Occupy Warwick

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New occupation at Warwick

by Ruth

A new occupation is currently taking place in Senate House, just adjacent to the grassy area on which we pitched our tents in November 2011.

You can visit the Protect The Public University website here.

Call for a Commons debate on the HE white paper

by Ruth

Warwick students are requesting all those interested in the future of higher education in England to sign a petition condemning the Government’s White Paper: “Putting Students at the Heart of the System” and instead urging the Government to implement the proposals of the Alternative White Paper, drawn up by academics last summer, entitled “In Defence of Public Education”.

The petition is here.

A Facebook event page can be found here.

With 100,000 signatures, this will force a debate in the Commons. But more important than that is the start of a larger campaign and series of actions highlighting what academics themselves have called “a reckless gamble, a dangerous experiment in university funding with no precedent in British experience” in relation to this White Paper. With your help, we can stop this Bill going through Parliament, and stop the marketisation of our higher education system.

The full text of the White Paper is here.

“Putting Students at the Heart of the System” does the following things:

  • Ignoring any social and public benefit to university education, the White Paper attempts to introduce a market system into higher education, representing the student as a consumer of higher education, with loans functioning as a voucher to present at a university of choice.
  • In this way, the government is putting its faith in the idea of market competition to improve a system that is already effective, without any statement of how that improvement might be brought about by the measures being introduced, and without any attempt to ‘trial’ the measures by trying them out on a restricted scale.
  • At the very heart of a university is the integration of research, scholarship and teaching, yet nowhere does the government acknowledge that these activities are mutually sustaining.
  • The White Paper is sanguine about public universities going bust. The UCU estimates that up to a third of universities and colleges could be forced to close, and what will happen after this is that private providers will be waiting in the wings, seeking access to cheap ‘infrastructure’ and able to take over ‘ailing’ public institutions in new ‘private-public’ partnerships. A private, for-profit university would have no interest in meeting the broader public remit nor the interests of the local economy in which it is located.
  • The proposals will harm social mobility, as it is not the high-performing institutions that have done most to widen participation, but those that will be at risk of closure due to the Government’s proposals.
  • The White Paper completely divorces the concepts of university teaching and research, ignoring that critical knowledge serves a public good that is guaranteed by the character of the university as an institution.
  • Following the lead of the Browne Review, the government now affirms education only in its contribution to the economy and as a private investment in human capital, ignoring that critical knowledge serves a public good that is guaranteed by the character of the university as an institution.

The Alternative White Paper recognizes the value of universities as both providing individual benefit, as well as serving the public good. Its nine propositions, outlined in detail in the paper, are as follows:

  • Higher education serves public benefits as well as private ones. These require financial support if these benefits are to continue to be provided.
  • Public universities are necessary to build and maintain confidence in public debate.
  • Public universities have a social mission, contributing to the amelioration of social inequality, which is the corollary of the promotion of social mobility.
  • Public higher education is part of a generational contract in which an older generation invests in the wellbeing of future generations that will support them in turn.
  • Public institutions providing similar programmes of study should be funded at a similar level.
  • Education cannot be treated as a simple consumer good; consumer sovereignty is an inappropriate means of placing students at the heart of the system.
  • Training in skills is not the same as a university education. While the first is valuable in its own terms, a university education provides more than technicaltraining. This should be clearly recognised in the title of a university.
  • The university is a community made up of diverse disciplines as well as different activities of teaching, research and external collaboration. These activities are maintained by academics, managers, administrators and a range of support staff, all of whom contribute to what is distinctive about the university as a community.
  • Universities are not only global institutions. They also serve their local and regional communities and their different traditions and contexts are important.

The full text of the Alternative White Paper: In Defence of Public Higher Education can be found here.

As the Alternative White Paper concludes,

“The commodification of higher education is the secret heart of the White Paper, which the government does not wish to debate openly. The government seeks a differently funded sector, one which can provide new outlets for capital that struggles to find suitable opportunities for investment elsewhere. Against the backdrop of collapsed productivity in traditional sectors, we are in a new phase of private sector stimulus at the expense of public provision. The role of government will act as a broker for private investment in services and it will be achieved on higher levels of individual indebtedness and higher leveraging at institutions. These are the very conditions which have given rise to the current financial crisis”.

We can force this debate to happen in the open and get our case back on the agenda.

We can stop our young peoples’ futures being treated as the next frontier for private investment.

 

Vincent Hammersley’s address to Occupy Warwick

by Ruth

Vin Hammersley is the President of the Warwick branch of the University and College Union (UCU).

Firstly, I want to thank you all on behalf of the Warwick branch of UCU for your support and goodwill during the strike on November 30th. Your presence added a great deal of impact to our demonstration at the entrance to the site last week.

The action we are taking is being grossly misrepresented in the press and media – and by Jeremy Clarkson. We are not greedy public servants leeching off the hard earned taxes of the rest of the state – we pay a considerable contribution to our pension scheme – in my case over £3500 a year and the average pension of a public sector worker is only in the region of £5000 a year.

These pensions should not be considered to be a gift of a munificent state in a civilised democratic society, decent conditions in retirement should be the right of us all. Over the last century, we have fought for and earned our pensions, our education and our social services and – sadly, I seee each and every one of these rights now being attacked, eroded and privatised.

And by who? By a government made up of millionaires, an emerging political class who can know nothing of the way most of us live. Dictated to by a small but greedy band of despots who have awarded themselves increases of over 30% to their already sinfully bloated salaries this year alone – whilst urging the rest of us for restraint.

It has been a long time since I have seen such honest concern coupled with the balls to take action from young people like yourselves – it is one of the few things which gives me hope for the future.

Thank you all.

Re-published with Vin’s kind permission.

‘What’s left ? Just the future.’ – A paper by Nigel Thrift.

by mattmcneany

We are always open to new ideas and innovative research especially from leading academics. Our esteemed Vice Chancellor has seen fit to express his views on protest. His work  ‘What’s left ? just the future.

We would we welcome him to arrange a talk on his paper next term, should he be unable to do so then students would be happy to discuss the paper without him.

Some Choice quotes:

“It is simply not possible, for example, to attribute ‘agency’ to other kinds of actor and retain a stay-at-home ethics. An expanded ethics is required. And this is not a trivial point in a world in which violence is rife and forms of inhumanity seem to be multiplying”

“…at various points in history, a certain Utopian impulse in Left thinking can be and has been too easily converted into an authoritarian reality.”

“Our belief is that the internal dynamics of capitalism are increasingly likely to be interrupted by forces like these and by growing complexity, such that it becomes increasingly difficult to read off determinate outcomes … Thus we are very wary of highly structured readings of  apitalism, replete with scales and driving logics.”

“it is difficult to find commentators on the Left who do not believe that there has been some kind of shift in the way in which space and time  appear. Furthermore, this shift is not innocent. It has political resonance.”

“something is going on and that it can frame Left politics positively and negatively – for example, in terms of the speed of transmission of ideas  and affect, in terms of the ability to associate together, in terms of the ‘(a)whereness’ of democracy, and in terms of how the spacetimes of the body are being redefined.”

“What these challenges add up to are powerful new geographies of organisation, belonging and attachment, which are literally redefining the spaces of what it is to be political.”

“We are seeing the rise of a heterarchical order which increasingly constructs its power by both producing and using diversity. In these circumstances, an imperative for the Left, first of all, is to identify the varied sites and geographies of heterarchical power and not to shy away if that journey takes us in to unfamiliar territory. A second imperative is to accept that the assault on instituted power must be selective and that a division of political labour is not a bad or contrary thing.”

“There is nothing that adds up in a way that can be grasped through a singular politics of resistance.”

“Some political actions are taken without the full benefit of analysis, programme or certainty of outcome, and yet may well have important consequences for a politics of struggle and emancipation. The principle we wish to defend is that of democratic experimentalism.”

“it follows that we believe that political action can take place at all kinds of scales, and that there is no necessary need to make a distinction between little and large politics. In the annals of Left struggle, it is not clear to us that producing clean water for a village in Ethiopia is somehow less important than producing a world political manifesto. Acts of freedom are many, varied, and often require just as much work of alliance and political nuance at one scale as they do at another. The Left cannot afford to believe that it has privileged oversight”

“It would be difficult to deny the difficult days that the world is going through. One might say that the four horseman 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.”

 

Brief press round-up

by Ruth

LOCAL MEDIA

‘Warwick Against The Cuts’ on-campus occupation (The Boar)
(23rd November)
Occupy Warwick began on Wednesday 23 November in protest against the University’s current policy on funding for higher education.

Students’ protest camp set up at University of Warwick (BBC)
(24th November)
Up to 100 students have taken part in a protest at the University of Warwick as part of national demonstrations against student fees.

Students: We Are Not a Happy Campus; ‘Occupy Warwick’ camp set up over education funding (Coventry Evening Telegraph)
(26th November)
STUDENTS at Warwick University calling for a better deal for students and staff have set up a protest camp on campus.

Students vent anger at rise in fees (Coventry Observer)
(1st December)
Students set up a camp at the University of Warwick to protest at government cuts and a rise in tuition fees as it was revealed applications to universities had dropped significantly.

Lecturers and students join pension protest (The Boar)
(6th December)
Wednesday saw Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) members of the University of Warwick join the national public sector strikes against government pension reforms, with a student delegation also present in a show of solidarity.

Losing occupatience with the camping protest (The Boar)
(6th December)
Every day I walk past a collection of ridiculous tents, full of ridiculous people, acting ridiculously, on my way to Uni. I cannot be the only one who feels so inherently filled with rage when I allow my thoughts to wander to the travesty that is the occupation movement.

General Meeting: The results (The Boar)
(6th December)
Warwick Students’ Union General Meeting took place on Tuesday 29 November, and saw over 300 students turn up to express their views on a number of proposed motions.

Occupation to end in peace (The Boar)
(6th December)
The University has agreed that the occupation outside Coventry House will be able to remain until Wednesday 7 December.

BLOGS AND SOCIAL MEDIA

LIVE BLOG of the November 23rd Day of Action (National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts)
(23rd November)
[…] WARWICK have set up tents. Sean Ruston, the Education Officer at the students’ union, reports: “About 50 students from Warwick Against the Cuts have set up a tent occupation right in the middle of Warwick Campus. More info soon.” […]

Warwick University joins the Occupy movement (Demotix)
(25th November)
Warwick University students join the occupy movement to make a stand against tuition fees.

Where is the theatrical voice of the Occupy movement? (The Horse Behaves Indecently.)
(25th November)
[…] Visiting Occupy Warwick yesterday, where a lecturer had come to talk about democracy and how to combat the neo-liberal narrative, there was plenty of discussion about how things needed to change, but little agreement as yet on practical measures, and a lot of circular conversation […]

Why Occupy? (Found an occupation)
(26th November)
An Occupation has started at my university! I’m not staying there, but I have been down every day for General Assemblies and to help out in other ways, and I’ll be dragging my more apolitical friends to every talk I can persuade them to attend.

Friday 25th November 2011 (Matt Carter’s Blog)
(26th November)
Occupy Warwick. It sounds like a bad sketch written by Armstrong and Miller. A sketch written about bloody students who don’t know what they’re talking about trying to make a big statement but failing to do so in any effective way.

UK: N30 shutdown on the campuses sends solidarity message to Egypt (MENA Solidarity Network)
(2nd December)
In response to a call by public sector union activists for solidarity with Egypt, striking lecturers, university workers and students at universities across Britain sent messages of solidarity to colleges in Egyptian universities during Wednesday’s N30 strike.

We are the 99%, and we want you to fuck off (Fuck you and go fuck yourself)
(6th December)
Several weeks ago, a bunch of self righteous, intellectually challenged bellends from my university saw what was happening in Zuchotti Park, Canary Wharf and countless other locations around the western world and decided it would be a good idea to follow suit.

Is the student occupation relevant to postgrads? (PhD Life Blog)
(6th December)
If you happen to have passed through the centre of campus during the last couple of weeks you’ll have found it hard to miss Occupy Warwick. Student activists have pitched tents outside the Arts Centre as part of a protest against what they describe as the “marketisation of education”.

Occupying Universities (Boggler Blog)
(6th December)
I’ve just been chatting to a group of student protestors from the Occupy Warwickcamp and came away feeling buoyed up by the calm, intelligent commitment of many of our students.

We will stay until Wednesday!

by Ruth

Senior officials at the University of Warwick have confirmed that the camp will be allowed to remain until Wednesday.

We shall now end the current occupation with OccuParty from 12pm on Wednesday 7th December, as originally decided upon during our General Assembly on 30th November.

EMERGENCY GENERAL ASSEMBLY – 2PM

by warwickoccupypress

With a vague sense of déjà vu, we are calling another emergency general meeting at 2pm today – that’s in 35 mins! Please be there, this one is important.

Update

by warwickoccupypress

Occupy Warwick, the tent camp outside the Arts Centre, has been with us for a week. In the warm, dry sunshine on the grass we have hosted lectures, discussions and debates from a wide variety of Warwick academics and students. Our camp has expanded, as has our strength – we now have an Information Point, a Marquee and the loud and powerful support of the Students’ Union.

Over the week we have discussed as broad a spectrum of ideas as can be found anywhere on our campus. We have hosted our lecturers, our supporters, and our ideological opponents, all in the name of freedom of debate and expression.

On the 30 November we stood with the Universities and Colleges Union in their strike for their pensions, part of a walk-out of two million nationwide. The UCU have endorsed the aims and principles of our movement. As our lecturers, mentors and friends, we support the objectives of their fight.

We have repeatedly demanded for the right to speak to our University, and so far they have failed to address us directly. The rejection of our right to dialogue with the administration is an affront to the principle of a public university.

They have requested that we move our tents and let our supporters disperse.

We are currently unable to conform to that suggestion. We have re-affirmed that this movement will end at a time of our choosing. We have decided on a time and date that we judge to be appropriate.

That date is Wednesday 7 December 2011. On that date the camp will have stood for two weeks in support of a principle and an idea. The camp will depart, but the campaign for that principle can only cease when it becomes a reality.

That date will be the close and climax of our movement, with our right to protest exercised to its fullest extent. We hope that by that time the University will see that the demands of our camp, and the support of our Union, confirm that students condemn the savaging of our education system. We hope the University will join us in rejecting the reactionary principle that it represents.

If so, the Occupy Warwick movement will hibernate – but it will not die.

Senior staff of the University of Warwick, you are cordially invited to speak to us at the camp. We have been waiting, and we will be waiting

The weekend, and beyond

by Ruth

Weekend Meetings

We have two General Assemblies planned for the weekend:

Saturday: 2pm

Sunday: 12pm

If you’re staying for the weekend, please strive to attend these meetings! If you’re not staying but happen to be in the general vicinity, please do drop by.

Events

We’ve updated the events page as the schedule for next week begins to take shape. Please check back for further information as we intend to regularly add to the page as new speakers and facilitators are confirmed!

OccuParty

Wednesday 7th December will mark the end of our two week occupation. To mark the occasion we invite anyone and everyone — staff, students, locals and non-locals — to join us for an outdoor lunch, music, and a reflection on the past two weeks. We will also consider how the movement might evolve in the months to come.

With the tents packed away the space will again be transformed, this time into an area for festivities and community.

There will be food for all to share. Please do contribute if you can!

There is a Facebook page for this event. 

More details to follow soon.

More Emergency General Meetings.

by mattmcneany

There will be two General Assemblies on Friday 2nd; these will be at 12pm 5pm. These are to discuss the University’s response to our demands and to plan our response over the weekend, whilst we understand that we have called a lot of emergency meetings this week it is vitally important that people turn up for at least one of these two meeting as they will recieve a legal briefing in the case that the camp is to be evicted. If you really can’t make this briefing please mention this to someone when you do pop down and they can fill you in or find someone who can. The camp is still open for bussines and we will do our best to be welcoming but obviously anyone who isn’t comfortable with being in the camp under these circumstances should feel no obligation to be there. We would however ask that anyone who wants to come down and show support to contnue to do so.