At 1PM today over 50 students and staff gathered to show opposition to tuition fees and to the support the occupation of Lower Parliament Hall which has been going on since Monday morning.
Two of us from the occupation were invited out to address the crowd, and we spoke about the demands and purpose of the protest. I affirmed that the university had refused to negotiate on rescinding their positive assessment of the Browne report and the possibility of greater consultation with students before cuts. Pleas for respecting education were also denied, when we were refused the possibility of leaving briefly to attend to tutorials. It was stressed that we would not now, nor ever, give in to the University’s bully boy tactics such as denying us heating, freedom of movement and internet access. We emphasized that aside from our two principle demands, the university should also develop its widening access policy. On no grounds should Student Support Services be targeted in a moment when, according to studies by NUS Scotland, 68% of students already work more than the recommended 10 hours per week and 36% of students considering dropping out because of financial worries. Alex Bennett read out messages of support that we had received from all over the world, including an occupation in Puerto Rico, a host of English Universities, and Greek activists.
Students on the outside asked what they could do to help (we were giv en bread and chocolate!) and one suggested that passing cars beep their horns in support (many beeps have ensued!). But it was lecturers who were the most outspoken. One affirmed that the University had already threatened that there would be less staff here next year, whilst another said that he would arrange extra tuition for any of his students involved in the occupation. One professor has agreed to participate in a teach-in before we leave tomorrow. Following the rally, students from the occupation met with concerned staff and agreed to the establishment of a broad anti-cuts group here which would hopefully involve broader community organizations like the church. Its inaugural meeting will be next Tuesday at 7:30PM, venue TBC. We will be leaving the Occupation tomorrow, Thursday 2PM in order to attend the national demonstration in Edinburgh for which the Student Association and the UCU have put on a bus. But we have vowed to stay vigilant!