From Mobilize Berkeley
Daily Archives: December 7, 2010
GOLDSMITHS OCCUPATION STATEMENT
We have occupied the university library in opposition to the increase in university fees and cuts in education as a whole. We act in solidarity with all those facing cuts across the social sphere.
We oppose the proposed change in fees structure and the cuts to teaching subsidy across education in the UK – which will include a 100 percent cut to funding for teaching in arts, humanities and social sciences.
We have taken over Goldsmiths’ Library, the most publicly visible and accessible physical space in the college. We are opening it as a centre for organisation, available 24 hours a day to students and all those on the receiving end of the government’s assault in the Lewisham community. We offer our support to recipients of the EMA grant, benefits and services, all of which are being attacked by local and national government. We support library staff at Goldsmiths and public libraries across Lewisham.
The proposed changes in Higher Education represent a historically unprecedented attack on society. In response, we have taken the exceptional step of deciding that no staff shall work in the library building, although students are welcome to come and join us. Until our demands are met, there will be no business as usual at the college.
We act to support and intensify the efforts of all those involved in the nationwide wave of occupations.
We demand that Goldsmiths’ management:
• Immediately make a public statement opposing fees and the vote for their increase due in parliament on 9th December. We refuse all current and further cuts at Goldsmiths.
• Implement no further cuts to departments and budgets at Goldsmiths, nor any further redundancies.
• Steps forward to defend all those from Goldsmiths arrested or in other ways victimised during the current struggles against the cuts. We condemn the police’s violent and heavy-handed tactics used against students, staff and their supporters.
• Do not penalise library staff in any way, nor dock their pay during the occupation.
• Ceases its campaign of cuts against the Goldsmiths Nursery.
• Retract their threat to charge Goldsmiths’ Student Union £15,000 in response to the occupation of Deptford Town Hall. This occupation, like that one, is independent of the Student Union.
• Do not take any disciplinary actions whatsoever against those involved
in this occupation.
Dozens of demonstrators made their way into the building on the north bank of the Thames in the run-up to event which was broadcast on Channel 4. Susan Philipsz won the £25,000 prize for her work Lowlands.
The protesters, numbering between 200 and 400 according to estimates, rendered the winner’s announcement almost inaudible with their chants.
The students, some wearing dunce caps, refused to leave and organised a series of life drawing classes near the entrance to the central London gallery…
(iPhone video recording of the teach-in here.)
Two hundred students from Goldsmiths, the Slade, St Martin’s, Camberwell and other world-famous art and fashion colleges are intoning their demands in solemn unison, their voices amplified by the heavenly acoustics of the stone hallway into which they have been shepherded by the police. They mobilised via Facebook and Twitter to disrupt the Turner award ceremony in protest against upcoming government cuts to arts and humanities funding, higher education and public sector jobs. “We are not just here to fight fees!” they yell. “We are here to fight philistinism!”
Suddenly, we’re through the looking glass. On one side of this screen, sullen middle-aged people have been made rich beyond their wildest dreams by exploiting popular nihilism; on the other, the age of apathy has ended as the trendy wing of Britain’s disenfranchised youth reminds the wealthy that there’s more to radicalism than pickling half a sheep in some preserving fluid. They are crammed into an alcove conducting what one dreamy-eyed young hipster solemnly informs me is a “noise protest”, shouting down Miuccia Prada as she awards the prize to a more gentle and considered sound installation. (Laurie Penny, “Protesting the Turner Prize: Is This the Death of Irony?”)
St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko unexpectedly announced last week that the city authorities might offer state oil and gas giant Gazprom alternative locations for the company’s controversial Okhta Center skyscraper.
“I believe it is possible that we will offer Gazprom some other sites for the construction of such a large investment project,” Matviyenko said was quoted by Interfax as saying last week.
Matviyenko said no official decision had yet been made about the construction of the 396-meter tall skyscraper, set to house the headquarters of Gazprom Neft, and that the main opposition to the project was its planned location across the Neva from Smolny Cathedral.
“I think we’ll find some compromise that will suit everybody,” she said.
“We have actively discussed the possibility of moving the construction site both with investors and city preservationists, and we already have a number of options for a possible location,” the governor said.
Matviyenko said the site at the confluence of the Okhta and Neva rivers that has been under development by investors remains attractive to them, and in the event that it is decided to relocate construction, investors, including Gazprom itself, may build some other project on the site.
The governor said that the city definitely needs projects such as the Okhta Center.
“However, such projects should take into account the opinion of all St. Petersburg residents. The decision should unite citizens,” she said.
President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier that the decision on the construction of the Okhta Center should be made upon completion of all the legal proceedings regarding the matter and after consultation with UNESCO, which had said that the historic center’s World Heritage status would be jeopardized by the building of a skyscraper in such close proximity.
The controversial planned Okhta Tower has encountered fierce opposition from protesters who say it will violate the city’s historic skyline. Opponents have staged meetings protesting the project and attempted to convince City Hall to reconsider the building’s location or its height.
Okhta Center’s press service said that the project was developed for the plot of land on the Okhta River, and that the investor is in constant contact with City Hall.
“At the stage of the project’s development, we considered various options for the location of the center, and the investor and the city administration maintain a constant dialogue about the matter,” Interfax reported the center’s press service as saying.
Maxim Reznik, leader of the city’s branch of the Yabloko political party that has opposed the location since the project’s beginning, welcomed Matviyenko’s comments about the possibility of finding another site for the construction of the so-called Gazprom tower.
Reznik said that the position of the governor was a result of long-term efforts on the part of the city’s preservationists and the dialogue that Matviyenko recently entered with the city’s town planning council, Yabloko said via its press service.
“Back in 2006, Yabloko proposed constructing the business center to the south of Dunaisky Prospekt, next to the ring road, which would make it easily accessible from any district of the city and from the airport. I’m sure our colleagues in the negotiation process will offer other options as well, especially where there is no need to disfigure something created by previous generations for the purpose of making something new,” Reznik said.
Architect Boris Nikolashchenko advised Gazprom back in 2005 to consider a site near Utkina Zavod on the southeastern outskirts of the city, according to the press club Zelyonaya Lampa, which is part of the RosBalt news agency.
The 60-billion-ruble Okhta Center is due to be completed in 2016.
Governor Matviyenko announced this partial sea change on December 2, 2010, during “Dialogue with the City,” broadcast on Petersburg Channel 5:
Here is a translation of her remarks:
Above all, I want to note both to backers and opponents of this project that the city has made no official decisions about the beginning of construction. And I’m glad that there is such an active discussion around this project. And the absolute number [sic] of [Petersburgers] — I’m sure of this — understand that the city needs new architectural projects. It needs projects that will attract investors, that will bring major companies [to the city], because the city needs enormous financial resources for preservation of the historic center, for development. On this point I think there is no controversy.
As for the project itself, most people who are really familiar with it note that the project is quite interesting. The controversy concerns [the proposed construction site], on the far side of Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge. Here, I think, we do have something to talk about with [Petersburgers], something to discuss together.
We don’t intend to force this issue: we are studying public opinion. And I assume that we’ll propose other possible variants for building such a major, interesting, huge investment project. And we’re continuing this work with Gazprom.
In December, as we’ve already agreed, we’ll be meeting with preservationists. I ask them to think about it — perhaps they have proposals for where we might build the business center, and public center, and cultural center. Let us give it some thought together again, talk it out and return to this topic. The discussion continues, but we need to lower the intensity of passions. I think that in our city, which we all love, we’ll find a consensus decision that suits all [Petersburgers].
The only true path is dialogue with the public, with preservationists, with cultural figures, and the search for a solution to this issue. We are disposed precisely to such a path.
For a concise history and analysis of the Okta Center project, see “The Gazprom Tower: Everything Changes for the Better,” in the recent Whose City Is This? edition of our newspaper.
Our heartfelt congratulations to everyone who has fought this monstrosity (even if this “stunning reversal” just turns out to be a lousy trick).