Tag Archives: SOAS

SOAS Occupation / Tariq Ali on the Importance of the UK Student Protests


Press release and statement from the occupation

Posted on November 22, 2010 by soasoccupation2010


Central London college occupied by students over education cuts.

Students at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, have today taken over the Brunei Gallery, a central college building, in protest at the Coalition government’s plans to impose £4.3bn cuts to higher education.
SOAS is predicted to face 100% cuts to its teaching budget as it specialises in languages and humanities subjects.
Following a mass meeting of the Students’ Union last week, which voted to support occupations at the college, protestors gathered on campus at Monday lunchtime.
The Brunei Gallery was taken over shortly after by cheering students.

The demands are as follows:

Occupation Statement

“At a huge Emergency General Meeting (EGM) last week, SOAS students voted in favour of occupation as part of our fight against Coalition government plans to cut higher education funding and raise tuition fees. Today, over sixty students have occupied the Brunei Suite at SOAS. This number is growing.

We stand in solidarity with other University occupations across the country and all those resisting the government’s draconian and unnecessary cuts. We encourage all students to participate in the National Day of Action against fees and cuts on 24th November. We call on the University administration to join us in our fight to defend education. In particular, we demand:

No victimisation of participants in this occupation and in previous and future student actions against fees and cuts.

That students who participate in the walk-out organised on the 24th of November are not marked as absent from lectures or tutorials on that day

Greater transparency in the School’s budget and in the School’s financial decisions.

That Paul Webley, SOAS Director, releases a statement openly condemning all cuts to higher education and any rise in tuition fees, and writes to the Government in the form of an open letter asking Vice-Chancellors across the country to unite against all threats to Higher Education.

That Paul Webley and SOAS management refuse to budget for the cuts and commit not to raise tuition fees.

We also request that all lecturers devote 15 minutes of lecture time to discuss the impact of the cuts in their classes throughout this week.

The occupation space is open to all students and staff and we encourage everyone to participate in occupation activities.”

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What Solidarity Looks Like: Justice for Cleaners at SOAS (London)

Justice for SOAS Cleaners — Stop Deportations! 

This is the blog of the student occupation/solidarity campaign at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) in London. Go there for complete information about the UK Border Agency raid on the college’s immigrant cleaning staff, the student occupation, videos and photographs of the protests, press reports, letters of support, and updates on the situation.

Scenes from an Occupation

Lenin’s Tomb

This is one struggle among many, but for me it also resonates far beyond its own example. In what way? I think this instance makes a strong case that ‘Fortress Europe’ and the immigration controls associated with it in fact constitute a form of class war. As in the US, while employers are all to happy to exploit immigrant labour, they also rely on the state to discipline and attack that labour when it becomes too assertive and organised. I think it also makes the case that any political slogan that divides the working class, such as ‘British Jobs for British Workers’, is a valuable tool of employers for defeating it. Finally, I think it is resonant in another sense. Neal Ascherson once suggested that if you want to see how the government would like to treat us, look at how it deals with immigrants. In this case, the almost Gestapo-like tactics deployed by immigration police (which is absolutely routine) provide the model for crackdowns on all kinds of labour organisation.

Alberto Toscano

Needless to say, universities are not special places, reservations for freedoms absent from the ‘real world’ beyond. But they are institutions whose critical vocation and cosmopolitanism should hold them to certain standards. The students at SOAS have clearly been more faithful to this calling than those who facilitated these arrests or turned the other way. They have demanded of their institution a minimal coherence with its reputation for research on human rights and migration. They have rejected the pervasive cynicism that allows us to be critical in theory but indifferent to, or complicit with, practical abuses of power. They have testified to the idea of universities as places where the questioning of how we’re governed, how we work and how we live together is not a purely speculative pursuit.

If tolerated or ignored, current moves to integrate education, business and the state will effectively make a mockery of any vision of the university as an institution that seeks to foster independent thought and broaden our solidarities. This is true both of the often invisible and precarious labour that makes university life possible and of academic life in general. If the government has its way, universities will become extensions of the border, with lecturers and administrators effectively required by law to monitor their students on behalf of the Home Office. This is not a question of some unique moral mission bestowed on academia. What Friday’s arrests and deportations bring home is that universities are workplaces much like any others, microcosms where all the stresses and contradictions of our society – inequality, the exploitation of migrant labour, the expansion of state power – are manifest. But they are also places where we supposedly foster critical thinking – an activity that is irreconcilable with the callous and hypocritical treatment of the SOAS cleaners.


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