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Following last term’s occupation of University House in protest against rising on-campus rent costs and international and postgraduate fees, negotiations are yet to take place between the occupiers and University management.
After some conference during the 24 hour occupation, a meeting of negotiations for the University to formally discuss with LUSU and other independent members of the student body has not yet been arranged. In a statement provided by Toby Atkinson on behalf of the occupiers, the group felt that “despite some difficulties”, the campaign was overall “very successful”, and negotiations that occurred during the occupation are “promising”.
The occupation lasted over 24 hours, as campaigners peacefully inhabited C Floor whilst University management brought in outside security and shut down The Base, resulting in the cancellation of many student’s counselling appointments.The cancellation of counselling appointments as a result of The Base being shut down is regarded as a great concern of the group, whose intentions ultimately aim to ensure the protection and stability of student welfare. In statements from the occupiers, they have commented that counselling is one of many vital services essential to protecting welfare, and for the continuation of this service to be disrupted during a busy period of term as management took the decision to evacuate staff from all floors of University House was inconvenient
and potentially harmful.
Occupiers maintain that nothing happened outside of C Floor which might have caused The Base to shut down, and argue that University management “prioritised ending the occupation over attending to student and staff needs”, allegedly finding alternative locations across campus to continue with meetings, yet failing to arrange alternative accommodation to temporarily reinstate counselling and other student services whilst the occupation took place. It was reported that occupiers were denied access to toilets and running water, and management restricted free movement within the building, further causing disruption that the occupiers argue was part of a “political decision […] in an attempt to bring [the occupiers] into disrepute and reduce support for [the] movement”.
The group also suggest that members may have been harassed by University security once they left the building, an additional issue which will be discussed once management arrange a date for the meeting. Although LUSU were not directly involved in the occupation, campaigners report that some LUSU members who supported the protest were placed under pressure by management for taking part. Atkinson argued that this is believed to have turned the students against each other, and to “create friction and difficulties between students and the students’ union”.
The University responded to SCAN’s request for comment, failing to acknowledge specific negotiations following the occupation protest, but reported that the University “continues to have discussions” with LUSU regarding future tuition fees and accommodation costs, highlighting that a “discussion […] takes place between the university and students every year”, and if any student should have any recommendations they may propose them to a committee where there is student representation for this issue.
The occupiers remain “eager” to enter formal negotiations with the University management, and are continuing to achieve progress.