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NUS / AUT nation day of action 25 Feb
On the NUS nation day of action 150-200 University of Leicester students assembled on the lawn outside the Vice Chancellor’s office. Striking AUT lecturers joined us.
Alex Morgan, Leicester Socialist Students
An NUS executive member, an AUT member from Leicester College, and Sara Hamblin from Socialist Students spoke. Then the planned "disobedience" took place.
Students threw over 24,000 specially printed monopoly money notes, bearing vice-chancellor Professor Burgess’s face and the phrase "you wanted our money…"
The original plan was to occupy the vice-chancellor's office, but the university got wind of this and had the building locked down tight
So instead we staged a sit-down in a building where an NUS open day was taking place! I was interviewed for Radio Leicester news, identifying myself as a socialist students' member.
Then we moved back outside and blocked roads leading into the university, turning back of vehicles for about half an hour before the police moved us off the highway, threatening the union president and myself with arrest if we did not comply with their orders.
We then moved back to the Vice-Chancellor's office until he eventually allowed two students inside to discuss our grievances.
We made a large impact on the demo. Our socialist students' banner was ever-present, we made sure every student saw one of our leaflets and we sold the socialist. I believe if social students hadn't constantly agitated for more action against fees, this protest would not have taken place.
Our society is the only group consistently calling for regular, local and radical demonstrations at Leicester, and we are now seeing the impact of our hard work.
Over 150 people - students from both local universities and AUT members striking against the appalling a pay offer - marched through Sheffield against top-up fees on 25th February.
Bob Severn and Jeremy short
The March grew massively as it went from Sheffield Hallam University Psalter Lane campus through Collegiate Crescent campus to Sheffield University before marching through the city centre to the rally. The ISR stall sold over 30 copies of the Socialist.
ISR and Socialist Party members also lobbied Meg Munn, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, on 28 February. This Blairite MP, who had voted with the government, told the lobby that the tuition fees legislation was the 'most socialist' policy that me government had introduced!
In her surgery, Meg Munn responded to our call for university education to be funded by higher taxes on the rich by saying that Labour would lose the next election if they raised taxes. Parents should reassure their children that they'd only pay the equivalent of a few pints of beer a week in debt repayments (but that's a lot of pints to pay the debt off!).
A college student, 17-year-old Jason Ratcliffe told Ms Munn that he could end up with at least a £10,000-£12,000 debt if he tried to go to higher education. The Socialist Party presented the MP with copies of the petition against the top-up fees with over 5,000 signatures.
LAST WEEK at Staffordshire University, socialist students organised an anti top-up fees demonstration which overshadowed the NUS's actions and exposed their weaknesses.
Throughout the week we held anti top-up fees stalls and a meeting to discuss founding an official Socialist Students society.
The weak NUS leaders, however, failed to organise any form of real protest for the 25 February education shutdown at Staffs. The NUS stall was left deserted as roughly 100 people lined the streets to witness a 30-strong road block led by Socialist Students.
ON 25 February, around 14 Warwick University students joined 20 AUT lecturers for a joint demonstration around the campus.
If such days of action are become more successful in coming years, pressure must be put on the NUS for a much wider publicity campaign.
Socialist Students will be trying to do that at the NUS Annual Conference in March.
In The Socialist 6 March 2004:
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