More in-person action on campuses

Submitted by AWL on 11 May, 2021 - 5:52 Author: Abel Harvie-Clark
SOAS protest

One hundred students protested at SOAS University in London on 10 May, rejecting an investigation into racism in the institution as insufficient and demanding the removal of director Adam Habib.

Petitions, online actions, and motions in the student union and Unison union branch have been organised since back in March the director delivered a racial slur in response to being challenged about cuts to the African Studies department and the failure to address direct racial discrimination on campus, back in March.

Students have been challenging Habib’s position as director since his interview with the Board of Trustees, on grounds of his role in instigating violence against the Fees Must Fall student protests that took place at Wits University, where he was vice chancellor.

Protests have escalated since the investigation commissioned by the university’s Board of Trustees promised “restorative justice” through vague and non-committal actions, which have been rejected by students as normalising anti-Black racism in the university. The investigation was set up by the same Board who hired Habib in the first place, and it employed “experts” from the police and prisons apparatus to carry it out.

Students are calling for a “People’s Tribunal” to address Habib’s position and racism in the university. The ongoing fees strike is also demanding #FireHabib. There is an understanding in the university that justice will not be handed down from management boards, but won through collective power built from the bottom up.

The Office for Students is proposing a 50% cut to creative arts subjects across UK higher education institutions. Pause or Pay UK, a student-led campaign, have engaged in the government’s consultation on the proposal, rejecting competition between disciplines for funding and highlighting the value of creative arts study.

In fact these consultations and investigations by university bosses and their allies in government are only providing cover for a further drive for profit criteria in higher education, at the expense of students and university workers. A serious government bail-out of higher education remains an important demand, alongside militant campus campaigns against callous university managements.

The University of Sheffield rent strikers have been forced to leave their occupation after the University won a court Interim Possession Order which threatens a six month custodial sentence for any occupations on the campus in the next year. Comments by the outgoing president of the student union betraying the occupation did not help, and they should be held accountable by the student body.

The Sheffield Hallam and Manchester rent strike occupations are continuing, despite security harassment. A coalition of campaigns held a protest outside the occupation in Manchester on Monday 10 May.

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