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The way forward for students at Leeds Trinity
On Saturday 15 January around 40 local people, students, socialists and lecturers, attended a public meeting organised by the Leeds Trinity University College (LTUC) occupiers to discuss the cuts at the university and in the wider community.
Our university is more than ambiguous in its outlook on how to deal with the threat the government's funding cuts pose, to the point where it could potentially close or, as rumours now abound, be merged with another nearby university and shed jobs and courses in the process. The occupiers, in Leeds Trinity Students Against Cuts, have re-drawn our demands, to offer a strategy to unite with lecturers and other staff and we are determined to continue to fight.
The speakers included Iain Dalton, the Yorkshire Socialist Students organiser, who outlined the student movement so far and the challenges ahead. He was followed by Mark Taylor-Batty from Leeds University and College Union (UCU) who outlined the threat that the Con-Dem cuts pose to education.
He was followed by Nick Parker from the PCS Young Members Network who explained what young trade unionists are doing to fight the cuts and outlined the PCS campaign work for an alternative to the cuts that makes the banks and the rich who caused this mess pay for it rather than civil servants and other workers.
Finally, Andy Smith, one of the occupiers, focussed on the need for staff and students to stand together. He explained that as sixth on the high risk assessment by UCU, LTUC is under severe threat, and that this attack could have devastating knock-on effects on the wider community around Trinity which will compound the other cuts the government and council intend to make.
One lecturer vowed that she would spread the word about the cuts and the occupations in her lectures and will speak to other lecturers who were not in attendance, to rally support. An excellent opportunity to do this will be at this Thursday's rally in support of the occupation outside university reception at 1pm.
As one of the occupiers involved from the beginning I can honestly say it's been tough. But the messages of support are welcoming to any of us who are occupying at the moment, and it's stunning to believe that this is LTUC's first politically motivated campaign, with another welcome achievement this week in holding our first socialist meeting in the occupation - the first political society in LTUC's history.
Ending with assurances from those in attendance to support the Manchester youth anti-cuts demo on 29 January, along with provisions kindly donated to the occupation, the meeting was a success. We will go on in the push for the end of the Con-Dems' ugly grip and send them a message from the occupation: "Education for the masses, not just for you ruling a...s."
Kieran Lock, Leeds Trinity Socialist Students
Update on 28.1.11:
After continued negotiations between Leeds Trinity university management and the student occupation which has been based in the senior common room, an agreement has been reached. Management have met two demands that were put forward by the campaign:
1) To not penalise any students for taking part in their legal right to protest against the cuts to education and in wider society.
2) To meet the students' demand for a permanent office space in which to continue the campaign and set up events that will further allow the student body to get involved.
As a result of meeting these demands Leeds Trinity occupation will end on Saturday 29 January 2011. Students, along with staff, will then be marching to the coaches going to the national demonstration against cuts taking place in Manchester that day.
The occupiers thanked UCU, Unison, Youth Fight for Jobs & Education and other supporters for their support and said they will continue to campaign to defend all jobs and courses at Leeds Trinity University College.
Calderdale and Kirklees student assembly
Students from two schools and one college met in Halifax on Sunday 16 January to discuss where next to take campaigning against fees and cuts in the area. Over the past few months there have been walkouts and demonstrations on five or six occasions, each time involving fresh layers of students taking part for the first time, but often not always at the same time as each other. This meeting was a further step towards bringing together activists from around the area.
After a brief discussion on where the student movement is now and the alternatives to the cuts and the fees hike, the meeting proceeded to lay out plans for a wider Calderdale and Kirklees student assembly meeting on Sunday 30 January, to draw in not just other students that have participated in the movement so far, but also others travelling to the 29 January demonstration in Manchester which they are mobilising for.
In the area, only Huddersfield University and a few of the colleges have any form of students' union and therefore the assembly will play a vital role in helping students to organise themselves. It was decided that, although trade unionists and parents are encouraged to attend, only students will have a vote, so that they can organise themselves. A series of interim officers were elected to publicise and prepare for the assembly.