The statement comes just a day before over a thousand are set to march against a surging police presence at the University of London over protests against the closure of the student union, ULU, and a growing campaign for equal conditions for outsourced cleaners there. Last Wednesday 41 students were dramatically arrested after occupying Senate House, the University’s decision-making centre.
On the same day, five students were suspended for taking part in an anti-privatisation occupation at the University of Sussex amid a strike by university workers and a general revival of student activism in the UK. The suspended students were later reinstated, with disciplinary procedures continuing, after a 10,000-strong petition, protests and an emergency union meeting of around 600 activists. Other Universities such as Birmingham and Sheffield have also gone into occupation in recent weeks against the privatisation of the student loan book and low pay.
YUSU’s call to action follows the wave of industrial action by university workers in late November and early December over a 13% real-terms pay cut over the past few years.
In the blog post published on the union’s website called ‘YUSU – United with students + staff, for education across the UK’ – President Kallum Taylor pointed out that students “have been forced to endure everything from the cutting of EMA grants to the trebling of tuition fees, with the threat of the cap being lifted hovering in the future.”
Speaking out for the first time since the arrests erupted at ULU a week ago, YUSU said: “Education should not be played with, and that’s why we won’t be sitting on the fence.”
However, the union itself admitted its last-minute decision to join the chorus of opposition against growing police presence was “not before time.”
In the statement, the union said it “wholeheartedly supports both the aims of [the] student protesters and their right to protest freely and without harm or threats, and looks forward to campaigning with them alongside other students’ unions in a powerful but peaceful manner to improve the lives and prospects of students both in York and nationwide.”
And speaking to Nouse, Taylor said: “It’s important that our colleagues in students’ unions across the whole country know where we stand on matters of principle which might be being tested in their own parts.”
He added individual campuses like York are “pivotal in shaping the national agenda, getting the public on board and not giving an overall stealthish legitimacy to attacks on an education system for all, and ultimately, the right in itself to peacefully protest.
“If the boots came in here at York, I know we’d want to at least know there were others spreading our word and standing up for us.”
Calling for York students to show their solidarity with campaigners in Sussex and London, Taylor asked York students “to attend any of the #copsoffcampus demos which are dotted around the country – but to do so safely, and to remember the absolute key in not giving anyone a legit reason to take physical force on them. Be loud, be peaceful and keep smiling.”
Nearly 3000 students – alongside public figures such as Green peer and former Deputy Mayor Jenny Jones – have pledged to march at the University of London Union today (Wednesday) from 2pm as part of the ‘#copsoffcampus’ demonstration to assert the right to protest in Higher Education and to save their union from closure by management. The NUS is backing the students’ actions, although the protest itself is organised by the left-wing National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. ‘Solidarity’ demonstrations will take place across the country, with over a hundred pledging to march in Leeds.
This Friday York will host the first ever Yorkshire Student Assembly with delegates from 12 universities in the region attending to discuss planning “a big student turnout in the Euro elections and some common campus-based campaigns – such as opposing the heart-breaking cuts to the National Scholarship Programme.”