Sunday, 20 March 2011

Support the Staff Strike

Birmingham University UCU are fighting at national level against a real terms 4.6% pay cut to staff and for job security against unesscesary cuts to our education that will affect us all. UCU are also fighting against regressive changes to the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), which potentially hits female members harder and damages member’s benefits.

There are real alternatives in the universities budget and of course on national level. At the University of Birmingham by 2015 over half of the money the university is planning to make up in £10 million pounds worth of cuts to our courses will have been lost in increases in executive pay for just 97 top paid staff.

Executive pay at the University of Birmingham is spiralling out of control. In the academic year 1999/2000 the VC earned £169,000, and there were 28 staff earning more than £100,000 p/a with a combined pay of £3.3 million. 10 years later the VC's pay equaled £392,000, and there were 97 staff earning more than £100,000 p/a with a combined pay of £14.7 million, unlike average staff pay, far above inflation and the average growth of the university.

It is in our best interest as students' for to support UCU in fighting against job losses as lecturers made forcibly redundant by the university will result in less teaching, support and contact hours for students.

So want to do something to support staff?

Why not e-mail the university staff, let ‘em know what you think ask them to stop taking such a hardline stance and give staff a fair deal.

Professor D Eastwood The Vice-Chancellor and Principal d.eastwood@bham.ac.uk
Professor M C Sheppard The Vice-Principal M.C.Sheppardl@bham.ac.uk

Tell your friends, not to go lectures, encourage your friends to walk out of classes, write to your departmeant head and lecturers saying you won’t be attending in solidarity with staff on strike.

Write to your lecturers let them know you really don’t mind missing a lesson on Tuesday, if it means that they won’t lose their jobs or have their pensions raided

Bring food and drink to picketing lecturers on Tuesday and thursday.

there may well be more organised efforts to support staff I'm sure you know who to contact if you want to take part

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Unesscessary costs, security & restrictions in the Aston Webb feb 24h

It has come to our attention that the University has preemptively placed restrictions on staff and student activity in the Aston Webb building in response to the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts Day of Action.  

We can only presume that they have done so to prevent any direct action by Stop Fees and Cuts.  In so doing they have created more disruption to students and staff than any action by us would have done and incurred unnecessary costs to themselves.  

We had not planned any actions for the day and informed the university that we were going to do nothing in attempt to save them money.

nevertheless the University now will have to pay security costs and will have inconvenienced many of its members.  

We hope the University administration , after all the trouble will reconsider the unnecessary cuts they are making to the detriment of the education and livelihoods of students and employees at Birmingham.  

We are, however, far from happy at the disruption their actions will cause to the educations of students whose futures are our primary motivation for all our actions.

 Other universities manage to handle protests and occupations by students without causing such disruption.  Over the past months the University has become very familiar with our methods and must surely realise that we have never acted to harm people or property and carry out direct actions with the view to causing minimal disruption to the normal activities of the University.  We hope that people will note that the common feature of any inconvenience caused by political protests on campus, real or imagined, is not the actions of protestors, but the grossly heavy-handed reactions of the administration.  This latest example comes after the University sent in security to violently break up a peaceful occupation and, subsequently, starting disciplinary proceedings (later abandoned) against any politically active students in the vicinity; expended large amounts of its own money on policing and surveillance of a protest consisting of a dozen or so students, many with disabilities and, perhaps most ridiculously, preemptively locking down the site of the above mentioned occupation to prevent reprisals on the day of disciplinary interviews, predicated on the fire hazard caused by blocking the same room.

We are at a loss to explain why the University management acts to its own detriment in these ways.  The only possible explanation is that they fear the increased attention these protests draw to their running of the University .  As well they might. The Vice Chancellor is the most well paid in the country, receiving £392, 000 last year, an increase of 11% on the year before.  97 staff now earn more than £100,000 a year and increase from 28 in 2000, this year alone
management pay increases have cost £1.3 million pounds to students.  At the same time support staff earning little more than minimum wage are receiving real term pay cuts.  Relations between academic staff and management have deteriorated to the extent that they are considering strike action.  Senior management has responded by, cynically, feigning concern for the effect this will have on students’ education, whilst cutting funding of departments with some even facing closure.  All this has happened despite the University running a surplus.  Not to mention that Vice Chancellor David Eastwood sat on the Browne Review, which recommended unlimited tuition fees, and has since been cheerleading these measures in the media.

We will continue to hold the management of the University to account in spite of their aggressive reaction and invite others to join us.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

students shoulder to shoulder with staff

 Sign the petition in support of UoB staff here http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/uobstudentssupportstaff/

Yesterday many University of Birmingham academic staff received an email concerning the UCU strike ballot. Sent by the university managers and signed by the vice chancellor David Eastwood and other members of the executive, it urged them to vote against UCU to minimise the "effects on students".

We stand shoulder to shoulder with staff and UCU and recognise that the real disruption to our education is being done by the very damaging cuts, in the form of over 200 job losses, being pushed by the vice chancellor David Eastwood.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will shortly be balloted on taking industrial action. In support of the UCU's fight against a 4.6% real terms pay cut and against the regressive changes to the staff pension scheme.

This year in our fight against fees UoB UCU have come out on every single demo and protest supporting students and have been lobbying hard against a fee increase.

In 2006 UCU took industrial action, and received strong support from the student body, if not always from the Guild of Students. In 2006 the industrial action took the form of a boycott of marking and assessment, which delayed some results for students, however it did allow education to continue minimising the effect upon students.

The University managers are arguing that pay increases would increase the strain on the Universities finances. Yet this seems to be a rather hypocritical stance, considering that the Vice Chancellor has just accepted an 11% pay rise to £392,000, despite his present salary of £352,000 already being 13 times the UK average. This year alone the executive pay roll was raised from £13.3 million pounds to £14.7 million; an average increase of 10.5% per manager.

To put this in perspective, in the academic year 1999/2000 the VC earned £169,000, and there were 28 staff earning more than £100,000 p/a with a combined pay of £3.3 million. 10 years later VC pay equaled £392,000, and there were 97 staff earning more than £100,000 p/a with a combined pay of £14.7, unlike average staff pay, far above inflation and the average growth of the university.

We can’t accept arguments for the necessity of pay cuts, when the University managers won’t apply this rule to themselves, and we fully support UCU in the fight for fair pay.
The proposed reforms to pensions are highly regressive and we back UCU’s analysis that they are potentially discriminatory, with women taking a higher burden of the negative effects of the changes.

The strength of staff opposition, with 96% of those USS members who voted in the UCU referendum rejecting these proposals, should alone be enough to make the University rethink the proposals. The University’s arguments are flawed. They point out the need to raise money in the short term, but the pension proposals will save very little in the short to medium term, while damaging the position of members. Further, there is no evidence that the pension scheme needs to be so drastically cut as it is already a stable and sustainable scheme. The proposals to reform the pension scheme are simply designed to reduce employers' contributions and further increase revenue for the University at the expense of staff members. As students we stand 100% with staff members in their fight against these changes.

We recognise that a sound university system requires both job security and the protection of salaries and pensions against inflation. An under-funded and insecure workforce is not in the interests of staff or students as it will clearly further undermine the 'student experience'. In advance of the predictable (and short-sighted) claims by University managers, that striking University employees are damaging student prospects, we extend our solidarity to University employees in their attempt to reject the imposition of ever greater and widening inequality within the University system.

We reject, in advance, all predictable attempts by University managers to divide students from staff in our collective fight against the imposition of cuts and fees across higher education.

Monday, 21 February 2011

University of Birmingham drops all cases against students, after widespread criticism.

Special thanks to everyone who supported us

The University of Birmingham has backed down from an increasingly embarrassing attempt to discipline 15 students.

The Vice Chancellor David Eastwood received criticism from religious leaders, MP’s, unions and prominent academics including Professor Noam Chomsky and John McDonnell MP.

The University’s case was weakened by their attempt to press charges against two students who were not in any way involved in the occupation. One student was implicated because he was seen outside the building that he works in 'talking to a student', but that student was not part of the occupation. He was not told why this highly circumstantial (if not irrelevant) information was sufficient basis to accuse him of physically and racially assaulting other members of the University of Birmingham.

However, the only reason that he might have been accused in the first place is because in emails on university lists he had publically supported  staff unions at the University in recent pay disputes, and is a student member of two unions on campus. This raises extremely grave concerns about the University’s use of spurious evidence to make accusations against individuals without any substantial reasons, bringing into doubt the motivations of the University and its witnesses in the accusations that it has made.

The proceedings have caused a significant amount of distress for the students undergoing disciplinary action. During the proceedings the University refused to follow its own procedures that state that students should be informed immediately after their hearing whether or not there is sufficient evidence for disciplinary action. Instead, in each case the University chose to prolong the proceedings, creating an extremely distressing and stressful situation for students who had to wait weeks to find out if they could continue with their studies.

Students wanting to defend those charged by coming forward as witnesses and giving their versions of events to the University were then summoned for discipline themselves. These students would appear to have implicated themselves in the occupation solely by acting as witnesses. This clearly has an extremely intimidating effect upon any further potential witnesses who may want to come forward in defence of the students.

Given the weakness of the case and the arbitrary and intimidating approach taken, we believe that the process was simply an attempt to discourage student dissent and attack freedom of speech and association on campus.

Students at the University of Birmingham are not discouraged and are now building a new campaign to support staff members and UCU, fighting for fair pay, protecting pensions and fair wages.  University managers have recently given themselves a 10.5-11% pay rise, while offering staff a 0.4% pay increase, which with inflation at 5% is cut for low earners and rise for staff already earning between £100,000 and £400,000 per annum.


Sat 19th Feb - Local stalls around Birmingham - Birmingham Against the Cuts www.birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com

UKUncut Bail in Action - 11am, Snow Hill Train Station http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=179098092133767

Save Birmingham Youth Services - 3pm, Waterstones - http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=112602122147152

Wed 23rd - Education Activist Network half term demo - http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=197354743610341

Thurs 24th - DayX4 - BCU have a demo on campus - 12:30pm – BCU protest against cuts of 78% at the uni will take place at Kenrick library at city north campus.

There is also a demonstration in London at the UK Universities conference http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=179166512120415

Saturday 26th Feb - Birmingham Against the Cuts & Unison demo against council cuts - http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=179540445420883

There's also plots being hatched to run a UKUncut action in solidarity with the demonstration, and the first USUncut actions happening on the same day

Tuesday 1st March - Unison demo outside the council house from 2pm, whilst the budget gets voted on

and Planning meeting for SFCB on Tuesday 22nd, 5pm, guild of students

Monday, 7 February 2011

Solidarity, The Petition and the Cases


The university of birmingham has said it could well be weeks even months before the students on displinary hear back about their future at the university birmingham . Stop Fees and Cuts In Birmingham reckons it is a breach of the universities duty of care to its students leaving the cases dangling over them rather than dealing with the cases swiftly by chucking the disciplinary cases out with the rubish that they are.
we are now 37 Signatures off 1500, our disciplinary cases are still ongoing so signatures are still very much appreciated http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/defendbirminghamstudents/signatures?page=1
Thanks to all the students above who took in part in the video petition standing together with their peers. 
We will post here regarding any developmeants in our ongoing case.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The fight back continues

We have faced an unprecedented crackdown after our entirely peaceful sit in http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2011/01/students-face-crackdown-after-sit-in/.
Cases are still ongoing but, it is increasing apparent with support being garnered MP’s Lecturers, Trade Unions and the brilliant student body at Birmingham University, that once again a poorly thought through attitude of “no compromise” has put The University of Birmingham’s reputation at risk and its mangers out on a limb.

 A special thanks to all the students who stood up to be counted “I am Spartacus” style when they saw their fellow students being victimized, watch this video to see their efforts

and of course all the people including MP's, Lecutures and, NUS officers, Student Union officers, UCU, TUC, Unison who supported us by signing our petition

Students are not deterred by bullying and intimidation by the University of Birmingham mangers. Cracks are already starting to show in the universities management and insiders have privately communicated to us the serious regrets of the universities mangers in their choices.

The campaign against cuts and fees is ongoing, join us!

This Monday 7th of feb - come along in the evening for a Birmingham against the Cuts Planning meeting. Location: Unison Offices, 19th Floor, McClaren Tower, Priory Queensway, Birmingham. 6pm - 9pm.

This Friday 11th, Come along to stop fees and cuts in Birmingham (SFCB) next public meeting, meet 5pm at guild of students reception, for planning of the continued campaign against massive pay bonuses for mangers (the VC got 11%) while students and staff get cuts, fees and pay decreases.

On the 16th come along to - Discourses of Dissent: Social Theory and Political Resistance. Location: Birmingham Midland Institute, Birmingham. 2pm - 6pm.  http://discoursesofdissent.com/

On the 17th - Public Meeting of Birmingham Against the cuts. Location: Council House, Victoria Square, Birmingham. 7.30pm.

24th of February is DAY X 4! Watch this space for more information on the national walk out.

An excellent event coming up in the near future on 05/03/2011 Is the Re-Imagining the Public University: A Day of Workshops. Location: Aston University.

Take some action right now to support the anti fees fight

Sign a friend up to the phone tree get them to Text “No fees” To 07988056867 and invite your friends on FB to Stop fees and cuts in Birmingham FB group

Some thoughts the guild of students about its most recent actions/ inactions.

You still haven’t invested time in improving your communications, you need to get back on the national stage, your twitter account still inactive, your FB group we won’t be cut out is silent, and you still have not set up a phone tree or invested in FB page.

you are still not taking part in the regional campaign "Birmingham Against The Cuts" which is a group formed by Trade Unions, Service Groups, User Groups and Campaign Groups in Birmingham to oppose the cuts being made by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalitions both nationally and locally. Participation costs nothing, you have already declared you intent on taking part in the march 26th demo in london.. so if your onboard nationally why not locally? building local alliances will help us more in terms of protecting students at UoBs interests.

Your lack of support for the students facing disciplinary was shocking; no statement was put out, and you refused to even put a quote into a press release. The support that came from all other groups at the University of Birmingham puts you to shame. Your Students need political representation aswell as ARC support.

Despite requests, you didn’t support the EMA demo in town on the 11th of January in any meaningful sense. Instead you opted out of joining students from sixth forms, BCU and Aston. It is important we build up a broad movement involving student from sixth forms, this is being done but without your involvement, as the largest student organization in birmingham the guild should play a key role rather than a fringe one.

Your lack of action on the cuts education department http://birminghamstudentsagainstcuts.blogspot.com/2011/01/show-what-happening-in-education.html Staff groups are making a brilliant effort to build a public narrative about these highly damaging and unfair cuts. Despite requests at the education forum for you to make a statement you have remained silent. Stopping cuts like this requires a highly informed and aware student body; the university relies on quiet students for their acquiescence to these cuts. By not taking any action to inform students you are failing in one of your primary roles.


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Students face disciplinary action after protest

please sign our petition we need your help 

Ten University of Birmingham students are facing disciplinary action that could lead to expulsion after a peaceful sit-in that ended with forceful eviction by university security and the police.
The University has seemingly singled out students who they perceive to be politically active in an attempt to victimise them. Twenty-five students participated in the occupation; ten students are facing disciplinary procedures including one who was not even involved. The hearings will take place on Wednesday, 2nd February.

The students cannot graduate until the matter is resolved and it may affect their career prospects. Lucy Whalley, a final-year physics student says “I want to apply for PGCE after I graduate but this is holding me back and I cannot apply until this matter is resolved”.
A number of students were injured by the police and security in the eviction and are reported to be pressing charges.

David Owen, a second-year theology student, whose departmental staff have already been reduced by a third, says “The doors were opened, three security staff wrenched their way into the room. I stood and linked arms with two other men to create a human blockade in peaceful protest, at which point the tables were kicked towards us, and I was head butted by a police officer, causing my lip to bleed and substantial swelling. I was forced against the wall by a police officer and at this point I was bleeding from the face. I left the building in a very shaken state.

Staff members sought to observe the eviction process as they were concerned that students might be injured in the process, but were repeatedly denied this request. Dr. David Bailey, a local UCU branch committee member says: “I decided in consultation with two other UCU branch officers, that a UCU member should stay around the site of the occupation in order to provide some observation. At about 7pm we could hear screaming and shouting from inside the building. Two students stumbled outside the building in a very distressed state – one claiming in a very distressed manner that he had been headbutted by a policeman as the police and security guards sought to enter the occupied room. The student’s lip was bleeding and very swollen.


This student proceeded to inform the police, by phone, that he had been assaulted. In the light of these events it seems to me that it would have been highly advisable for the University to permit an observer to these proceedings, particularly if it transpires that a dispute occurs with the University, police and students each having different accounts of the eviction process” 
Officers at  Birmingham University UCU member and local branch member said  about the occupation:  “Our higher education system is under a sustained attack that will turn the clock back on generations of social progress, democratic advance and educational achievement. Under the government's proposals, our country looks set to become the most expensive place to study in the world, Birmingham University UCU branch supports students who Peacefully occupied on their first day back at university”. Currently three students are  said to be pressing charges for assault and others are taking legal advice before pressing their case. The university is said to have its own footage of the eviction which they have not released. Students have collected this footage of the form of a mobile phone.


Students started this first student occupation of the new year on the first day back at university on Monday the 17th. Edward Bauer, a third year geography student said “we wanted to show support with around 200 staff at the university who are losing their jobs, while the university is running a £20 million  profit. We thought we should start immediately, it was difficult organising over the internet in the holidays but we didn’t think this could wait”.
Student’s anger has been aggravated by the lack of restraint shown by management. Laura Beckmann, the Ethical and environmental officer at the University of Birmingham Guild of Students says “I feel their action is especially legitimate particularly when our Vice Chancellor is one of the highest paid in the country and is having an 11% pay rise this year.”


The University of Birmingham is doing nothing to abate the damage caused by the spending cuts, despite many other Universities taking action. Prof Malcolm Grant, provost of University College London, said his pay would be slashed by 10 per cent and other senior staff would receive wage freezes1.
Bob Cyran Vice-Chancellor of Huddersfield University has stated his intent to support his students by taking on tuition fee debt himself and set up a standing order to pay for a student support fund at his university2.

 Prof Eric Thomas at Bristol decided to give some of the money back from his £309,000 salary. The university said: "The VC took no pay rise last year, and made a donation to the university of £100,000."3
The occupation was covered on the day by a number of news sources BBC4 , Sunday mercury5 , Birmingham news and Mail6, indymedia7 and Schnews8

6.      http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2011/01/18/students-protest-at-university-of-birmingham-staff-cuts-97319-28003274/

Students face disciplinary action after protest

For immediate release
Date 26/01/11
Location The university of Birmingham
Contact
Mobile 07988056867
Title: Students face disciplinary action after protest

Ten University of Birmingham students are facing disciplinary action that could lead to expulsion after a peaceful sit-in that ended with forceful eviction by university security and the police.

The University has seemingly singled out students who they perceive to be politically active in an attempt to victimise them. Twenty-five students participated in the occupation; ten students are facing disciplinary procedures including one who was not even involved. The hearings will take place on Wednesday, 2nd February.

The students cannot graduate until the matter is resolved and it may affect their career prospects. Lucy Whalley, a final-year physics student says “I want to apply for PGCE after I graduate but this is holding me back and I cannot apply until this matter is resolved”.

A number of students were injured by the police and security in the eviction and are reported to be pressing charges.

David Owen, a second-year theology student, whose departmental staff have already been reduced by a third, says “The doors were opened, three security staff wrenched their way into the room. I stood and linked arms with two other men to create a human blockade in peaceful protest, at which point the tables were kicked towards us, and I was head butted by a police officer, causing my lip to bleed and substantial swelling. I was forced against the wall by a police officer and at this point I was bleeding from the face. I left the building in a very shaken state.”

Staff members sought to observe the eviction process as they were concerned that students might be injured in the process, but were repeatedly denied this request. Dr. David Bailey, a local UCU branch committee member says: “I decided in consultation with two other UCU branch officers, that a UCU member should stay around the site of the occupation in order to provide some observation. At about 7pm we could hear screaming and shouting from inside the building. Two students stumbled outside the building in a very distressed state – one claiming in a very distressed manner that he had been headbutted by a policeman as the police and security guards sought to enter the occupied room. The student’s lip was bleeding and very swollen.

This student proceeded to inform the police, by phone, that he had been assaulted. In the light of these events it seems to me that it would have been highly advisable for the University to permit an observer to these proceedings, particularly if it transpires that a dispute occurs with the University, police and students each having different accounts of the eviction process”

Officers at Birmingham University UCU member and local branch member said about the occupation: “Our higher education system is under a sustained attack that will turn the clock back on generations of social progress, democratic advance and educational achievement. Under the government's proposals, our country looks set to become the most expensive place to study in the world, Birmingham University UCU branch supports students who Peacefully occupied on their first day back at university”. Currently three students are said to be pressing charges for assault and others are taking legal advice before pressing their case. The university is said to have its own footage of the eviction which they have not released. Students have collected this footage of the form of a mobile phone.

Students started this first student occupation of the new year on the first day back at university on Monday the 17th. Edward Bauer, a third year geography student said “we wanted to show support with around 200 staff at the university who are losing their jobs, while the university is running a £20 million profit. We thought we should start immediately, it was difficult organising over the internet in the holidays but we didn’t think this could wait”.

Student’s anger has been aggravated by the lack of restraint shown by management. Laura Beckmann, the Ethical and environmental officer at the University of Birmingham Guild of Students says “I feel their action is especially legitimate particularly when our Vice Chancellor is one of the highest paid in the country and is having an 11% pay rise this year.”

The University of Birmingham is doing nothing to abate the damage caused by the spending cuts, despite many other Universities taking action. Prof Malcolm Grant, provost of University College London, said his pay would be slashed by 10 per cent and other senior staff would receive wage freezes1.

Bob Cyran Vice-Chancellor of Huddersfield University has stated his intent to support his students by taking on tuition fee debt himself and set up a standing order to pay for a student support fund at his university2.

Prof Eric Thomas at Bristol decided to give some of the money back from his £309,000 salary. The university said: "The VC took no pay rise last year, and made a donation to the university of £100,000."3

The occupation was covered on the day by a number of news sources BBC4 , Sunday mercury5 , Birmingham news and Mail6, indymedia7 and Schnews8

1. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7772419/UCL-vice-chancellor-takes-10pc-pay-cut.html
2. http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=414570
3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/mar/14/university-heads-vice-chancellor-salaries
4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-12217009
5. http://www.sundaymercury.net/news/midlands-news/2011/01/17/students-occupy-university-of-birmingham-building-in-protest-at-cuts-65233-28002535/
6. http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2011/01/18/students-protest-at-university-of-birmingham-staff-cuts-97319-28003274/
7. http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/01/472343.html
8. http://www.schnews.org.uk/archive/news7559.php



Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Two marches, coaches and crash spaces.


This Saturday the 29th coaches to London and Manchester.
On Saturday the 29th of January their will be two marches and rallies against education cuts in Manchester and London.
The London march is being supported by the NCAFC & UCU, the group who organised the marches and rallies in London last term. http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=184694258211136  
To get on the coach to London from Birmingham book on 07904960442
The Manchester march is being supported by the NUS & UCU along with other trade unions http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=170799172958208 For the Manchester coach Tickets are available now from Student Voice at the guild for £5. For more information email studentvoice@guild.bham.ac.uk
Stop fees and cuts in Birmingham encourages you to get out to whichever march you can or feel more comfortable with going to and show the nation that students are going to carry on with the fight for education.
Check out the two facebook groups for more information on each march; feel free to message us with any questions, if you want to go down the night before or after message us for crash spaces, please do write down this number, there have been a number of very unfair arrests with entirely law abiding protestors being unfairly charged, this is the number for a good lawyer you can trust 020 7833 4433

Friday, 21 January 2011

Re-post of witness testimony of earlier security assault on occupiers.

This was originally posted on 19/01/11 however, was mysteriously removed on the 21/01/11 how and why are unknown.

Videos of what was being described in the testimony below where included in the original post, they will hopefully be re-posted soon.

This is supplementary to our post about what the BBC has a called a “clash”, that was the forceful eviction of the protestors, this can be found here.

Below is the testimony of an anonymous member of staff who witness what took place during the day.

When I saw the banner drop over the Watson Building Bridge at just after 12:00 noon, I decided to go and have a look at the student occupation. It became quickly obvious that University security seemed determined to take an uncompromising stance towards the occupation, and tried to deny the student occupiers access to sanitation facilities.

When a female student needed to use the toilet on the other end of the corridor security tried to prevent her from re-entering the occupation.

Other students present tried to shield this female student, peacefully and wholly non-violently from the security guards, I was shocked and horrified by the level of violence immediately meted out to the protestors. I saw one student in an arm-lock of one of the security guards, until he went red in the face. Standing in the background I shouted at them repeatedly to stop assaulting the students and stop the violence, but they would not and seemed to ignore me completely.

Another student was (his hands in the air and while shouting 'I am not violent') forcibly held on the ground by a security guard in a way which looked painful.  I was very upset by these scenes and horrified at the violence used against our own students who were by all accounts from what I could see perfectly peaceful.

I was not present at the eviction in the evening.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Response to BBC article

In response to this BBC article, posted on the 18th January 2011 we would like to make the following statement on behalf of the students who occupied the university on the 17th January.

Regarding the university's claim that 'those protesting today are not elected representatives of the student body', we utterly reject the implication that this justifies the violent eviction of an otherwise peaceful occupation. All students have the right to protest peacefully whether elected or not. Moreover it is factually incorrect, there were several elected student representatives participating in the occupation, including three of the university's seven recently elected NUS delegates, a NUS Disabled Student committee member, the student Ethical and Environmental Officer and two guild councillors. Most of these people (if not all) are well known to the university and the student union, and, as such, we are asking the university to retract their false statements, issue corrections, and refrain from issuing such misleading comments in future.

In regard to the university's claim that the occupation ended 'at the point that protesters charged at security staff without warning... six security guards, supported by two police officers, then moved forward into the occupied area'; we ask is it very likely that a small group of mostly female 18-20 year old protesters staging a sit-in would 'charge without warning' at six large trained security men and two police officers? We have various witness testimony that says otherwise. Would there be any doubt as to who would come out on top in such a confrontation? What purpose would initiating violence serve, considering it was in the students' interests to stay and the university was hoping to remove them? Why, if students 'without warning' initated violence against security staff and police officers, were there no arrests? Why did the university refuse to allow members of staff to witness the eviction as independent observers? Could the university's version of events be a weak attempt to fabricate a pretext for violently breaking up a peaceful protest which they didn't want?

As a reply to the police calling us "abusive and un-cooperative" students, we have testimony from union and staff members which would suggest otherwise. We would suggest that a charge of 'un-cooperative' be levelled against the university and police instead for not allowing access to clean water and sanitation to those inside until their phone lines were flooded with complaints, or denying access to other students in and out of the occupied area. Indeed, 'un-cooperative' is a very generous description of the universities behaviour considering the disproportionate threat and actual use of force by the university and police, which arguably in many cases constituted common assault (and is being reported as such by those involved).

West Midlands Police also commented that: "Students were abusive and un-cooperative and several students were pushed.[...]Police went to assist security staff and an officer accidentally clashed heads with a student. That student then called police at 6.47pm to report an assault." The incident in question involved a police officer approaching a student, who was stationery and had his arms linked with two others, and, without warning, headbutting him whilst shouting "STOP!". The student left the building in shock with a large cut and bruise on his face. The incident has been reported to West Midlands Police.

We would like to note a previous BBC article. In this article, in reference to a previous action conducted by the occupiers, West Midlands Police said it "...couldn't have been more different from the violent clashes seen recently in London" and thanked the students for their "controlled, sensible manner".

Our own account of events of the eviction can be found in full here

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

To the students [who were] in occupation at Birmingham University


From Dr. Sarah Amsler from Aston, who tried to give us a talk during the occupation. She has kindly written it for us so we can read it in our own time, if anyone feels the need to be re-inspired after what for some was quite a dispiriting experience this is worth a read.


To the students in occupation,

I stopped by to see you today and to offer a talk; I was looking forward to participating in the planned round table discussions as well. I hope they went forward. Unfortunately, as I understand like many others, I was barred from entry – even from speaking to any one of you in person. I was told that I had ‘no right’ to be on the university campus, ‘no business’ being there, because I was not an employee of the university. This implies that others including prospective students, parents, members of the community, researchers, even tourists have no right to inhabit the campus spaces either. No difference that I was invited by Birmingham students; your invitation carries no weight as you are ‘in dispute with the university’. No difference that the occupation was itself meant to be free and open to all, and that it was in fact the university administration that transformed it into a closed and inaccessible space of confrontation rather than dialogue. No difference that I am a lecturer at a university, that many of you are my disciplinary peers, that I have been to Birmingham many times in the past few years to meet with colleagues, to participate in workshops and conferences, to hear talks – as academics and students do at universities everywhere. When I explained this, I was accused of lying – none of my activities, I was told, could have been possible. I was reminded that the university, even the stairwell I was standing in, is ‘private property’, and that I must leave without delay. I was told to take my opposition to this exclusion ‘back to my own university’ – what an odd logic – by guards who rolled their eyes and acted as if an academic presuming membership of the academy was the most audacious and irrational thing they’d ever heard. Talk of the enclosure of the commons is often vague; experiences such as this make its arbitrary processes visible.

Hope to meet you in a freer space soon. I attach my notes for what I had originally planned to discuss. I intended it as a starter for discussion and debate, not as a lecture.
Best wishes,

Dr. Sarah Amsler
***

For the Birmingham Students against the Cuts occupation, 17/01/2011

Both critique of the situation we find ourselves in, and the spirit of refusal to resign to it, all circulate widely today. But acts of resistance, of the refusal to let ourselves or others be governed, subjected, and devalued in these ways, and practices to create autonomous, human and what we hope are more liveable lives, are still relatively rare.

Refusal and transformation are rare because they are risky – sometimes because they invite discipline and retribution, but more basically because they require a willingness to sacrifice what is known to be doable for a much riskier hope that alternatives might be possible. And in moments of closure, such risks are often taken in the knowledge that these alternatives are not simply waiting in the wings to be activated, but will need to be constructed from the ground up in conditions where the languages and rationalities required for their recognition may not yet exist, and where those that do exist are hostile to the alternatives. Your work demonstrates that, for all its challenges, taking such risks is a realistic possibility (though I think an unevenly distributed one), and that doing so may be increasingly necessary.

We find ourselves at what sometimes feels to be an endgame of the long march of capital through the cultural and political institutions of this society – the proposals to slash funding (especially for arts, humanities and social sciences), escalate tuition fees, and subsume the entire concept of higher education into neoliberal rationality are consistent with the trajectory of higher education policy for the past four decades. Could our predecessors, could we, have done more to slow, prevent or alter it? The question must be asked, although the answer need not necessarily be yes. It is important to know what we are up against. By the early 1970s, E. P. Thompson argued that the English university was already subordinated to industrial capitalism; during this time it was decided that the ‘special place of democracy’ within the universities was a hindrance to their efficient operations as corporations. For students and educators alike, the conditions for and value of critical and humanist forms of knowledge and practice have since that time been progressively and systematically eroded. And as Paulo Freire once wrote, ‘if the structure does not permit dialogue, the structure must be changed’. We have been trying.
 
Thus, while slogans of ‘Nick Clegg, f**k you for turning blue’ communicate something important about the betrayal of liberal democratic hopes, they also miseducate. This is not a red, blue or yellow agenda, but a problem of the entire political system being reshaped into and subordinated within the logic of the market. In the 1990s, Labour introduced tuition fees, then pledged to decrease them, and then raised them again; at the same time, both Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders pledged to abolish them before now shoving them up in coalition. The entire history of widening participation, which saw the expansion of a system of universities that served only 4% of young people to nearly 50%, has been marked by a nearly symmetrical decline of funding for that education, and increasing demands from universities themselves to be given the authority to privatize in the wake of abandoned socialist possibilities. The ‘crisis of funding’ is systemic, not a consequence of recent bank bailouts or ongoing national debt. Challenging the particular policies and decisions is important, and must continue on intellectual, political and moral grounds. Defending and preserving livelihoods is a necessity. But the real problem in fact lies much deeper, in the logics and forms of the governance of society itself. The university, as you well know, is only one manifestation. The question thus is, what does a genuinely public university look like in this situation? How do we protect and recognise those who work in and for it? How does it work? What is its work? And how might we need to remake the university, and ourselves and relations to one another, to make this work possible?
 
During a previous period of crisis here at Birmingham in the 1980s, which involved a solid round of closures, mergers and ‘restructuring’, Stuart Hall reminded us that moments of closure in a particular phase of political and cultural struggle are also moments of possibility. He argued that his generation of students, academics and workers faced a historic choice: to ‘capitulate to the Thatcherist future, or find another way of imagining’. There have been other ways of imagining, but I think this also true for us today. Despite the tendency towards despair, we have deep resources of theory, feeling, experience and desire to nurture sustaining projects of radical imagination. And it seems clear that the reclamation of time, space, autonomy, collectivity, agency, humanity and democracy is often a necessary condition for these projects to be possible. I think they will not be permitted otherwise, for the university is already under occupation. It has been for some time, and the extent to which these spaces of learning and debate are dominated by neoliberal rationalities is made visible in the ways we are not permitted to call them our own, to use them for our purposes, to repurpose them, to think them otherwise. Your actions thus seem to me more of a reclamation of the university than its occupation, and a reaffirmation of its democratic promise and possibilities. By using the space for peaceful dissent and protest, the defence of the rights of workers and ideas, expanding possibilities for the advancement of knowledge and understanding, opening up space for radical experimentation and dialogue, welcoming all those who want to engage in these pursuits, creating new relationships and forms of being – in doing all this, you reinsert the progressive promises of higher education, and of democracy, that are being hollowed out from the spaces of the university itself. They have never been perfectly realised; very far from it. But they must remain open for the possibility.

In 1989, Jürgen Habermas told a German audience that he suspected ‘new life can be breathed into the idea of the university only from outside its walls’. I’m not so sure. We have been looking for an ‘outside’ to neoliberal rationality for decades, but it seems that the longer we seek to discover this from within, the more subordinated we actually become. Your occupation points to an alternative: that we are always-already potentially the outside; that alternatives may emerge from rupturing the existing spaces of permissibility and doing something new in the intervals created through this temporary negation. While this might involve a personal flight from the institutions, it might also be accomplished through their reclamation for all. One pressing question now is how this logic, or forms of it, might begin to inform acts of resistance and practices of freedom with others, in other areas of social life. How we might reorient our educational work towards this purpose. How we might learn to inhabit our everyday lives otherwise, and to build the solidarity and courage that will enable us to do so.

Your work makes it possible to imagine this. We are watching closely in solidarity and in hope.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Forced heavy handed eviction of University of Birmingham occupiers

 Last night students determined to remain in occupation and create an area for free and constructive debate, where removed by excessive force by university security assist by the police.

I’m proud to say the student involved, remained peaceful in spite of personal injuries and very distressing scenes.

This report is compiled by testimonies of a UCU representative present and three students who are pressing charges of assault but, wish to remain unnamed for now.
During the period 18:30-19:00 students were removed from the maths-physics bridge, where on their first day back at university they had immediately re-occupied the university.

Please read the below testimony, it is most accurate we can provide, we have started a petition against the use of force on peaceful protestors and in support of the occupation calling on the university to take a more enlightened approach in the future, to protect its students and its reputation. this can be found here, please sign


another version of this that works outside facebook can be found here.

As one student describes.

“We were directly in front of the door. The guys inside undid the d-lock and tried to get us in and lock it before security could gain access. At this point, all hell broke loose. I was the first one in and another guy was behind me, we tried to get him in but one of the security guards had him in a headlock, strangling him, we tried to from another human chain to get him in but they got him to the floor, he was completely restrained and i witnessed another security guard assault him because he could. Another girl got punched to the floor by a security guard and they tried to drag her and me out. Another girl got a completely unprovoked punch to the chest which I think knocked her to the floor (I saw the same security guard try to apologise to her after)”

Another student tells a very similar story of the start of the violence by university security and police.

“I saw the doors to the occupation open to allow further students inside, whereby the 3 security staff took the opportunity to wrench their way in too. I stood and linked arms with 2 other men to create a human blockade in peaceful protest, at which point the tables were kicked towards us, and I was headbutted by a police officer, causing my lip to bleed and substantial swelling. At this point, when being forced against the wall by the police officer and told to 'stop' (at this point I was bleeding from the face) I left the building in a very shaken state.

This video taken in the immediate aftermath as the last students are being pushed out shows a female student in a very distressed state describing this happening to her.


video

this can be found on youtube here
Another describes the view of the action from further back in the room.


I saw the doors open to let more students in, then the security barged in, i kinda blanked for a bit, and then remember being behind one of the girls (brown hair, pony tail, black trousers and black long cardy) when one of the guards pushed her backwards stretching her back and then punching her, and then claiming he'd done it because she was trying to 'damage his equipment' which she blatantly wasn't. At this point i took a step back from the situation as I get panic attacks and knew I wouldnt be any help if I suffered one.”

A UCU representative, describes his attempts to gain access to the corridor outside the occupation so he could watch a impartial advisor and what he saw and heard from his position.

I decided from that point (in consultation with two other UCU branch officers) that a UCU member should stay around the site of the occupation in order to provide some observation, which seemed particularly necessary in the light of the intransigence on the side of the University, and the ominous sounding 'other measures' that the University was apparently inclined to employ to secure an eviction.

“I waited outside for about an hour. One member of security staff had told me earlier that the occupation would not be permitted by the University to go on beyond 5pm. At around 5pm, someone who appeared to be a University manager arrived with a number of security guards. I and a few other observers waiting outside thought this might be the sign of the forthcoming eviction, so we followed them to the door of the occupation. As we waited outside, we were told that we needed to clear the area. I explained that I was a member of staff and that I was concerned that an observer needed to be present during the eviction. A policeman informed me that I was not allowed to stand on the stairs, or at the back of the corridor (away from the occupation room) as there was an incident happening. I repeated that I was concerned about how the eviction would proceed, and for the safety of the students inside, but was absolutely denied permission to wait and observe and was informed that I had no reason to be concerned as the police would ensure that no-one was hurt. I was subsequently told to leave, first the stairs, and then the entire Watson Building. 

I subsequently discovered that one student had already by this point been involved in an altercation with the police, which apparently involved a policeman kneeling on the back of a student lying on the floor. This was witnessed by a member of staff (and UCU member), who repeatedly insisted (to no avail) that the policeman stop. 

I waited outside the Watson Building with a group of students. A small number of the members of the occupation began to leave the occupation for various functional reasons (one left to speak with the press, another left to empty the bucket that the students had been forced to use as they were still denied access to the toilet), and these leaving students also joined us outside.

At about 7pm we could hear screaming and shouting from inside the building. Two students stumbled outside the building in a very distressed state - one claiming in a very distressed manner that he had been headbutted by a policeman as the police and security guards sought to enter the occupied room. The student's lip was bleeding and very swollen. I reported this to the security guards waiting outside the Watson Building and asked if they were about to do anything to help the student. They refused to assist and informed me that the police were inside the building if I felt something should be done. This student proceeded to inform the police, by phone, that he had been assaulted.”

The first student quoted continues with a description of the continuing violence and then loss of property.

I remember getting dragged the floor, I think a guard tried to get me in a lock but i wriggled my way out. I was also screaming at the guys that they were strangling the guy in the headlock and killing him. I stood there for a while and when I turned my back to walk away and this was when toothless guy lunged at me, grabbed my hair and yanked me back, very painfully. In someone else’s words "he really went for you with his face snarling... I also saw him pacing about like he was gonna rip someone’s head off before his boss sat him down in a chair". This same guy got sat down by his boss and told to be calm, he has serious anger problems.

 I also witnessed one guard punch a girl to the floor, punch another in the chest (he tried to apologise to her after). We started packing up and security were throwing all our stuff away, they tried to take someone’s laptop but didn't manage, the one who had punched the girl in the chest threw away a d-lock so lord knows what else he might've thrown away when we weren't looking. They confiscated a £500 projector claiming it was theirs and also took someone’s speakers claiming it was theirs.

The UCU rep describes the exit of the remaining students some 30 minutes later.

“About 30 minutes later the students exited the room. Reports from the students were that they had been treated very heavy-handedly indeed. One student reported that she had been punched in the face, another reported that she had been pushed across the room, and it was reported that another had been grabbed around the neck and dragged out of the room. One of the students who left the occupation was very visibly shaken and needed considerable consoling. All of the students were very upset and visibly shaken by the eviction.

I then watched as the policeman who was reported to have headbutted a student was questioned by the same student who was making this allegation as to why the policeman had chosen to act in this way. The policeman claimed that he had not in fact headbutted the student, but rather that the student had presented an obstacle to the policeman in the policeman's attempt to access the occupied room, and that 'if my head happened to make contact with yours' that was unfortunate but it wasn't a headbut. When the same student asked whether he could report this incident to one of the other policemen he was subsequently denied this demand on the grounds that it wasn't 'procedural' for an accompanying policeman to receive such a report.

In the light of these events it seems to me that it would have been highly advisable for the University to permit an observer to these proceedings, particularly if it transpires that a dispute occurs with the University, police and students each having different accounts of the eviction process.”

Our petition can be found here.

This was not the limit of the violence by security; additional attacks are reported earlier in the day reports on which are being complied now.