First occupation talks end with no clear outcome

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The first meeting between the University, the LUSU Full-Time Officers and members of the group who occupied University House in Week 9, Michaelmas Term ended inconclusively on Tuesday Week 4. The main outcome of the hour-long meeting was the decision to hold further meetings on the issue of tuition fee and rent increases in the near future.

The talks were scheduled as a concession by the University to LUSU and the group of students who occupied University House in order to end the occupation. The meeting, which was held in University House on the very floor the occupation took place, was attended by the six LUSU Full-Time Officers, as well as the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Atherton and Chief Administrative Officer Nicola Owen. James Walmsley attended on behalf of the students who occupied University House. Despite the attempts of Walmsley and VP (Campaigns and Communications) Ronnie Rowlands to change Atherton and Owen’s views on the tuition fee and rent increases, the meeting concluded without any tangible outcome.

The fact that the meeting would end inconclusively seemed inevitable from the beginning, when Atherton noted that “we will listen and work it through and be as open as possible, but we will not necessarily reject or accept the views [of the others in attendance].” Atherton said that while there may be some sympathy among University management for the sentiment expressed by officers and students, it could be difficult to achieve the outcome they were looking for.

One of the main issues put forward by Walmsley and Rowlands was an expansion of the University’s provision of scholarships and bursaries to help cover the costs of increased tuition fees and rent. While Atherton and Owen appeared happy to discuss the issue, the meeting concluded before the conversation came to any substantial agreement.

Small highlights of an otherwise inconclusive meeting include Rowlands’ remarks that Lancaster was “elite but not elitist,” which Atherton and Owen were quick to point out was the University of Leicester’s tagline, as well as a tit-for-tat between VP (Education) Joe O’Neill and Atherton and Owen about who did not attend the meetings they were supposed to.

It is thus far unclear when any further meetings between the University, LUSU and the occupation group will take place.

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