Students occupy Senate House in support of UCU strike


Students from the Student-Staff Solidarity group are currently occupying Senate House, where offices of the Vice-Chancellor and other members of Senior Management are located, to deliver a list of demands to Hugh Brady as part of the ongoing UCU strikes.

Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity is a group of students who are supporting their lecturers in the strikes. Today they released an open letter explaining that they are waiting in Senate House to 'deliver a message to Hugh Brady and his senior management team about the strike, with a list of demands (separate to this statement).'

It is understood that the occupiers have been staying on the top floor of Senate House overnight, and will speak to the University Vice-Chancellor at 10AM.

The group said in their open letter: 'UUK want to link teaching staff pensions to the value of investments. Pensions should not be precarious - they should be fair and secure.

'We are calling on our University management to both come out publicly against UUK’s pension plans and to agree to our demands.'

'We are calling on our University management to both come out publicly against UUK's pension plans and to agree to our demands'

Their demands are as follows:

1.Hugh Brady openly supports striking staff and the UCU in their position against the UUK, and openly disclaims the projection of deficit for the USS scheme

2.Staff taking part in action short of a strike and working to contract are not deducted pay at a rate of 25% as is currently proposed, as we see this as legalised theft and undermines the sacrifices made through strike action.

3.The management of Bristol University resolves to become more transparent and accountable to both staff and students, without whom the university would not function and they would not have their own pension pots or extortionate salaries.

4.We demand that the University of Bristol open up our occupation, allowing students to freely join as would only be fair as this is a peaceful form of protest.

5.We demand that these efforts through occupation be taken seriously and there be no retrospective and tenuous disciplinary processes as have been seen at other recent occupations around the country.

This occupation is not an official event of the Student-Staff Solidarity group. A spokesperson for the group told Epigram that some members decided independently to carry out this action, and that staff did not know this was to take place.

Epigram also understands that the occupiers walked into Senate House at around 7.20AM this morning, as the building was not secure. The occupation now is currently a closed one, meaning that security will let individuals out of the building but will not let anyone in.

Luke Tyers, an occupier from the Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity group, told Epigram: 'The UCU stood in solidarity with students in 2009 and members of the current UCU were involved in the 2009 occupation of this very same building.

'It has been too easy for Hugh Brady to ignore his workers and bully other divisions of the university workforce into taking an unfair deal. The attitude is shocking amongst management and we can no longer allow them to get away with ignoring the demands of the workers, with nothing but empty statements in response. We will force a free and open discussion where we push our demands openly onto Hugh Brady.'

Alina Young, 21, said: 'What is this? The seige of Leningrad? Even if the demands are legitimate, it seems unnecessary to occupy a space to the extent that nobody is being allowed in. It seems like students are hijacking an important and serious cause, and rather than supporting lecturers, they are bringing negative attention to the strikes'.

Alex Boulton, a Third Year History student, said about the strikes: 'Although I don’t necessarily agree with all the the methods used, I agree with the cause and you’ve got to admire their dedication. They have shown these tactics can work in the past, and I hope they get a chance to speak to Hugh Brady about their demands’.

The Student-Staff solidarity group also have linked the pensions dispute to what they see as a wider 'marketisation of Higer Education', arguing that university should be free but is currently being treated as a 'business'.

They added in their letter: 'We believe in a radical transformation of our education system. We support free, accessible education for both domestic and international students.

The occupation is not an official event of the Student-Staff Solidarity group

'Our university should: cut the extortionate rent students face in halls, divest from fossil fuels, fund our mental health services adequately, and pay all university workers the living wage, with stable in-house contracts and a 5:1 pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid staff.

'The Government should: scrap tuition fees altogether and guarantee all students a grant that is enough to live on; and end the Prevent programme and recognise our right to free speech and protest.

'We need an end to the marketisation that has transformed universities into businesses and to bring about better conditions for staff on campus.'

Speaking exclusively to Epigram last week, two members of the group dismissed suggestions that they have hijacked the pensions dispute to push forward an alternate agenda. They said that the issue of pensions is a 'legitimate issue' and is the 'visible' part of a wider problem that they seek to address.

Featured Image: Twitter / @occupation_hub

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Ed Southgate

former co-Editor in Chief 2018-2019 | former Editor of Epigram Comment 2017-2018 | UoB English student 2016-19 | Twitter: @ed_southgate