On Thursday 19th March, Arts Attack members (University of the Arts London activism group) organised an emergency meeting at London College of Communication to discuss the news that University of the Arts London (UAL) management intend to cut close to 800 Foundation courses across UAL by September 2015.
Unable to attend this meeting as I was hosting two UAL African Caribbean Society events that day, I later heard news that student activists had occupied a space at Central Saint Martins (CSM) that every evening.
I was invited as president of the African Caribbean Society to lead a workshop on Institutional Racism at the CSM occupied space on the 20th March. I got the opportunity to further understand the CSM occupation, and also spoke about my experience being black, female and under-represented at UAL. CLICK HERE for blog post which I wrote on UALACS.org.
#OccupyUAL demands include NO CUTS TO FOUNDATION, NO INSTITUTIONAL RACISM and DEMOCRATISE UAL. I believe in change and I believe in acting to get change. However yesterday’s protest (I don’t have a problem with protesting mind you) outside LCC which lead to some protesters “breaking” into the college, the fire alarm going off and the building to be evacuated, doesn’t sit well with me despite it sending a powerful message – they aren’t afraid to act for change!
My personal thoughts are that there should have been a meeting from the very start with managements and Heads of Colleges etc. If they refused to listen, or even meet, then well, they’d have it coming. And it goes without saying that if management continue to cut students out of important decisions to do with students – this is what happens!
SUARTS (UAL students’s union) president announced on Facebook today that she tried to speak to LCC Head of College N. Brett after the protest at LCC and she refused. But why wait until AFTER the protest to try to speak to her, is my question? Not only were staff inconvenienced by the evacuation yesterday, but more importantly – students were. A 3rd year Journalism student I was waiting to meet who commuted from Cambridge to work on her dissertation felt she wasted time – and money coming in. So without taking sides, I can understand if Head of College is a little p***ed at the attempt to occupy her college. That said – what’s next? Students are angry and showing the extend they’ll go to in protest against cuts. Reconsidering these cuts is the only way forward.
I didn’t realise how attached I am to LCC, despite having studied there for over 4 years, until I heard the fire alarm go off whilst I was using the Journalism news rooms to get some work done. It wasn’t even up to an hour that I’d seen a picture on Facebook of the rally outside UAL High Holborn which prompted me to share it on my Facebook page and write why I wasn’t there at protest, despite my solidarity for a just cause:
“I’m all about solidarity for the #OccupyUAL protest… But you know a black student from UAL would stick like a sore thumb out at this demo, and of course, our “institutionally racist” university would use that one black person as a scapegoat for harsh punishment. So I don’t blame black students who want to support from shying away from demos. It’s a shame that there is a lack of black students considering it’s our fight too, but unless we have support from our black community activists such as Lee Jasper, Zita Holbourne, Toyin Agbetu – we have too much to lose… #TheBlackFaceInAWhiteCrowd#OccupyUAL“… And my post couldn’t have been more apt as I made eye contact with LCC Head of College as I exited the building – the very person who has been supportive of my proposals for ACS projects. So as my Aunt would say, “don’t follow a crowd blindly” and on this instance, I’m glad I didn’t.
So where do I stand with #OccupyUAL?… For now the only standing I can do is in solidarity from home as I get my assignments done… I’ve spent too many years at UAL to fail again. Either ways – I’m still “EFed” – Educationally Frustrated!
Find out more about Occupy UAL on Facebook.com/occupyual
Find out more about my society UAL ACS on Facebook.com/ualacs
Message from Natalie Brett, LCC Head of College sent to LCC students:
Following the sit-in at Kings Cross over the weekend, protesters from LSE and other groups including OccupyUAL held a march in central London yesterday (Wednesday 25 March 2015).
During this march, protesters broke into the building and temporarily occupied LCC. They triggered the fire alarm which led to the total evacuation of the building which disrupted planned events and the end of term work peak for many students and staff.
I am really sorry for the disruption this may have caused you. Thank you for your patience during the protest and subsequent closure of the building.
The College will reopen as usual from today (Thursday 26 March).
Message from SUARTS President and LCC Vice President:
I am writing with regard to yesterday’s protest.
Unfortunately I was not able to speak to you about trying to resolve the issue of the remaining students leaving the building after the protest, and allowing everyone back in, as I was told you were too busy to speak with me when I requested.
The decision to call in the police is something which the Student Union feels very strongly about; and particularly feel that their presence yesterday was unnecessary. LCC is supposed to be a space for learning, where critical thinking is encouraged; not an authoritarian institution which uses state force at the first sign of dissent.
As I am sure you know, the Metropolitan Police has form for violently repressing peaceful student protests and for systematically harming and killing Black people.
We have policy to not allow the police inside SU spaces for these reasons; and many of our members (particularly those who are Muslim, Black and international) find police presence intimidating and unsafe.
Not too long ago, we had several LCC students kettled and arrested (released without charge) at a Black Lives Matter demonstration; and instances of racial profiling have taken place outside UAL campuses.
In addition to the police, security presence at LCC seems to have been increased today; with some of our members saying it feels like ‘entering a prison’. A couple who forgot their ID cards today were charged for new ones, and have said that they would usually have been given a temporary pass. Security have said that it is because of the protest that students had to buy new cards. This seems like quite an extreme measure, and we would like to request they are refunded.
Finally, we would like to raise the issue of the students who were denied access to resources early yesterday, due to the College deciding to close. Some have raised that this may impact on their ability to meet their upcoming deadlines; and we would like to propose that any students affected may be granted an extension.
Shelly & Bee
Please share your thoughts in the comment box…