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A sit in protest planned to take place at Lancaster University failed to gather support, causing students to question its planning while the organisers lamented student commitment.
The protest was planned to take place in Faraday Lecture Theatre early in Week Nine, in the vein of similar protests seen at other universities recently. It was organised by the Facebook protest group Lancaster University Student Protests (also known as Lanksy), an anonymous group of students who use the profile as a tool, claiming that “Lanksy is not one person”. Having failed to generate much support the event organisers attracted criticism over its preparation, publicity and purpose.
A statement by Lancaster University Student Protests on the Facebook page for the event invited students to occupy the lecture theatre from eight o’clock on the morning of December 6.
The statement also gave reasons why protest was called for. “Our Vice Chancellor will not listen to us, he will not make a pledge stating he is against these plans [to increase tuition fees], he will not consult with students about recent changes regarding the University including the closure of the nurses unit and the college bars. He will not listen. So we will make him listen.”
Criticism from students was levelled in a debate played out on the Facebook page. The criticisms aimed at Lancaster University Students Protests centred mainly on their policy of anonymity, cited by several students as a reason why very few people got involved; however, there was also some doubt as to the time spent on the organisation of the event. Many felt that the publicity was poor and that the little that was done to publicise the sit-in was very short notice.
“I think the frustration comes from the organisation and lack of cooperation with other groups like LUAC [Lancaster University Against Cuts]. You can’t expect people to turn up at [eight o’clock] in the morning after receiving a message the night before to meet a completely anonymous person [or] people”, said Alex Whitehead, who added “a bit more organisation could have yielded much better results”.
The planned event was also branded “shambolic” by one student.
There was particularly high criticism from members of LUAC, a similar Facebook-born group set up before the Lanksy profile. LUAC gave their aim on Facebook as providing “a cross-politics group for all Lancaster staff and students whose oppose the cuts to higher education and beyond.”
In response, Lanksy defended the principles behind the protest. “We only ever set out to do this to try and make a difference [and to] try and get Lancaster involved”. In response to claims that the event was “an embarrassment”, the group argued that the real embarrassment was the lack of real student activism at Lancaster.
“We are personally ashamed to be at Lancaster in regards to this and we cannot believe that frankly not even 10% of the student population [care] about the devastating blow [which] future generations of students are going to be dealt,” they said.
Peaceful-yet-disruptive protests are the central policy of Lanksy’s activism; they feel it is important that students do more to make their case known. Lanksy also strongly maintained their commitment to the student cause, reiterating their intention to be part of other protests around Lancaster organised by groups such as LUAC.