Protest at Lancaster House results in arrest

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Photo by Elliot Westacott

Around 180 students protested for three hours on Friday week 6 outside a meeting attended by Vice Chancellor, Paul Wellings, in Lancaster House Hotel. During the protest, one student was arrested.

Students were protesting against cuts in the university such as the closure of the Student Learning Development Centre and the Nurse Unit, along with increased parking and printing costs and soaring rent. Many were also angry at the closure of college bars at weekends and reduced portering. This comes at the same time as the government plans to raise tuition fees to between £6000 and £9000 from the present cap of £3290.

Protesters were frustrated with Vice Chancellor Paul Wellings, who announced the cuts within the university and recently publicised his support for the rise in tuition fees.

Third year student Oliver Trumble said, “It’s not just about fees, the Vice Chancellor is making cuts where he shouldn’t be. They have enough money to plough into new developments but are scrapping vital services such as the Nurses Unit.” He said that he felt that Wellings was “out of touch with his customers. If the Vice Chancellor was running a buisness in the real world, he couldnt allow that”. He added that he feared the education cuts would mean “nobody will come to Lancaster University in the future”.

On Monday Week Five, Wellings wrote an article for The Guardian calling for constructive debate over tuition fees as opposed to protests. Wellings’ article argued that “new fees will improve the education sector”. He commented that “we [the 1994 Group] were pleased that the government has proposed raising the graduate contribution cap to £9000”.

Yet many felt Wellings was hindering open debate over the cuts and ignoring the student voice. First Year Music student Andy Han said, “the Vice Chancellor doesn’t want to talk to people. There is no dialogue between him and students”.

Several student’s protests were directed at the Politics Department, who have dramatically reduced the amount of classes available to Part II students. Pendle Student Ben Holden said he was protesting against the department as only 8 courses out of 26 are running this year. Politics student Lauren Ronsdale commented, “I feel like I am being ripped off”.

Other students complained about the quality of university education in general. Third Year student Rebecca Pocklington said, “I am paying £3290 for four hours of lectures a week, and they are wanting to put it up to £9000!” Other’s complained about the problems that have been occuring with LUVLE.

The protest was organised by LUSU and Students Against the Cuts. LUSU President Robbie Pickles was present at the event. He commented, “Lancaster students came out on Friday to show the University management, and the Vice Chancellor in particular, why they are furious about the current policies of the University which have hit students particularly hard”. Pickles added, “Following the publication in the Guardian of a comment piece by the Vice Chancellor in which he appears to denounce protest in favour of constructive debate, students have rightly begun to ask exactly when and where this debate has/will happen”.

During the protest there was an incident and one student was arrested. After crossing the police line with a group of approximately ten students, Beau Bulman was restrained by the police. Bulman was struck on the head, drawing blood. A female student was also struck in the face. Bulman was arrested by the police, where he was cautioned for resisting arrest.

Bulman said, “I crossed the line as the Vice Chancellor seems to ignore students, including their protests. He went in the back door of the hotel instead of addressing the protest, even though he claims he wants constructive debate”. Bulman intends to file a complaint against the police.

A police spokesman said that, “during an unplanned student protest on Friday 19th November, a small minority of students broke through a police cordon and a 24 year old man was arrested to prevent breach of the peace. The man resisted arrest and fellow students got involved trying to assist him which resulted in police using minimum but proportionate force to resolve the situation. The man was later given a police caution”.

The protest remained peaceful, but some were angered at the level of Police Force. Third Year Philosophy student, Dan Ray commented, “The Police used an excessive amount of force. They want to avoid another Milbank Tower situation, and now they see all students as violent”.

Robbie Pickles, LUSU President said: “for the majority of students this was a fun and peaceful opportunity to let the University know what they are tired of not being listen to”.

The protest follows Week 5’s demonstration in London against cuts in education, which was attended by 50,000 protesters including 250 Lancaster students. The protest was largely overshadowed by violent incidents that occured at 30 Milbank, the home to the offices of the Conservative party.

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