Solidarity occupation NOW at RSAMD / Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow against 9k fees for non Scottish UK students

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Students from across Scotland have occupied the royal Conservatoire against introduction of 9k fees for non Scottish uk students. GET HERE NOW PLEASE! Its on renfrew st. Just along from the cinema, across from the back of the Savoy centre and m&s

Demands
Withdrawal of proposed 9k fees at the RCS
Uphold basic principle in Scottish education of free education for all.
No cuts to courses or compulsory redundancies.
Full and open consultation between management staff and students concerning fees.
Freedom of access
No legal or academic  repercussions for anyone involved.

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Response to the ‘Hetherington Inquiry’

Photo: Sean Anderson

On 23 March, University of Glasgow Principal Anton Muscatelli announced an internal investigation, to be chaired by Rector Charles Kennedy, into the events surrounding the eviction of the Free Hetherington, which had happened the previous day. On 9 September, its findings were published. The following is the initial response of the Free Hetherington occupiers:

We welcome the Hetherington inquiry’s concession that the management of Glasgow University did not follow the proper channels, and had not exhausted all possibilities, when choosing to use physical force in removing students from the Hetherington Research Club. We are glad it recognises that Strathclyde Police were also acting beyond their competency. We note that five young people were arrested, and one was hospitalized, in contradiction to the Police and University’s statements on the day. We expect a formal apology to follow from both parties.

The context of the Hetherington protest must be mentioned: it was in response to an out and out attack on academic values, a subject Mr. Kennedy has been notably silent on.  It is also notable that at no point did Mr. Kennedy visit the Hetherington, preferring to view the goings on from the University management suite, or London.

Charles Kennedy’s comments seem to be following David Cameron and the rest of his coalition partners in choosing to blame the messenger – the internet and modern media – rather than the real political causes of social disquiet. We note that the election that led to his Rectorship was carried out by an online ballot. Supporters of the Hetherington were responding however they could, in distressing circumstances and at short notice, to an unprovoked attack that they knew, at the time, to be illegitimate.

It is indeed a pity that none of those involved in the Free Hetherington felt comfortable contributing to the inquiry. This is in the context of continuing politically motivated prosecutions and dawn raids by Strathclyde Police, and the University’s decision to discipline students and staff for associated events.

Mr Kennedy would be better commenting on the fate of Glasgow University Union. Just this week it was announced that it is having 50% of its floor space ‘seized’ by management. Or better yet, he should speak to his friends in the Westminster Coalition. It is parceling up the NHS, and much of our society including higher education, to be sold to private companies. Mr Kennedy should look to the future, rather than scoring points from past events, before he and his party become an irrelevance.

 

 

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Free Hetherington – 7 Months – Occupation Lifted, Welcome to the New School Year.

The Free Hetherington occupation is lifted as of midday 31st August 2011. This is its 212th, and final, day of enforcement. Here is our final statement.

* * *

The Occupation

We would like to extend our thanks to all those who have supported us in person and from afar. By spreading news, sweeping the floors, cooking meals or coming to speak or perform for us you are part of this occupation, and we would have achieved nothing if we did not have this wide base of support.

University Management have not been able to restructure this University without considerable protest – they have been forced into rethinking and abandoning many of their planned cuts. It remains a disgrace that Slavonic Studies, Adult Education and the Crichton Campus are under threat, but those battles are not yet lost. Management will continue to try and ‘restructure’ the University, they will try to back down on promises, and they need to be held to account. This is an ancient institution, and it has a long memory. It will not survive unless it is fought for.

The Free Hetherington was never the only group working to protect courses at Glasgow. Large groups and individuals involved themselves in the consultation process as best they could and lobbied politicians. We applaud them as members of the same struggle, and will work alongside them as we always have. The fight continues.

We believe that through the Free Hetherington occupation as a tactic has been validated. When in future staff and students are told that they are not needed, that they must vacate their offices, that the decision has been made; then they should stand where they are and defend their principles, on behalf of the University of Glasgow, and the city it belongs to.

In the coming months there will be debate over what was done well and what could have been done better. We have stood together, and we have had our differences – both within the occupation and without: we have worked through them. We have generated a lot of controversy and we have not backed down when attacked. For better or for worse, we have been involved in a political and practical debate that has changed us, and made us more experienced members of society.

* * *

Our Education

Today does not mark the end of our and other disputes with the University, and it does not end our horror at the direction politics is taking in the United Kingdom as a whole. Education across the country is being stymied and dismantled by a managerial and finance-obsessed culture filled with incompetent managers. As we start the new term educators and students at Glasgow University are being distressed yet again by the failure and waste caused by the £16m MyCampus system.

We wish to contribute and work, but in a fair society offering authentic hopes, not merely material aspiration. Our education is not a commodity. We believe that if English, Welsh, and Northern Irish students are to be charged £9,000 per year to study at Scottish Universities, then Scottish students will not be able to avoid this logic for long.

We respect and have worked closely with the Student Representative Council and the Student Unions on many issues. We believe they have a duty to their members to not only provide services, but to represent their interests. Too often they shy away from confronting the University publicly. Too often they choose to work through consultation processes and private meetings in which they do not have the tools to force those holding the purse strings to listen. Too often the claims ‘there is no money’ and ‘there is no alternative’ are taken at face value. Taking ‘tough choices’ does not mean those taking them are not making the wrong choices. The University is not filled with providers and consumers, it is a community, and part of a society.

When the University of Glasgow was founded it declared in its charter:

“…that by assiduous study [we] may win the pearl of knowledge, which shows… the way to live well and happily, and by the preciousness thereof makes the man of learning far to surpass the unlearned, and opens the door for [them] clearly to understand the mysteries of the Universe, helps the ignorant, and raises to distinction those that were born in the lowest place.”

The University should return to and build upon this mission.

* * *

Our Society

We see the Labour Run Glasgow City Council closing community centres, rape crises provision, sexual health clinics. Particularly distressing is the plight of the Accord Centre in the East of Glasgow, a support centre for those with learning disabilities which is being demolished with no replacement in order to build a coach park for a velodrome. We are spending billions on ‘megaproject’ pageants like the Commonweath Games, but like the City of Culture in 1990, when have these vanities ever left a legacy for anyone but the elite?

We see the Tory Coalition government risking the lives of the elderly, 2,000 of whom died unnecessarily in Scotland last year, by reducing the winter fuel allowance. The NHS is up for privatisation, schools in England are being taken over and run by corporations. It is imperative that people stand together in their communities, with those who refuse to allow the destructive greed and mistakes of the richest to be paid for by the poorest, by those who have been given no stake in our society. They are given few opportunities, and are punished heavily for every mistake they make.

These are just some of the problems we foresee in our society. As one visitor to the occupation, film-maker Ken Loach, recently warned: “the ruling class are cracking the whip… don’t mourn, organise.”

Those under attack need to stick together, but we should not wait for unity before taking action. We do not accept that we should wait until everyone agrees with us. Taking action is a duty, it is not enough to wait for the ballot box; it will come too late. The right to free education will be lost, the right to free healthcare will be lost. Profit will further become the organising method of our lives. Our world will be smaller, and filled with more strife. The poor will die earlier, the old will be colder, there will be more riots; those in need will suffer more.

The Free Hetherington may be passing, but the problems it has highlighted are not. Welcome to the new school year.

Thank you,

The Free Hetherington


* * *

More details on the terms won from management here: Students declare victory.

The last person to leave the building will be Stuart Roger, who made headlines this week after throwing an egg filled with blue paint at Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Stuart won the honour as the prize in Monday evening’s last ever Hetherington pub quiz, founded in 1971. The original quizmaster was present.

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Hannah’s experience of the Free Hetherington… graduations!

On Wednesday 31st August, 13 University Gardens will be empty for the first time in seven months, and a space which has come to signify so much more than what is contained within its walls will come to an end. It’s hard to know how to feel about the closing of the doors, having been involved with the occupation since February, because while there is so much joy in having worked for something as a collective, there’s sadness in my own emotional attachment to that place.

Back in February, when a friend who was involved in planning the initial occupation urged me to come and see the Free Hetherington, I came bearing houmous (because everyone knows it’s the fuel of the Left!) and I didn’t know what to expect. I’d been involved in the Gilmorehill occupation before Christmas, but that was for a single night – this was indefinite. I don’t think any of us thought it would last the week; if you had told us that we’d be here seven months later, we would never have believed you. The day I walked through the door for the first time was the beginning of a long journey and the gateway to so many experiences I never thought I would have. I came for the evening and I stayed for days, a pattern which would be repeated endlessly in the coming months, because I found it so hard to walk away from the interesting people, the stimulating debate, and – yes – the fun that I found in the space.

I graduated from Glasgow Uni this summer after living in the city for four years, and the Hetherington was the first place I found where there was real community. It’s been a space where people from all sorts of different backgrounds (because, no matter what you think, it’s totally untrue to say the occupation is made up entirely of middle-class white kids) meet and exchange ideas and learn from each other – graduates, students, staff, members of the community, school pupils, and so many visitors passing through from so many places. Free lectures, poetry nights, discussion groups, and every late night (or early morning) that I spent debating, learning, or singing Solidarity Forever with guitars in the hallway – it was all held together by a community with common aims. We never all agreed on everything – we are socialists and anarchists and Labour party members and so many different hues of the unaffiliated, and above all that we are all our own people with our own experiences – but we were all working towards the same goal in fighting the cuts, and we found a way to do it together.

The Free Hetherington, though, was always more than that. Of course it was never perfect, but it still taught me at least as much as my degree. The Hetherington gave me so much courage. It gave me the courage to make a speech at a protest; it gave me the courage to refuse to shake Anton Muscatelli’s hand at my graduation; it gave me the courage to challenge sexist behaviour that I would have put up with before. Last week, I chased a man down the street to ask him why he dared to smack me on the arse as he walked past, and in the midst of my incandescent rage, I felt empowered and I knew the Hetherington had done that for me. In many ways, I think my involvement with the occupation made me a better person. It taught me a lot about working with people I might not always agree with, or even get on with, and it gave me an insight into the experiences of so many people I might never have met.

So yes, there is sadness in its end. But with everything we’ve achieved and with everything I’ve gained, it’ll always be with me as a significant experience in my life. I’ll take the Free Hetherington with me in the form of everything it taught me, in the the Free HRC tattoo I got from a visiting American, and in all the friends I’ve made. I hope that others have found the same kind of inspiration in what we’ve done as I have.

Hannah, 23

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One person’s experience of the Free Hetherington… and “cheesecake cake”

“Kiwi John” has been an occupier at the Free Hetherington since late April. This article by him tells how he got involved, what he did and what it meant to him.

It really started with “cheesecake cake”. A friend had been telling me I should go to “the Free Hetherington” for weeks (it was “amazing”, apparently) but I’d never really found any reason to go. That changed when I saw a “baking a cookery demonstration” advertised – and it was free! And they were willing to teach me how to make “cheesecake cake”, whatever that was. And they were open to non-students, even non-students who had graduated from one of Glasgow’s “other universities”! Baking was one thing I’d always wanted to learn, but never quite found the time for. So that was the reason I first went to the Free Hetherington.

So I found myself – slightly nervously, to be honest – walking up to a building I’d been in only once or twice before. It was very different: instead of the imposing aura of academia it was covered in brightly covered, home-made posters. People clustered round the front step, smoking roll ups and chatting. Someone welcomed me, then a few more. All smiles, nothing to be scared of! I asked where the baking demonstration was and someone led me downstairs to the kitchen. I learned I could bake (and I learned that “cheesecake cake” was a cake topped with a cheesecake – obvious, really, now you come to think of it…)

After that I kept returning to the Hetherington. I got to meet plenty of new friends, and bumped into a few old ones too. I got involved in more than one “campaign” – I adapted my new baking skills to be an effective tool in the struggle to save courses and to support striking public-sector workers. I saw films that touched my heart, chatted with activists from around the world, and witnessed incredible creativity. I learned I was braver than I thought, I learned that I could do things I didn’t think I was capable of, and I learned that people working together can achieve amazing things. Truthfully, I kind of knew much of this already. But until you see things put into practice – until you actually find yourself doing something you’ve only ever read about – you somehow don’t really believe it’s possible.

Talking to other people I realised that many people felt the same – most people had thought “the occupation” was only going to last a few days. No one seriously expected to take on a centuries-old university with a multi-million pound budget – and win. All that theory, all that reading, couldn’t really be right. But we learned – together – that there was strength in numbers. We worked with members of the university staff, trade union members, members of the wider community. We worked with activists throughout Scotland, throughout Britain, and from further afield too. Gradually we learned that we could make the occupation endure – with help, of course, with donations from supportive members of the public, with practical pointers from shop stewards and sympathetic lawyers. Gradually we began to think “maybe we can win?” The university began to back-pedal on some of the planned cuts. Nothing to do with the occupation, of course (of course!), it was all due to a new budget estimate!

And you know the rest. The occupation became the longest student occupation in British history. It was part of a campaign that secured several important concessions from Glasgow University. It loved cake. And now it’s going to live on – as part of an ongoing struggle for a society built on fairness, progress and compassion.

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Student protesters declare victory as Glasgow University sit-in set to end

Students at the University of Glasgow occupation are celebrating this week after Principal Anton Muscatelli conceded defeat in his attempt to impose swingeing cuts on the University.

The u-turn comes after six months of pressure exerted by students occupying the Free Hetherington led to concessions ensuring a new postgraduate club, no further cuts to courses and no compulsory redundancies at the University. 

As part of the deal secured by the Free Hetherington occupation, students will be able to quiz Principal Muscatelli directly in a mass open meeting in October over the lack of perceived transparency of management decisions at the University.

In exchange the students will end their six-month sit-in at 13 University Gardens to allow management to convert the former postgraduate club into lecturing space.

Students say they are enthusiastic about the outcome: 

“Six months after management refused to engage with us, we’ve finally won these demands. Direct action and direct democracy work – we’ve proved that and management have accepted it, which in itself is a huge achievement.” - James Humphries, 24, postgraduate philosophy student.

They were keen to emphasise that the end of the occupation does not spell the end for activism on campus:

“While we’ve achieved a lot on campus this year the fight absolutely does not end here. We will continue our campaign against tuition fees and ensure management keep their end of the bargain. We will be back” - Laura Jones, 24, history of art student.

On 1st February 2011, a group of students entered the disused former Hetherington Research Club on campus and pledged to remain in the building until their demands, which included no course cuts and the reopening the postgraduate club, were met. In the past six months, a large body of students and staff have continually kept up pressure. 

For almost two-hundred days the students have been sleeping, studying and campaigning in the former postgraduate club. Their efforts have received international acclaim and attracted visits from celebrities including director Ken Loach, singer-songwriter Billy Bragg and Scottish Makar Liz Lochhead. A packed schedule of events, lectures and workshops has made the Free Hetherington a focal point on campus for thousands of students and members of the local community.

As the longest-running student occupation in UK history, the Free Hetherington has become a lasting symbol of the wave of anti-tuition fees protests and occupations that swept the country in December 2010.

Students will bring the occupation to a conclusion on Wednesday 31st August.

Interested media should contact glasgowoccupation@gmail.com.

A bullet point version of the agreement is available. A finalized version is being confirmed with management. In short:

The Agreement

1. No more course cuts.

2. No compulsory redundancies.

3. A new postgraduate club, to be opened in the next year.

4. No cuts for student services, a guarantee of transparency with the SRC (Student Representative Council).

5. A public meeting with the principal Anton Muscatelli, where students and staff may address their worries.

6. No repercussions from the University for staff or students involved in the occupation.

7. An assurance that no information will be volunteered to the police about people involved.

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Minutes occupation meeting 4th July 2011

Minutes occupation meeting 4th July 2011 Continue reading

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