Warwick students occupy conference room in Arts Centre

A group around 30 students are currently occupying the Arts Centre Conference Room at the University of Warwick.

The Warwick Against the Cuts protest group began marching from the piazza on campus at around one pm today, Wednesday 24 November.

Around 100 to 150 people (students and staff) it is estimated marched across campus, attempting to occupy University House, stopping briefly outside the Students Union before marching into the Arts Centre Conference Room (ACCR).

Short speeches were made by Megan Fortune, the Campaigns Coordinator for the Students’ Union and Sean Ruston, the Education Officer, along with other students.

The students were met by members of Warwick security outside University House, which had been prepared with barriers to prevent students from being allowed into the building, and there were a few brief clashes with them.

Shortly after this, at around 1pm, the students marched back towards the Students’ Union where some members of the march spoke, before one announcing to enter the Arts Centre Conference Room.

The students ran towards the Arts Centre and entered the conference room, meeting other students who were leaving their lecture. Everyone was, on the whole, allowed in peacefully, and the protesters sat down in the Conference Room (CR) and began drawing up a list of plans.

They drew up a statement as a group, which was published at around 3pm on the Warwick Against the Cuts blog (http://warwickagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/).

Around 70 students first entered the Arts Centre Conference Room at 1pm, but by the time the Arts Centre was locked at 11pm, there were just around 35 students remaining.

Throughout the afternoon protesters attempted to bring people into the room, contact with other universities holding occupations via the newly created gmail account and tried to get in contact with the Vice Chancellor and Sabbatical Officers from the SU.

Food and water was brought in by Warwick Business School and others who were allowed to pass things back and forth through the doors.

However, during a considerable period of the occupation, the students were not permitted to exit to use the toilets, situated a few metres from the entrance to the CR, and still be let back into the room. The students were, at specific points, granted access to use the toilets and be allowed back in, accompanied by the Warwick security guards.

At the time this was published at 00.03 on 25/11/2010, the students were still being refused to use the toilets and be let back into the CR.

12.55: Warwick Against the Cuts protest group and other students entered the ACCR.

15.00: A statement was issued from inside the ACCR containing the groups demands for the University.

Statement from within the Occupation
Posted: November 24, 2010 by warwickagainstthecuts in Uncategorized

We are occupying the Arts Centre Conference Room in protest against the cuts to higher education and tuition fees rises proposed by the Government in response to the Browne Review. While we occupy this space we are creating a space of truly free and democratic education where we will run workshops, talks and other educational events — education that has nothing to do with profit and the market and everything to do with learning and sharing together. We are not intellectual capital! We reject the marketisation of our education system and the transfer of the cost of a public service onto students, University staff and employees.

Our demands to the University of Warwick are as follows:

– The University of Warwick is to condemn the government’s plans for the restructuring of higher education; this includes but is not limited to:

* the recommendations of the Browne Review and the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review
* the raising of tuition fees
* the removal of public financial support for Arts and Social Sciences.

– That the Vice Chancellor should use his position within the Russell Group to oppose the cuts.

– For the University to allow people to freely enter or leave the Arts Centre Conference Room for the duration of the occupation so that we may continue to peacefully protest and have access to sanitation, food and water.

– A clarification of the security team’s position regarding their presence and our access to and from the building.

– The University to provide transparency of university finances: this includes current and future budgets, with specific references to domestic and international tuition fees and departmental spending.

– Individual University departments to have the right to protest against the cuts.

– No victimisation or punishment of any kind for students and staff who have protested, are protesting and will protest.

– The Vice Chancellor (or most senior authority currently on campus) to meet with us and discuss our demands in person.

We consider these demands to be fair and reasonable, and would appreciate a quick response.

Signed,

Students of the University of Warwick

16.15: Reports that the University Vice Chancellor wants to meet with a representative from inside the ACCR to discuss the situation.

16.26: Skype begins from within and outside the ACCR.

16.28: The Coventry Telegraph are here.

16.32: News from other universities: Portsmouth had a sit in and the VC attended promising to give a list of details on university finance.
Over 100 are occupying at Sheffield.

16.33: Liverpool University being ‘smashed up.’

16.36: Proposals of workshops.

16.38: Details of what it means to ‘tresspass.’ Police say anyone who tries to re-enter the ACCR will be trespassing.

16:46 One student who is outside the ACCR is trying to deliver food to the protesters. She, on behalf of the protesters, is also asking for as many people as possible to come to the Arts Centre and protest outside.

16:49 The Twitter hashtag is #dayxRuston have just left here to go up to University House and talk to the Vice Chancellor.

16.53: Discussions how to get more people into the ACCR.

16.55: Legal discussions regarding occupations.

16.49: A ‘workshop’ discussion is being planned for 18.30 on the topic of the cuts is being planned.

17.00: Banners are being created inside the ACCR.

17.03: According to reports from people in conversation with the VC, ‘nothing is going to change’ in terms of letting people back into the ACCR.

17.05: The protestors outside have left, it’s just three security guards and the campus police officer.

17.07: Warwick is mentioned on the BBC Coventry and Warwickshire website:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-11833204

24 November 2010 Last updated at 16:30

Students occupy Warwick University lecture theatre
Protesters in Warwick Police said the protest has been peaceful
Continue reading the main story
University Funding

* Students protest up and down UK
* Tuition fees protests Live
* In Pictures: Students protest
* Q&A: University funding

More than 70 students have taken over a lecture theatre at Warwick University in protest at plans to raise tuition fees to £9,000 a year.

It is part of a series of demonstrations at colleges and universities across the UK involving thousands of students.

They are also protesting against plans to withdraw funding from university teaching budgets for many subjects.

The rally in Warwick has been largely peaceful so far, police said.

Minor scuffles between students and security guards have taken place outside and inside the Centre.
‘Discuss demands’

It is thought some students were planning to stay overnight.

West Midlands Police said there was “a peaceful protest at Warwick University and there had been no issues between security, police and students”

In a statement, the students said their occupation of the Arts Centre was a stand against the “marketisation of our education system”.

“While we occupy this space we are creating a space of truly free and democratic education where we will run workshops, talks and other educational events – education that has nothing to do with profit and the market and everything to do with learning and sharing together.

“We reject the marketisation of our education system and the transfer of the cost of a public service onto students, university staff and employees.”

In a list of demands on the university, the protesters said they wanted it to condemn the government’s plans for the restructuring of higher education, the raising of tuition fees and the removal of public financial support for arts and social sciences.

They also want people to be able to move freely in and out of the Arts Centre while the demonstration continues, no punishment to follow for anyone who takes part in the rally and finally, to discuss their demands with the vice chancellor.

17.13: A draft email/blog post is being written up inviting students to join the Warwick Against the Cuts (WAC) group workshop inside the ACCR.
17.14: The blog post has been published:

http://warwickagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/

We believe in free access to education. As such, we will be holding workshops on a variety of academic subjects, and inviting in guest speakers and facilitators.

We invite you to join us in the Arts Centre Conference Room.

In particular, we will be holding a workshop on the impact of education cuts tonight at 6:30pm. Please join us then!

The University has suggested that we are disrupting the education of our fellow students, but it is in fact the University who are doing so by hinting that lectures cannot go ahead within this space. We would like to clarify that we support the continuation of lectures in the conference room, and we will ensure that lectures are not disrupted by occupation participants for the duration of our protest.

Warwick security continue to block access to the Arts Centre Conference Room, but hopefully we can work together to create a collaborative learning space.

See you at 6:30!

17.20: Local Mercy radio station are asking for representatives to talk to them about the occupation.

17.22: Reports that there are students occupying and protesting in France and Italy.

17.24: Birmingham is on the ITV Central news live.

http://www.itv.com/central-west/

17.26: Biscuits from Mark Rodgers (SU councillor reach the inside of ACCR.)

17.28: BBC reports are played on the lecture screen in the ACCR.

17.46: Reports from outside are indicating little updates. There have been rumours that people are keen to join protesters outside the ACCR at 6.30 for the cuts workshop, and some may be planning on bringing sleeping things to stay for the night.
WAC still claims it will stay overnight unless demands are met.
Education Officer Sean Ruston and President of the SU Daniel Stevens are still meeting with the Vice Chancellor.

17.47: Someone lowers the lights. Things are getting serious.

17.48: People from the business school have brought in supplies including food, drink and celebrations chocolate.
“Keep it going as long as possible!” they say.

17.50: Sean and Dan are allowed to enter the ACCR to relay a message to everyone:

“We’re going to talk to the uni.
As of now… 5 at a time are allowed to go to the bathroom and come back in.
Same sex groups.
Will not allow new students in with you, but you WILL be allowed to re enter.

VC is willing to talk to around 3 of you. If you can get 3 people together…
The biggest issue with this room… public place. This gets incredibly busy, people entering all the time. They are willing to have another room where you can move in an out, any other lecture theatre.

‘Are they going to hire out a room?’
Can choose another room to occupy.

‘Can we do teaching and workshops?’
I’m not sure, not sure we can.

That is for you guys to discuss as a group.

My advice to you is try and get 2/3 people together. I know it’s noble… a collective experience… but try and get people together to try and talk to the VC.

There really is no other option.

We will relay if you discuss as a room. You can all now arrange to go to the toilet.

Thank you.”

17.54: People begin to leave for the toilet.

18.00: BBC news being shown on the big ACCR Screen.
Students protests are the top story.
BBC News highlights: bonfires, lines of officers guarded government buildings at Whitehall. Fireworks thrown. Not official protests (NUS). Organised online. Schoolchildren involved. ‘Our rights have been impeded on. This is wrong.’ It started peacefully, planning on marching past Lib Dem headquarters. He ‘massivley regretted’ breaking his promises. ‘There are compromises in politics.’ In Sheffield – turn out around the city hall of 2,000. Glasgow students supported English (despite not having to pay fees). Cambridge students got into the senate building.
Warwick mentioned (!) A statement from Nick Robinson – politics correspondent.

18.06: cheers and celebrations when Warwick is seen on BBC news live.

18.08: Bob Marley put on. Every little thing is gonna be alright…

18.10: 15 students have been arrested in London, 2 for violent disorder.

18.20: Meeting: general feeling – to stay in the ACCR as long as possible.
3 representatives – unanimous no – we all have the right to go to the VC. No one likes the idea of a representation. Some are wary of the VC’s plans… after last sit in. Discussion around the room. People unkeen on leaving the room. It is a public room, which is why it was chosen. People are planning on staying the night.
Students are “cautiously optimistic.” Concerned that the uni wants to remove them from the space. Peaceful aims want to be kept to.

18.37: Update from outside:
‘Security will not let people in to have a meeting while we are having one in here.
SU will set up a skype room in the SU so we can have a meeting IF we stop trying to get people to come in.’
This is proposed. No objections, so this plan is to be carried out.

18.44: Banners placed and given to people outside. People singing and chanting.

18.45: A form of ‘lecture’ is being held outside ACCR. They are discussing the cuts and changes to higher education.

18.51: Students who are waiting to participate in the talk but who aren’t allowed into the ACCR are sitting down outside the room. The head of Warwick Security is negotiating with them at the moment. They’re planning on staying there as far as I can tell, until they’re moved on.

18.55: Security want to close the doors to the ‘lecture’ taking place in the doorway.

18.57: The doors to ACCR have been shut.

19.00: Debates on whether the doors should be open still remain.

19.03: If anyone wants any pictures from Warwick on today’s events, I have some on my facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_160607213979049&notif_t=group_activity#%21/album.php?aid=574388&id=740860281

Please ask me if you want to use any, it’s cool as long as you attribute it – Tash Clark (TLC 2010).

19.07: Another meeting proposed.

19.08: Security have told students outside the ACCR they cannot stay there if they want to continue the protest. Amongst support from Sean Ruston, the students have moved over to the SU for a Skype talk with the students inside the ACCR.

19.10: 2 students have just entered the ACCR after a member of security left the door unattented.

19.12: a space in the union to protest?

19.14: Chris Luck (Democracy and Communications Officer for the Union): “The SU is doing everything it can to facilitate communication between those in the ACCR and their supporters outside. We’ve provided meeting rooms 2 and 3 in SUHQ and set up a Skype connection so that there is a free flow of communication externally.”

19.15: someone passes pasta into the ACCR, along with hand sanitiser.

19.27: Still waiting on the skype link to the Students in the Union.
Apparently students are passing by the banner outside and

19.28: update from the university. It’s position is that they have to move or the toilet breaks will be removed. The request is that they reconsider the offer to move rooms. Within ten minutes. This is a public area, and if they can’t maintain public safety, then they can call the police. We are the messengers in this, this is not what we think.

19.34: First connections made with people in the SU, yet there are still communication issues.

19.35: Doors to the ACCR shut. I have to leave the room now and probably won’t be allowed back in. To keep up with the action, follow the Boar Live Blog @ http://theboar.org/news/2010/nov/24/live-updates-accr-occupation/

22.25: Very little has happened since I’ve been for dinner. The toilet situation is that the students will be allowed to use the toilet, but they will not be allowed to re-enter the ACCR afterwards.

22.36: The building will also be locked at 11pm, so yeah, I guess we’ll have to be shifted out, I don’t fancy camping out in the AC cafe…
Also, if you want to see the live stream of the guys in the ACCR, see the Boar Live Blog posted above. They look like they’re having a whole load of fun.

22.45: Two more police officers have just showed up at the AC, not sure why yet. There’s 15 mins to go until we get locked in, and no one’s going back into the CR tonight. Apparently all lectures for tomorrow have been rescheduled/cancelled, but we’re not entirely sure on it yet.

22.49: More supplies have just been given to the people in the ACCR. The police are apparently coming to take over from them because they’ve been here all day.

23.39: After a friendly chat with the Warwick security guards outside the fire exit to the ACCR (which has been guarded throughout the day by the way,) we retreated back to the comfort of AV3. There have been rumours about what is happening tomorrow morning. The protesters are staying over night while the ACCR is locked up, and this will be reopened at 8.30am. Whether the students inside the ACCR will move and relocate to another room or stay inside is yet to be decided. The protesters are equipped with food, water and… a pan. We’ll see how they’re feeling tomorrow morning, but in general everyone seems pretty cheery, including the security guys.

Will update more on this tomorrow morning 🙂

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