Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/531/4057
Students stage occupation
At 4pm on Tuesday 22 April, around 300 University of Manchester students gathered for a campus demonstration to express their anger at the way the university is run.
Abby Taylor, Manchester University Socialist Students
Students feel that the number of contact hours is insufficient, and that resources in the library are limited compared to the ever-increasing number of students. An increased focus on online learning has proved contentious among students, who call for a return to face-to-face discussions.
An estimated 650 jobs have been cut across the university in the last year or so. Some staff now do the job of three people for the same wage, which of course affects students as well.
Despite the demonstration having a very peaceful, 'carnival-like' atmosphere, police blocked off part of the road and then linked arms to form a barrier between the students and their own university buildings! Calling: "Whose street? Our street!" the protesters pushed through. Having broken through the police line, the march continued to the Arthur Lewis building, where a debate was held with the aim of drawing up a list of demands on the university management. The sit-in lasted until almost 8pm.
The Arthur Lewis building represents the way that students see the university going - a swipe-card system means students must book an appointment with the relevant staff member in advance in order to have their cards codified. Feminist socialist lecturer, Sheila Rowbotham pointed out the following day that it was already a student building: all we were doing was reclaiming it.
A group called Reclaim the Uni organised the demonstration, with ever-growing numbers on Facebook, and comprised of students from many different faculties and political allegiances. Although the fight for a free education is a broad theme of the campaign, the focus is on the specific problems at Manchester University, which appeals to many students on campus.
Manchester Socialist Students are calling for further demonstrations to maintain the momentum of the Reclaim the Uni campaign. The demands which were agreed include a minimum cap of 12 hours per week for face-to-face contact hours and support for free education. See www.socialiststudents.org.uk for a longer report and the full demands.
The following day the student union called a meeting on campus. Socialist Party member David Beale was a speaker, along with Marxist academics, Terry Eagleton and Sheila Rowbotham, who both face forced retirements. David called for regular meetings between staff and students - a suggestion that was taken up by student activists at the meeting.
In The Socialist 30 April 2008:
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