Students Occupy Newcastle University

400 Newcastle University lecturers have commended students’ 16 day occupation of their Fine Art building.

Protesters lie in a line with gaffer-taped mouths

Today, Friday 10th November 2010, the Vice Chancellor issued a letter demanding their removal by 12noon. They stayed. Their teachers stood outside the long windows, and cheered them. Via mobile phones, they told the 30 occupiers of the petition given to the Vice Chancellor this morning. In it, the 400 call for the University to respect their democratic right to protest.

Diana Paton, History lecturer and leader of the petition told me she is ‘proud’ of the students who she says are acting not for themselves, but for the next generation of learners.

Until today, the University has supported the protest, but in today’s letter, officials said it had gone on long enough. After yesterday’s Parliamentary vote to raise the tuition fee cap to £9000, the University says the point has been made and lost. They say they are concerned for the students’ welfare, after unsubstantiated reports of illness among the occupiers. They are also concerned about ongoing disruption to other students’ studies.

The occupiers are running a tight multi-media ship, getting their message out in a very well structured blog. It’s well worth a look.

This morning, their fire escape – used to allow some occupiers to come and go – was wedged shut. The protesters called the firebrigade and had the action reversed. A bike lock used to barricade them in was confiscated. They had the police return the stolen property.

At around 2pm today, the University’s lawyers issued an injunction forcing their removal. They refused and held a meeting to agree to end the occupation on Sunday.

The vice chancellor has held a meeting with staff. The press still waits to hear if the Vice Chancellor will raise Newcastle University’s tuition fees to £9000 (rumours have it at £7k) and whether they will lobby Parliament’s decision.

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