Rebecca Pinnington reports on a radical effort to catalyse change at UCL
12 left-leaning political groups have come together to threaten UCL with a day of action: a day that may live on embarrassingly in the memory of the college, the press, and prospective students. Campaigners from groups including the NUS Black Students Campaign, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, the Radical Housing Network, Fossil Free UCL, and the Student Assembly Against Austerity are hoping the event will receive national press coverage, and show UCL their demands cannot continue to be ignored. The demonstration will take place on 3rd and 4th July, both of which are open days for prospective students. The organisers are expecting an attendance of around 500 protesters.
In a post on Fossil Free UCL’s tumblog, the different groups have set out a series of demands. These include divestment from UCL’s £21million fossil fuel investments, proper compensation for students who have been pushed to rent strike due to “unliveable conditions”, and the reinstatement of Philosophy academic Dr. Nathaniel Coleman, whose contract was not renewed this year, purportedly due to his criticism of the whiteness of the Philosophy curriculum.
It’s not news that students have, especially in the past year, been left dissatisfied with the college. Rent strikes have been ongoing in some student halls since 8 May, to which UCL responded with threats to prevent graduation and re-enrolment. The college subsequently withdrew the threats due to their illegality, and attempted to reconcile dissident students with, bizarrely, a barbecue. Although threats have been dropped, Halls and Accommodation Representative David Dahlborn told Pi, “We’ve still got to win the strike”, and that there was much work still to be done. The petition to reinstate Dr. Coleman has been live for over three months, and is supported by a large coalition of students of colour and their allies.
Fossil Free UCL has demanded divestment for years, with prominent protests such as November’s die-in on Tottenham Court Road and February’s love-in, when protesters stripped off and covered themselves in ‘oil’ outside a UCL Council meeting. The organiser of the love-in, David Powe, told Pi in February, “Our campaign is only going to get louder!” This event is definitely louder, and more unfortunate for UCL.
A UCL spokesperson confirmed that while peaceful protest would be tolerated, this should not prevent others from going about their business, and should not prevent prospective students from accessing the open days.
This protest doesn’t look set to be violent or destructive, but it certainly looks set to be big. A Facebook event organised by the Radical Housing Network (RHN) with almost 400 attendees encourages participants to “bring noise and smoke” [sic], and it’s safe to assume that if large numbers are in attendance, the demonstration will be unavoidable.
Join the RHN Facebook event
Featured image credits: Tamara Hopewell
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