Click here
On November 14, more than ten million workers will be striking across 6 European countries. The Education Activist Network has decided to call a day of action to coincide with the general strike. Please send us your actions, demos etc to email@example.com
On going campaign to reverse the UKBA decision
- Lobby Home Secretary Teressa May for an immediate amnesty to all of London Met’s current international students so they can fully complete their courses and programmes of study;
- Reverse the decision to revoke London Met’s Tier-4 license; protect the long term financial viability of London Met as a community-based public university by requiring the Higher Education Funding Council of England (HEFCE) to appropriately reschedule the university’s £15M+ repayments due to it
On the 14th November millions of workers and students across Europe will be striking and protesting against austerity. In Greece, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta general strikes are being organised. Italian and Belgian trades unions have decided to join the action and there will also be solidarity action in France and Germany.
In Leeds students and staff will demonstrate to show our opposition to cuts in education and in solidarity with those fighting austerity!
From Athens and Madrid to Manchester, ordinary people continue to fight back against a deepening economic crisis. On 20 October, 200,000 workers, students, pensioners, disabled people and unemployed marched together in London against Austerity.
The struggle continues: on 14 November, the European TUC has called for a day of action and millions of workers will strike in Portugal, Spain, Greece and Italy.
British universities are being driven by priorities shaped by the needs of big business and this restructuring of higher education is part of a much broader economic and political process which reaches universities all over the world known as neoliberalism.
The government is determined to turn education into something to be bought and sold while trying to turn students into passive consumers and staff into service providers. They value marketing and branding more than critical thought and academic independence.
At Manchester University, Professor Brown from the School of Education has announced the closure of the Applied Youth and Community Work course claiming ‘there is no point to the course’.
Students & staff will demonstrate on that day to show our opposition to cuts in education and in solidarity with those fighting austerity!
- To build the broadest and biggest possible demonstration on November 21
- To strengthen the links between FE activists and university students in the run-up to November 21 demonstration
- To call lunchtime demonstrations in support of the European General strike on November 14
- To call on NUS to call walkouts when George Osborne announces his autumn budget on December 5.
- To continue publicising global student struggles on the website and in pamphlet form.
- To continue building links with global education struggles such as Quebec, Chile, Italy and Greece through organising speaking tours, video link-ups etc
- To publish briefings on the continued neoliberal transformation of our universities
- To publish agitational materials i.e. stickers/posters and slogans about how neoliberalism is transforming the university
- To continue to work with the Postgraduate Worker Association and develop tools for postgraduate workers in the UCU
- To continue to work closely with the Defend the Right to Protest Campaign and be part of setting up defence campaigns
- To work towward the broadest possible unity between the existing national and local education campaigns such as the Campaign for the Public University, Free Education Network, National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, local anti-cuts groups and assemblies.
The Education Activist Network will be organising an open organising meeting at SOAS on Wednesday, November 7 at 7pm.
by Nick Evans, Oxford EAN
Our Universities are Not Supermarkets: Education Activist Network Conference: 28 October
When Jacqui Mitchell, of University of East London UCU, complained to management about their contempt for public education, she was told: “You’ve just got it completely wrong. It’s a product.”
The education workers and students who gathered at SOAS this Sunday for the Education Activist Network conference were determined to fight for a different vision. From the opening plenary session, at which Jacqui spoke, both the scale of the coordinated attacks on our education system and the will to resist were clear. Although Willetts’ White Paper was officially shelved, speakers revealed the extent to which stratification and marketisation are being pushed through the back door. The attempt to close courses such as Manchester’s Applied Youth and Community Studies is yet another example of the way the public worth of education is being undermined for the sake of private interests.
Meanwhile, the brutality of the government’s divide and rule tactics was seen this autumn with Theresa May’s announcement that 2,500 international students at London Met were to be deported within sixty days. Mark Campbell, of London Met UCU, pointed to the perverted logic of recent developments there: the crisis that Theresa May had created had now driven the university to the point of bankruptcy, leading the government to say that private providers would have to come in. In the face of such attacks, Mark argued, we have no option but to go on the offensive. Alberto Toscano echoed this call in the final session.
The conference then moved into a series of workshops. In a session entitled ‘Our Education, Not Your Business’, the current crisis was put in the context of the changes to higher education over the past few decades. Nina Power pointed to the way post-1992 institutions were put under pressure to compete in an artificial and destructive market, while Alex Callinicos pointed to the ways in which the logic of competition is driven through universities by the Research Excellence Framework. A meeting on FE colleges called for HE and FE students to build links to put pressure on the NUS bureaucracy to take the interests of FE students seriously, and discussed how to build for the November 21st student demonstration by winning the support of NUT and UCU members in the colleges.
A meeting on the student demo on November 21st emphasised the importance of coordinating efforts with UCU and support workers, and called on EAN to produce pamphlets for the purpose. The 14th November is the date set for a European General Strike, so it was decided to call for lunch-time demonstrations and walk-outs on that day. Beyond Nov21, Osborne will be announcing the Budget on 5 December, so plans were initiated for a demonstration at parliament. A session on rent campaigns emphasised the increasing pressures students are now under. A toolkit for SUs to expose dodgy landlords was exposed, and the importance of building campaigns from the grass-roots was stressed.
Local struggles were put into international perspective with a session led by speakers from Greece, Quebec, Chile and Italy. Elisavet Mantzari of ANTARSYA pointed to the historical context of current Greek struggles, from the time of the dictatorship to the student protests that preceded the demonstrations on the memorandum. The organisational lessons that can be drawn from the victories of the Quebec students were discussed. Hope can also be drawn from the example of Chile, where many school students (known as ‘los penguinos’) involved in the 2006 revolt have now ignited the rebellion on university campuses. The same may now play out here as many FE students of 2010 enter universities.
A session on the Post-Graduate Workers Association (PGWA) looked at the conditions of post-grad teaching assistants, and the potential they have to organise within both NUS and the UCU. The use of existing graduate representation on SUs to raise work issues was discussed, as were surveys to gather more information about work conditions. It was agreed that EAN and PGWA should work to turn an anti-casualisation day called by UCU for March into an entire week of events to bring the campaign alive.
A meeting on sexism on campus discussed the increasing prominence of pro-life groups on campus, and campaigns to respond to them when they appear. It also discussed childcare issues for students and workers. Issues of sexual violence and the misogynistic culture associated with club promotion were also addressed. Meanwhile, a session organised by Defend the Right to Protest emphasised the importance of defence campaigns and linked the victimisation of students with that of trade unionists. It called on people to publicise and attend Alfie Meadows’s re-trial, which begins in Woolwich crown court on Monday 29 November, and lasts for 12 days.
Alfie spoke himself at the final session, alongside a student from London Met, Alberto Toscano, John Holmwood and Jim Wolfreys. John Holmwood emphasised the levels of public support for public education and pointed to the twisted logic by which the government identified ‘public interest’ with the market standing of individual institutions, rather than with the provision of quality education to the public as a whole. Jim Wolfreys closed the day by elaborating further on the bullying neo-managerialism in the higher education system, where 950 managers now earn more than the Prime Minister and by calling on students and education workers to unite for a different type of education.
by Albert Garcia, student activist in the Spanish state
As in Greece education is one of the main targets of the Spanish state’s austerity politics. The public education system has been attacked ruthlessly and with increasing intensity throughout last year and the beginning of this one. The budget cuts affect the entire educational community, whether nurseries, primary, secondary or higher education, whether workers or students: layoffs, increased working hours, salary reductions, fewer teachers, overcrowded classrooms, worse study conditions – and the ‘gentrification’ of education, embodied in the brutal 66% hike in higher education tuition fees.
The education reform bill approved by the Conservative government a few weeks ago is a classist and sexist attack on the fundamental right to universal public education, allowing public funding of sex-segregated schools and erecting new obstacles to limit the number of students able to access higher education. It is clear that the words of the Education Minister, José Ignacio Wert, that “not everyone should be able to study”, are not just rhetoric. The probable bail-out of the Spanish state will only worsen the situation.
But austerity in education and especially in higher education has encountered growing resistance. Last year saw big demonstrations of tens of thousands of students, teachers and university workers, and several college strikes. The climax was on May 22, with the first general strike in education for several decades. And the summer break has not broken resistance.
On October 11, the first college strike of the present academic course took place. Last week the unions called three days of struggle in education. Especially in secondary schools in almost every city of the Spanish state this call was welcomed. On October 18, we experienced a historic breakthrough when parents’ associations joined school students on strike, showing the rage against austerity and against Minister Wert, who sought to criminalise the protests by saying that these were instigated by far-left students.
The academic year has begun early with protests, but if we want to stop cuts and privatization we must forge a massive student movement in every college, on every campus and in every secondary school. We must also link the struggles, connecting students with teachers and other public sector workers. This is a fight of the entire working class against austerity and debt re-payments. The November 14 General Strike in Southern Europe will be a day to show and forge that unity.
Students, mostly young unemployed or semi-employed workers in precarious workplaces with no trade union tradition, have to be active in the general strike. We need to close schools, colleges and workplaces and march alongside the rest of the working class to show that we want public, accessible education for all. We will defend the social rights of the working class and smash austerity like in Quebec.
At the Education Activist Network Conference we will hold a session on international student struggles. The conference will bon Sunday October 28 @SOAS, 11-5am.
Support our teachers – UEL staff to strike
UCU lecturers and academic staff at the University of East London (UEL) have voted to take strike action over the next four weeks. The first day of strike action will be on Thursday October 18.
According to a UCU report, education workers at UEL are some of the most overworked in Britain. While management sits on capital reserves of 50 million pounds and VC Patrick McGhee is one of the highest paid Vice-Chancellors in Britain, students and staff struggle with overcrowded lecture halls and little contact time.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. Over the last two years more than 300 redundancies have been made, and both catering and security staff have been privatised in the run-up to the Olympics.
Resistance is mounting. Activists won support for the strike in the Students Union Council. Then students launched a campaign under the banner ‘We support our lecturers’. This campaign will raise money for the strikers, organise lecture shout-outs, petitions and organise solidarity on the picket lines over the coming weeks.
The campaign’s first meeting brought more than 30 students together including trade unionists of UNISON, UCU and UNITE.
Moses Milner from UEL EAN said: “When lecturers strike, students need to build broad-based support campaigns. We need to win an argument on campus that they are defending our education. This is not an easy argument to win – but something that is a necessity if the strike is to be successful.”
Jérémie Bedard-Wien, CLASSE executive member will be joining UEL staff on the picket lines in the morning, and speaking at the rally later that day. “I am happy to join UCU’s picket lines in the morning. The concentrated attacks on university staff are reflective of a broader transformation of the British university system, and must be fought by students and workers alike.”
What you can do
**Please rush solidarity messages to j.mitchell[at]uel.ac.uk and cc: educationactivist[at]gmail.com
**Join the picket lines at Cyprus Station (DLR) at 8am on Thursday October 18
**Join the strike rally + eyewitness report from Quebec at Docklands Campus (Cyprus) Room EB.G.18 at 4pm (Speakers: Jérémie Bedard-Wien, CLASSE; Alfie Meadows, Jacqui Mitchell UEL UCU). Click here for FB event
**Come to the Education Activist Network Conference and listen to Jacqui Mitchell speak on the strike at UEL
Please find a message from the Defend the Right to Protest Campaign below. Their conference will be held this Sunday 14th October, 11.30 -5.30pm, ULU, Malet St. It is sponsored by NUS, UCU, PCS and CWU.
We would like to invite you to our national conference on Austerity, Injustice and the power of Protest on Sunday 14th October at ULU.
Defend the Right to Protest was launched following the student demonstrations of 2010 against the tripling of tuition fees and the scrapping of the EMA in the context of widespread concern at violent police tactics, arrests and criminalisation of students. This included the kettling of students for hours on end in freezing conditions, indiscriminate police batoning which led to serious injuries, such as Alfie Meadows who had to undergo emergency brain surgery, and the exemplary sentencing in the courts which saw some young people imprisoned for up to 36 months.
Supported by the NUS and the UCU the campaign has bought staff and students together to campaign against the attacks on student and other protesters from UK Uncut activists charged for campaigning against tax evasion to PHD student Owen Holland who was initially suspended for 2 and a half years for reading a subversive poem to David Willetts.
This Autumn we have already seen the destructive impact of the Coalitions attacks on education that students like Alfie Meadows took a stand against. This has already led to renewed protests, for example, in support of international students at London Met. It is part of a wider and growing opposition to cuts and austerity which is expected to bring up to a million people out onto the streets for the TUC March against austerity on 20th October and tens of thousands for the NUS backed national student demonstration on 21st November.
It is in this context that we hope Defend the Right to Protest Conference will provide a forum both to discuss how we respond to the attacks on protest and what we can learn from protest movements here and internationally.
The conference has a fantastic line up of speakers including Owen Jones, Sheila Cohen Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Jules Carey Ian Tomlinsons solicitor, John McDonnell MP, commentator Darcus Howe, Gareth Peirce civil rights lawyer as well as student defendants such as Frank Fernie who was imprisoned for 12 months and Alfie Meadows awaiting trial.
It will include a forum with an Executive member of Classe talking about the successful struggle against fees in Quebec and a session with author Nina Power and Maggie Mitchel, parent of a student defendant, on ‘defending our right to defend education’. Other sessions include reading the riots, police violence & racism – the fight for justice and organising solidarity with global protest movements. For a full timetable click here
We would also encourage you to support our campaigns, including the Justice for Aflie Meadows campaign in the run up to Alfie’s re-trail on 29th Oct
Check out our website and fb for regular updates (defend the right to protest) and follow us on twitter @righttoprotest.
Finally if you are part of a union branch please support our conference and campaign by passing our motion or donating to and sponsoring the conference.
Defend the Right to Protest
Speakers include: Sheila Coleman Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Darcus Howe, Mark Serwotka (PCS General Secretary), Owen Jones, Nina Power, Marcia and Sam Rigg (Sean Rigg Justice & Change Campaign), Janet Alder (Justice for Christopher Alder), John McDonnell MP, Tony Benn, Alfie Meadows (injured student protester), Hannah Dee (Chair DTRTP), Matt Foot (campaigning lawyer), Ken Fero (Film maker/director of ‘Injustice’), Nick Wrack (socialist lawyer), Unjum Mirza (RMT), Maggie Mitchell (mother of imprisoned student protester), Dannie Grufferty (NUS VP), Deborah Coles (Inquest), Jelena Timotijevic (DTRTP convenor and UCU NEC), Fahim Alam (acquitted after post-riot arrest), Susan Matthews (mother of defendant), Estelle De-Bouley (Newham Monitoring Project), Jeremie Bedard-Wien (executive member of CLASSE, Quebec, Jennifer Hilliard (mother of acquitted student), Jules Carey (lawyer representing Ian Tomlinson’s family) and many others
Something incredibly shocking has happened.
Professor Ian Parker has been suspended from Manchester Metropolitan University. It has happened suddenly and unexpectedly, and students and staff at the University have been given little to no explanation as to why.
Ian was suspended from work after having been unable to arrange, with barely 18 hours notice, for a union official to come with him to hear a charge that the university says amounts to ‘gross professional misconduct’. What this seems to mean is that Ian raised concerns within the University about the problem of secrecy and control in the
department in which he works, and was suspended for doing so. Ian has had to leave his office and key, been told not to contact University staff and students, and his access to his email has been suspended. For his students Ian simply ‘disappeared’ overnight, and while he is keen to continue supervising and teaching, he is not allowed to.
I could never fully express what effect Ian’s sudden, shocking and completely unjustified suspension might mean for students at MMU and for the wider international academic community. Ian’s suspension is happening against a wider backdrop, where while UK universities are now charging students £9000 a year (and much more for international
students), they are also cutting essential resources, often meaning staff have to work harder and complain less. This means that those staff who defend University as a space for open and democratic deliberation are often put under pressure to remain silent. In fact another member of staff at MMU (and another member of the University
and College Union- the UCU), Christine Vié, is also being victimised, and has been made compulsorily redundant (and there is an ongoing campaign to defend her).
We are in shock, but only if we speak openly together will we be in a position to challenge and change what is happening to all of us. Openness and democratic debate are the hallmarks of good education. Yet secrecy and silencing are key issues here. Ian has been silenced but his work continues to speak. Yesterday I looked at the principle aims of ‘Psychology, Politics, Resistance’, which Ian helped to set up in 1994 as a network of people who were prepared to oppose the abusive uses and oppressive consequences of psychology, to support individuals to challenge exploitation, to develop a collective active opposition to oppression, and to make this a key element in the education of all psychologists. So, let’s act together, and follow Ian’s example, and speak out – tell as many people as we can, and come together collectively as an international critical community to call upon the management of MMU to come to a resolution of this problem and to reinstate Ian.
Please sign this petition to protest Ian’s suspension and call for his reinstatement.
Messages of protest can be sent to the Vice-Chancellor John Brooks
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com and the Head of the
Department of Psychology Christine Horrocks (firstname.lastname@example.org).
These messages can be copied as messages of solidarity to the MMU UCU
chair Pura Ariza (email@example.com) and it is imperative that, at the
same time, support should be stepped up to support Christine Vié
We will keep you posted about further action, and do let us know if
you have any ideas for how we can fight this together (because we can
fight this together). Please feel free to email me
China Mills (alongside many of the students at MMU)
Also make sure to sign up to the EAN Conference at SOAS on Sunday October 28 here
by Shaun Williams, a former Student at Ruskin College, Oxford.
It has come to light that Ruskin College, Oxford, the institute of higher education which has long-standing associations with the labour and trade union movements has been destroying a great deal of valuable archival material.
The College has provided access to education since 1899 to mature students and others engaged in learning regardless of previous educational attainment or qualifications (and so has provided for many ‘a second chance’) and has been a source of records and artefacts connected with working class and adult education movements besides numerous political struggles in the past.
The destruction of documents, which are of great use to both historians and activists alike, has coincided with the College’s relocation from central to outer Oxford. Alongside this process (and mainly during the Summer vacation) large quantities of the archive were permanently disposed of and shredded.
This act, which some may describe as vandalism, has had been advocated and fully sanctioned by some senior members of the College’s Administration who have made it their decisions that such items are of no longer any value to anyone.
This just goes to demonstrate that in an age of increasing marketisation within higher education sometimes the threat to educational resources isn’t always an external one made by politicians and bureaucrats, but an internal one made by an institution’s administration itself.
Some of the archive has already been saved by other institutions, members of staff, or students – that which hasn’t is by no means safe though.
So please sign the petition here to stop any further damage and safeguard that which remains
For further backgorund infomation Dr Hilda Kean, the former Dean of the College, has written the following article here
Sign up to the EAN Conference at SOAS London on October 28 here
Come to the EAN Speaking tour with Jeremie Bedard-Wien from CLASSE (Quebec) at Oxford. Details here
by Denise Hayward, student in the ACYWS Dept
The Applied Community and Youth Work Studies (ACYWS) has provided opportunities for students to participate in higher education at the University of Manchester for nearly 25 years, growing in stature, and achieving a reputation as one of the best courses of its kind in the country. Previously at the forefront of the widening participation agenda, the University can rightly claim that this programme has ensured that many students with credible experience have been able to secure good quality degrees that would have been denied them had the emerging concentration on ‘A’ level attainment been enforced.
ACYWS students provide support to dozens of local statutory and voluntary / community sector organisations every year, raising the University’s profile in the most disadvantaged communities in the city and NW region. They have helped thousands of young people achieve enhanced outcomes as a result of the work they have completed on their placements. Many of the programmes ex-students now manage and work for local organisations, holding together the social infrastructure of the city, providing opportunities for the most marginalised groups to participate fully in the life of their community.
We believe this is a valuable programme of which the Universityshould be proud, and which is needed now more than ever before as the effects of austerity policies continue to impact on the most disadvantaged groups and communities in our city.
Sign the petition here
Someone from the campaign will be speaking at the EAN Conference. Sign up here
The Education Activist Network alongside Manchester Students Union will be holding a meeting with Jérémie Bedard-Wien on Friday, October 19. click here for more info on the speaking tour
On a 55% turnout Queen Mary UCU members have voted for strike action and action short of a strike over redundancies and performance management issues. 65% voted for strike action and 81% for action short of a strike.
QM UCU members participated in the national UCU strikes on June 30th and November 30th of 2011, but this is the first time in recent years that they will take strike action over local issues. A Yes vote was recommended by the local branch committee and Sally Hunt, the general secretary of UCU, who wrote to members to “support your union” and “Vote yes to action.”
Management at Queen Mary has embarked on several rounds of job cuts under cover of crude ‘restructuring’ processes. Most recently, the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences has been under attack. Forced redundancies and poorly thought through changes to teaching practices have been opposed by students and staff alike. One of the most outspoken critics of this process, Dr. Fanis Missrilis, was made redundant in July, over the summer when students were away and unable to stand alongside their lecturers. Dr Missrilis was popular with students, and had previously criticised the tuition fee increases on the basis that they could not be justified by teaching costs. His latest ‘offence’ was to write a letter to the medical journal The Lancet criticising QM’s redundancy program.
As fees climb to £9000 students should be receiving more for their money. Instead, new performance management methods strong-armed through by management without proper consultation discriminate against those lecturers with heavy teaching loads. At the same time, staff are being made redundant. This is not conducive to either effective teaching or research at a university. The actions of management are damaging the reputation of Queen Mary, disrupting the ability of staff members to do their jobs and ignoring the concerns and needs of students.
This vote for strike action should be welcomed by everyone at QM. Students and staff working side by side can put up the most effective challenge to management. The time to begin organising for the strongest possible picket lines is now.
Make sure to catch Jérémie Bedard-Wien (Quebec//CLASSE) at the University of East London. More details here
A Queen Mary’s striker will be speaking at the EAN Conference at SOAS on October 28. Click here to register.
We’ve produced our first broadsheet. Feel free to print out copies; the cover doubles up as a poster. We’re already starting to compile articles for the 2nd edition, so email us if you’re interested in getting involved.
A PDF version can be downloaded here:
In conjunction with DTRTP , the Education Activist Network will doing a meetings tour in universities across the country with Jérémie Bédard-Wien, executive member of CLASSE in Québec where a mass student strike against fees increases defied a repressive emergency law 78 to win substantial victories.
Jeremie Bedard-Wien will be talking about how protest won out -alongside others including Alfie Meadows, student defendant from the protests against fees in Britain, Autumn 2010.
“UK students face tripling tuition fees, the closure of departments and the deportation of international students. In this difficult context, the struggle CLASSE led against tuition increases has been an inspiration for many. Scarcely social movements manage to become what has been dubbed a “maple spring”: however, our successes can be replicated. We stand in solidarity with progressive struggles in the UK and elsewhere. This tour aims to strengthen ties between our movements and discuss the best way we can move forward, together. Everywhere, students are rising against neoliberal reforms to higher education. Our response to these attacks must be global.”Full speakers list and times to be confirmed soon.
- Wed 10th October – Goldsmiths College Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, 5pm
- Thurs 11th October – Sussex University
- Friday 12th October – Kings College, Central London, The Strand Campus, 1pm
- Sunday 14th October – DtRtP National Conference at University of London Union
- Unite the Resistance Rally in Central London
- Tuesday 16th October – Oxford University,
- Wednesday 17th October – Essex University 5:30pm
- Thursday 18th October – Queen Mary’s, 1-2pm in Fogg LT
- Thursday 18th October – UEL University
- Friday 19th October – Sheffield University
- Friday 19th October – Manchester University
The streets of Quebec have been been echoing with the clanging and chiming of pots and pans, the sounds of the student uprising that has swept this province of eight million the last eight months. Sparked off by the provincial government’s move to raise tuition fees by 75%, over three hundred thousand students went on strike in the longest and largest popular movement in Canadian history. Armed with squares of red felt clinging to their collars, students underwent months of nightly demonstrations, daily direct actions and monthly general strikes, morphing into a ‘social strike’ encompassing a significant cross-section of Quebecois society, and finally succeeding in toppling the government and reversing the tuition hike. Its greatest legacy , however, was in infusing a generation of young women and men with the spirit of democratic discourse, politicising not only the entire student body but also civil society at large.
“It started off February as a small strike of radical student bodies. We stopped going to school, started having regular protests in the afternoons. From the outset nobody expected the proportions the strike would take…”
Jonathan Bertucchi, student in international relations at the Université de Montréal (UdeM), fondly recalls the events of the past year.
“The epiphany came on 22 March. At that point there were about 120,000 students on strike, but when 300,000 people came onto the streets of Montreal, with thousands more throughout the province, there was a huge take-up of the strike, with over three quarters of the Quebecois student population participating in the ‘Unlimited Strike’.”
The General Assemblies (AGs or Assemblées Générales) became the hub of student democracy and opinions gradually matured to unseen levels of politicisation. The vast majority of the protestors were first timers. Many students had never been involved in politics, had never even considered the idea of expressing themselves. They began to stand up and make themselves heard. Not only were these opinions well-informed and eloquently argued, but they were permeated with a high degree of solidarity for the student body.
Student associations such as CLASSE (Broad Coalition of Associations for Solidarity amongst Student Unions) adhere to a highly decentralised structure, allowing for free and open debate to flourish at the bottom, whilst being accurately represented at the top by the spokesperson of the executive body.
I spoke with the spokesperson for CLASSE, Jérémie Bédard-Wien.
“The advantage of the student unions in Québec is that they are the main body through which political opinion is channeled on campus. Politics on campus is not organised around political parties; not even through affinity groups with single-issue campaigns. These just don’t exist. All of these positions are expressed in the AGs for the consideration of the entire student body.
“I think we can combine democracy and structures. We have perfected this model of direct democracy in ways that allow students holding a variety of different persuasions to be able to express themselves democratically whilst maintaining radical aims.”
I asked Jonathan about this process.
“From the beginning of the strike, the whole careerist elite of our student institutions were kicked out, and we began to release political statements.
“We had to ask ourselves: ‘How do we want to be as a political institution? What are our demands?’
“Before the strike, we spent our time at the AGs deciding what the theme for the end-of-year ball would be, what our alcohol budget would be spent on. But during the strike, we would discuss the most important issues facing the student body for hours at a time.”
Jérémie noted how the AGs helped to engage the broader student body.
“The Left in other countries have kept to themselves, not attempted much dialogue outside of themselves. This kind of politics will never be able to spark a mass movement. That may be a harsh assessment, but you need to create the conditions for these affinity groups to make sense. The strike legitimised the existence of these groups, who were able conduct direct action backed up by a broad popular movement.”
The strike nevertheless had its moments of violence. On the 20th April, encounters broke out between police and students, protesting against the Plan Nord, the controversial proposal to exploit natural resources in the North of the province. For the duration of the strike, over 3,000 people were arrested, with many still languishing in prison. This radicalised the strike and brought it out onto the streets.
“No longer were the students content with pacifism, the idea became to obstruct economic activity in the city. They went to block the ports, they caused traffic jams. These were radical actions in order to disturb the workings of the economy. If they were always going to talk about the economy, then we would speak their language.”
« Manif chaque soir, jusqu’à la victoire »
« Demonstrate day and night, our victory is in sight »
A month later, with the adoption of Law 78, tens of thousands of people began to take part in nightly demonstrations, playing cat and mouse with the police, weaving through the streets of Montreal, banging their pots and pans along the way. The controversial law sought to impose strict penalties on citizens demonstrating without prior notice. Fiercely proud of their society’s values, the Québécois people were outraged at the government’s attempts to limit free speech, particularly that of the young generation.
“When the law passed, we started noticing many protestors who were not students.” said Université de Québec à Montréal (UQàM) student Jeanne Dupuits. “We weren’t just demonstrating for what we believed in, we were demonstrating for our basic democratic rights. Everyone walking past you on the street was wearing the red square.”
The red square became the ubiquitous symbol of the student movement. You see it hanging from windows, graffitied on the streets, tattooed onto people’s arms. Jérémie speaks of its significance.
“Never had I thought this square of felt could become something that unifies people. You feel that you’re part of the movement when you see others wearing it, you feel an instant affinity with them.”
The red square means much more than the issue of tuition fees. It represents an informed, engaged populace, freedom of speech and direct democracy; these issues, and thus the red square itself, transcend the ebbs and flows of electoral politics.
The student strike captured the imagination of the wider population, and transformed into the social strike…
EDUCATION IN 21ST CENTURY
For many commentators, the militant determination of the Québec students was undermined by the province’s relatively low tuition fees. Going from $2168 to $3793 (£1370 to £2400) over the course of five years, the higher fees would have brought the province in line with Canadian standards.
For the Québec students themselves, however, this struggle represented much more…
“It is not just about money: it is ideology, pure and simple. Even if they asked for a raise of ten dollars, we would still have been 300,000 on the streets.” Gabriel Tremblay, student at UQàM, tells me as he tries to suppress his passion.
“We don’t want to study in a country like the US where growing tuition fees stifle access to higher education.
“We have systematically challenged this conception of society. We are fighting for a just and equal society, for which we fought so hard throughout our history.
“Over the past few decades, the university system has become a training centre for huge multinational companies. The same ones that have screwed our economy and fuck up our planet. Education has become the ‘Knowledge Economy’. This is not the University of Walmart of Québec. Education is not just about getting a good job.”
The rage is palpable. For many in the province, the struggle against the raise in tuition goes hand in hand with their national identity. Jérémie also identifies the common struggles across borders:
“We have already identified the problem: the corporatisation of education. The UK is clearly ten years ahead of Quebec in terms of this model being imposed, which is a frightening thought…”
Whilst emphasising the province’s unique political heritage which gives it a radicalism rare in North America, the students have nevertheless received support and solidarity from comrades around the world.
“International support gave us so much confidence. Striking can feel so lonely: when the government doesn’t want to talk to you, when the police is so aggressive, when the university administration were giving us shit, and the national media were not even reporting on us! We were expecting support from Europe; but from Taiwan, Brazil, Japan. This shows that they care about us and that what we are saying strikes a chord with them.”
After several months on strike, the grève générale illimitée (unlimited general strike) became the rêve général illimité (unlimited general dream).
“We are making kids around the world dream: we bring them hope, showing them that this is possible.
“This small nation of 8 million, in the heart of the ‘Royaume du Wall Street’ surrounded by 350 million Anglophone North Americans. Yet those in Canada and the US who are immersed in this same corrupt capitalist system as us, they see that we are rising up, and they take our example. The red square is being adopted by students all around the world.”
BACK TO SCHOOL
For the students of UdeM, however, the return to school was not as joyful as expected. With several faculties deciding to continue the strike, the administration took it upon themselves to call in the police in order to enforce the return to classes. Not only was this seen as an affront to the sanctity of these institutions, but also an attack on the legitimacy of student democracy.
“It was outrageous to see the police in the corridors of our university. The administration simply did not respect our democratic exercise. We voted to continue the strike, the teachers even voted to respect this decision.
“Do democratic rights exist for students? Is democracy something to care about? Over the strike, we realised that it is only in exercising our democratic rights that they become relevant. We enforced the strikes so that nobody would doubt the credibility of the students movements.”
For Jonathan and many other students at UdeM, as a result of the strike, democracy was no longer considered as a given in society, but rather as something acquired, by the hard work of political agents, the students themselves.
“Our government had no lesson to give us in democracy. It was the students’ turn to teach government and society what democracy looks like. The right to protest is a fundamental part of student democracy.”
After eight months of strike, a return to school and provincial elections which ousted the Liberal government of Jean Charest and putting a freeze on tuition fees, the future is uncertain. Debate abounds as to what will come of this political awakening of the young generation.
Forner spokesperson for CLASSE, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, sees this as the first step towards a radical political shake-up in Quebec. Thanks to these ‘no-good students’, the public discourse of hockey, the weather and reality TV has been replaced with the real issues on peoples’ minds.
“The greatest legacy of the strike has been seen on our campuses, in our work-places, in our cities and villages; where people are coming together to do something which they will never be able to stop doing: talking.”
Photo credits to Jonathan Bertucchi
At this year’s freshers’ fairs EAN activists and supporters should be aiming to take photos of students holding up the sign ‘Hands off our classmates’. Groups then should launch a blog/tumblr/fb page along the lines of ‘KCL/Essex/Goldsmiths/Manchester/Hull students say: Hands off London Met! Hands off our classmates’.
To follow up from freshers groups should invite an international student from London Met to address the first assembly of the year. This will help to build the network in the run-up to the TUC demonstration on October 20.
Below you can find various materials that can help you build momentum for the upcoming hot autumn. If you want to have an EAN speaker address your assembly/Students Union general meeting or have any materials you want to share with activists from across the country please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org