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Goldsmiths students occupy and protest in support of UCU strikers
Ellen Kenyon Peers, Goldsmiths Socialist Students
Student activism has been invigorated during the University and College Union (UCU) strike at Goldsmiths, part of the University of London.
Even in the final week of term, when staff were no longer striking but instead 'working to contract' (which means leaving at five when they stop being paid), a group of students decided to enact a flash occupation of the university's Great Hall - which was holding a post-graduate open day for prospective students.
Initially marching onto the stage with banners and Socialist Students placards to prevent a speech by the vice-chancellor, and reading a list of demands which included safe and affordable student housing, more funding for mental health services, democratic governance of the institution and defence of pensions, the protesters moved peacefully and chanted around the hall.
UCU members walked out at five to chants of 'the strike goes on'. Some lecturers attempted to stay until the 7pm timetabled finish but most left when they realised the event had been shut down by staff and students.
A rally with speakers including the National Education Union's Martin Powell Davies, Unison's April Ashley, Claire Laker-Mansfield of Socialist Students and 15-year-old John S - who is setting up a student union at his school - went ahead despite the head of Goldsmiths estates team locking the great hall doors with bike locks.
Students were outraged by what was undoubtedly a scare tactic by university management (who had earlier hidden food brought by protesters). But they were thwarted by students who held a side door open to give the speakers access. As was read to university management: 'We are the university, we are united, we will fight, we will resist and we will be back!'
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