Students end 10-day occupation of Old Schools after University court order

The occupation ended at 9.30am today

This morning (Friday 13th March), students exited Old Schools following a 10-day occupation in solidarity with UCU. They left the University of Cambridge’s central administration buildings singing and chanting.

This follows legal action from the University, who issued papers for county court hearing on Wednesday. The hearing will take place at 10am today.

Last night, the students expanded the occupation by entering the Vice Chancellor’s (Prof. Stephen Toope) office. They have told the Cambridge Tab that this action was taken to symbolise VC Toope’s silence in regards to the occupation and his refusal to meet student demands.

On Monday, following a meeting between UCU and VC Toope, the first demand – the recognition of UCU by the University – was met. The other five demands (detailed below) were ignored.

Photo credit: Solidarity College Cambridge

On Tuesday a University spokesperson told the Cambridge Tab that the occupation was “derailing preparations” for a coronavirus outbreak. Yesterday they issued the following statement:

“We have asked those occupying The Old Schools site to leave and they have refused. In view of the serious impact their continued presence is having on the University’s operations, including contingency planning for a Coronavirus outbreak, we have no option but to take enforcement action.”

Cambridge Defend Education have also released a statement:

“One thing that was made very clear from this occupation was that the University does not care about its staff’s working conditions, nor its students’ learning conditions. The Vice-Chancellor refused to engage with the Occupiers, demonstrating his own lack of concern for student interests. This latest failing of University management is part and parcel of a broader system of exploitative working conditions for its staff, pernicious links with arms and fossil fuel industries and complicity in the government’s racist Hostile Environment agenda. As our occupation ends, we will send one last communication to University management: We leave today confident in our collective vision. The future of the University lies with students and workers, fighting in solidarity for a fair, equal and liberated education.”

The Marxist Society released the following:

“The occupation served as a rallying call to the Cambridge education sector at large. Management’s total refusal to engage with students, and its minimal engagement with the UCU will not cause disillusionment with collective struggle. Indeed, it will push both further; the UCU is already balloting for further industrial action, and the student body will follow suit, engaging in further action alongside staff. More and more, students and workers are coming to realise that the struggles against casualisation, marketisation and fossil fuel investments are, in the final analysis, struggles against capitalism itself. In refusing even minimal concessions, the University, and the entire capitalist class is playing with fire. The logical conclusion of this class struggle is expropriation of wealth from the bourgeoisie.

While the very minimal step of UCU recognition has now been taken, this is not enough. The university must meet the demands of UCU, Unite, and UNISON, agree to open meetings and students must face no disciplinary measures for fighting for this. Management must be reminded that not a class is taught, essay marked, nor a room cleaned without the kind permission of the workers of this university. The institution’s control and ownership must reflect this. We will continue the fight for a university run in our interests, for the social good, where education is an end in itself, and where research is used for the betterment of mankind rather than propping up the military industrial complex or fossil fuel industry.

We leave Old Schools today, but we do not leave the struggle. Our exit is not a capitulation: we have been forced out by an unresponsive management, but staff and students, united together, will not give up the fight for a free, fair, and equal socialist education system. Students and workers, continue the fight!”

Photo credit: Solidarity College Cambridge

These are the six demands and the original conditions of the occupiers’ exit:

1) The University of Cambridge recognise UCU.

2) The VC, Stephen Toope, make a public statement calling for UCU’s demands to be met by employers and the national pensions and employment bodies.

3) The VC set out the University of Cambridge’s plans for meeting the national and local UCU demands, alongside those of UNITE and UNISON.

4) The VC sign the Undoing Borders ‘Pledge Against the Hostile Environment’.

5) The VC agree to an open meeting before the end of term as part of a commitment to meet with students and workers twice termly.

6) Students and workers face no disciplinary measures for taking part in peaceful direct action in support of the strikes.

Over the 10 day occupation period, students have hosted numerous events, including football on senate lawn, yoga classes and talks. They have also created a Facebook page called ‘Solidarity College Cambridge’, which has attracted 913 followers.

Cover photo credit: Solidarity College Cambridge