Wow, never been this tired. What. A. Month.

The camp was packed up in the early hours of today, it was felt that with everyone at uni finished, the meeting having taken place, and having been there a month that it was time to leave.

We had a gorgeous little party, and a great month even though it was also really stressful and exhausting at times. Met so many great people and learnt so much. Anyway i’m not gonna go into details because

1 i’m knackered, we all are. Come to think of it, we have yet to explain the meeting that took place with management. We will go into details when less tired but the long and short of it is that it was throughly unsatisfying.

2 this is all contained artistically within the extremely imperfect yet sort of quite nice DIY zine we threw together yesterday afternoon and we’d much rather you got a copy of that – please send an email entitled ‘zine’ to occupybrookes@gmail.com to get your hands on a copy

Thanks so much to everyone who has made the Occupation so special and who, through their words, actions and material contributions has sustained the occupation for this amount of time – we never anticipated it lasting this long and could not have done it without your support.

‘Peace’

xo

So, i’d like to give you an update and i’d like to clear something up.

Firstly, at long last we have been given an official oppurtunity to meet with the Vice Chancellor and other members of senior management. The meeting was offered to us yesterday for any time on Wednesday before 3:30pm – we choose 2pm. Five of the core occupiers will be listening to their arguments (which they have not yet put forward in written form as was requested on the 19th of April when we sent them our original letter), and hopefully they will also listen to ours and it won’t just be lipservice. We will of course keep you updated on the outcome 🙂

The meeting will be followed by a demonstration at 4pm outside the main reception (after 2pm exams are done) – we hope it will be celebratory in nature, but failing that we will have a good old protest! Please come, bring yourself, banners, and anything noisy.

As for this rumour that is being spread that we have turned down numerous attempts by senior management to meet with us, presumabley to make us look unreasonable, this is obviously not true. There was one incident, early in the campaign, where the vice chancellor’s (Janet Beer’s) secretary came out and told us “Janet’s got back to back meetings until July. But she’s just had a cancellation and can have a chat with you now if you want”. With literally no warning, and with some of our core occupiers in lectures at the time, we declined, stating that we thought it right that we be given acceptable notice, time to discuss as a group and to prepare in the proper way – needless to say she was not overly impressed by this and that was the only time that any sort of an offer was made.

Having camped out for four weeks (it’s just gone midnight so it’s now precisely four weeks!) in the worst imaginable weather and somehow juggling exams and coursework, we do think that the least we deserved was a proper written response, followed by a meeting, but hey, maybe that’s our ‘cuckoo’ ultra-leftist brains going crazy again ;-p (see Paul Mason’s comment in the previous post!!). Anywho, that’s what really happened, or didn’t happen as the case may be.

Fingers crossed for tomorrow (today), we will do our best. Thanks so much for the ongoing support that everyone is giving, it really is the best feeling when so many people want to help the campaign to win.

❤

Some student unions are political, others less so but put on great clubnights and events. Well we know the latter is a no-go since we don’t even have a union bar anymore, but what about their politics?

Pierre fills us in…

Last week we had the (chorate) Student Union AGM and I presented my barrage of 12 motions. Normally this is how Student Union politics should work, students submit motions, they get voted on, which then determines Student Union policy. Except that I was the only person to submit and speak to my motions, and only ~20 people turned up to the reconvened AGM (many of the people we elected to the SU didn’t even bother to attend).

This is problematic, and it shows that the Student Union has an ‘outreach problem’. Other than announcing it on their facebook wall two days before it happened there was nothing. There was supposed to be an email going out to all students reminding them that the AGM was taking place last week. No such email was sent. Staff at the SU have been contacted via email regarding their complete failure to inform students of this one oppurtunity for democratic input but have failed to reply – somewhat of a trend in this university is to simply ignore any trouble maker who has the gall to hold them to account… (post on the Occupy Brookes movement as a whole to follow…)

Now, we could just put this down to general incompetence, but I want to argue that the Students Union actively manufactures apathy among the student body by refusing to politicise them.

When we organised for the November 9th protest there were excuses deployed for why the Student Union wouldn’t officially endorse it. This is hardly surprising given that our current president, Paul Mason, is a self-confessed Conservative, UKIP supporter, and believes that we should “work with the government” and should not “continue to keep going out on demonstrations”. In the AGM he actually condemned all the student demonstrations that took place in London against tuition fees (which includes many Brookes students) in the run up to the white paper, stating that they should have been studying rather than protesting, and he voted against the proposed motion of fighting fees and of supporting the rights of students to protest.

By taking a professed ‘apolitical’ stance the SU actually just rolls over to accept the status-quo, in doing so it implicitly supports the dominant ideology and the dominant discourse. Taken further the SU is hostile to any form of student political engagement.

At the first Student Council meeting I attended I was told that the SU ‘doesn’t do motions’, and that if I wanted something done I’d just have to talk to one of the sabbatical officers and see what they said. As explained above, when the elected officers disagree there’s not much we can do. Motions and formal democratic processes allow us to keep the union to account.

I introduced a motion on solidarity with the University and College Union when they take action over pensions. Well, 8 days later the lecturers went on strike, I was on the picket lines and the Student Union were nowhere to be seen. This tells us a lot about our union, but far less about students.

Students are not inherently apathetic. In just a few hours 100s of students signed the petition to scrap fee waivers, and we actually had to stop because we ran out of paper, having ourselves underestimated the level of support (incidentally, we do need more signatures and anyone who could help us with petitioning would be much appreciated!).

When you actually talk to students you will see that they do care, some protest, some sign petitions, some start campaign-based societies of which Brookes has many, some support movements from the sidelines by donating time, skills, food, drink, contacts, solidarity, and as Occupy Brookes has shown, some even camp out in the rain for three and a half weeks (and still going).

Despite all the criticisms in this post the Student Union is actually a really strong force for change and in the right hands can be used to effectively mobilise students. Sure, we can organise grassroots campaigns, but the SU has a headquarters and paid staff and a relatively massive budget, all of which is out of our grasp as a self-organised group of students.
If the SU had the motivation to act, here are two fairly moderate suggestions to get it started:

  • When students in other countries are persecuted, it should speak out on their behalf. When students in the UK are persecuted, again, it should speak up.
  • Take an active role in events like International Students Day, International Womens Day, or May Day.

We are all members of our SU and we all pay their salaries. We are told our SU is there to “represent, support, and inspire” us – they need to make good on their promise.

Hi there,

The previous blog post told you to sign the petition but did not tell you how – this is what’s wrong with horizontal movements I guess!

Anyway, here it is! http://www.change.org/petitions/oxford-brookes-university-scrap-fee-waivers-at-brookes?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=share_button_modal

Would be great if you could sign it and share it around as much as possible. We need to get loads of signatures by next Monday so that we can present it to the Senior Management Team ahead of their meeting on Thursday where their proposals will be presented to the board of governors.

Thanks to everyone who has supported the campaign thus far, we would not have lasted this long if it weren’t for you – everyone who has come for a chat, signed the petition, played a song, leant us tents, sleeping bags, roll mats, who has given us money, food, even cooked for the occupiers! You’re all incredible.

It’s not over yet but the weather and exams and deadlines are quite a strain – we need you to make it strong. Whether sharing the petition with friends or actually coming and pitching a tent, your input could make or break the campaign in this critical week so don’t be shy!

xxxxx

As the occupation enters its third week, university management is still not agreeing to hold a meeting with us regarding the fee waivers and bursaries issue! We are hoping that will soon change…

Thanks for all the continuing support and if you haven’t already, SIGN THE PETITION!!

 

 

edit: here it is! http://www.change.org/petitions/oxford-brookes-university-scrap-fee-waivers-at-brookes?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=share_button_modal

please don’t sign it if you have already signed the paper one 🙂

So we’ve made it to Day Ten, the first milestone under our post-Occupation Revolutionary Metric Calendar!!* And we’re also celebrating ten days of consecutive rain!! So it would probably be fair to assume that it was our occupation that brought the deluge to Oxford, and we can only apologise for the biblical levels of water that have been blighting us all of late.

So what’s been going on at the camp? Well, yesterday we had a fantastic lecture from Dr. Simon Underwood entitled “Why do men have nipples?: Human evolution in thirty minutes”. He explained so much so thoroughly that it made us wonder how come nature took so long! I suppose the only answer is that Dr. Underwood is in fact an omniscient being.

Today we had Kate Byard-Pennington running a bunting-making workshop, so our site is about 100% more beautiful, and we also had a visit from a group of Brookes Architecture graduates who built the willow structure that we’re currently using as our central tent. They said that they were really pleased that their structure was being put to such good use, and allayed our concerns that we might be doing it any damage. At the risk of being incredibly hippie-ish, it’s really cool to be staying a structure that is actually alive and growing around us!

* this is a joke. Calm down.

Hi hoo happy campers!

(I still can’t get over how brilliant it is to be able to wake up exactly one minute before needing to be at university. A quick stretch, a splash of water on the face, and – with toothpaste on the chin – I am in the library at not a minute past 9… Joy.)

I feel I must tell you about yesterday, which was a truely beautiful day at camp.

At 10am a news team arrived from London. They stayed with us throughout the day, interviewing occupiers, staff, and passers by, catching a First Aid workshop at 11, a performance by the Fortune Players in the afternoon, and an upcycling workshop of lantern-making led by Alex (the lanterns are beautiful and can be seen floating around the camp). The news team even tried to catch the Vice Chancellor herself! But with little success…

Music. Now this is what makes me smile when I think of day 6. As you know, there were a number of events going on throughout the day (we are always looking for more so if anyone has anything they would like to perfom/teach/talk about that would be wonderful! Email occupybrookes@gmail.com and we will put you on the calendar!), but perhaps the most smile inducing of events was the performance by the Fortune Players (a group of students putting on a musical at the university this week), which coincided exactly with the arrival of our much missed round and yellow friend.

Oh how we’ve missed you… But you came back!! And just in time.

Picture this: a group of 10ish singers, boys and girls, one guitar, flowery dresses, a bandana (I haven’t seen one of those since the nineties!!), an audience of smiling occupiers, and the sweet melody of various sound treats from the musical HAIR. All on the grass, with the cameras rollin’ and people strollin’ by with twitching ears.

It was beautiful.

That aside, we received a reply from the Vice Chancellor’s secretary! The VC is ‘busy until mid July’. Hmmm. We will see about that. And many visitors throughout the day.

Best of wishes,

Over and out and shake it all about!

Coo-COOOOO-coo-coo. Coo-COOOOO-coo-coo. Thus begins day 5 of Occupy Brookes. The pigeon: standing in for the rooster as nature’s infuriating alarm clock. I check my phone: it’s hard to be too upset with a cool ten hours of sleep. I reluctantly leave the toasty confines of my tent to discover none other than Mr. Sun, hat firmly on! Time for some light morning reading: should I plump for a list of higher education facts and figures, a ’50s study of communism written by what appears to be a matinee idol from Jupiter, or Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil? Eek. (All book donations welcome!)

As my camp-mates awaken from their slumber, I’m reminded of my duty as camp omnivore to ensure the consumption of all meat and dairy. Guess it’s chicken and fromage frais for breakfast! Another day full of wonderful people to contact and fabulous events to arrange – a journalist agrees to lug video equipment all the way from London just for little old us! She’ll be covering us from 10 AM this coming tuesday – as always, we welcome anyone to come down and share views.

Speaking of fabulous events, we’ve been bowled over by your generosity – food donations continue to keep us warm and fed, and are always gratefully received! We’ll aim to return some of that goodwill by setting up a petition stall laden with chocolatey goodies – as many signatures as possible would be appreciated! Hopefully we’ll be around from 10:30 on monday and around 4 PM on wednesday, to coincide with the graduate fair. As always, follow us on twitter and facebook for more specific information!

And as far as specific information goes, we have an online calendar! Nice and simple to remember – http://bit.ly/occupybrookescal

Expect us to update this with daily events at specific times – check back often to see what’s on!

The weather continues to be a fickle ally – several hours of glorious sunshine gave way to ominous thunder, a single flash of lightning, and hail that was compared alternately to “golfballs” and “solero shots”. Oh, and rain. Did I mention rain? It rained quite a lot. All over a placard. Never a dull moment in the occupy camp!

And so, 6PM rolled around: time for our second general assembly of the day (delayed by the presence of a rather gorgeous vegan bean bake). Several important decisions, five eerily accurate caricatures and a couple of over-enthusiastic hand-gestures later, and we had successfully navigated the choppy waters of democracy once again. Alas, it was time for me to leave! Everyone was a champ, braving the accumulated body odor of about four days just for the simple gesture of a hug. I packed up my tent, waved goodbye, and, wiping away tears, began the long journey home. I checked my phone to find perhaps the perfect end to my stay with the occupy brookes team: a message from student finance England – “your student finance will be paid into your bank tomorrow”. A personal reminder of how lucky I am to be receiving means-tested support, and of how important it is to fight to give future generations the same chance.

And so, for me, it’s back to warm beds, heaping plates of meat and bubbly baths. And revision and exams and essays and stuff. I’m so grateful to the team at occupy brookes for being so welcoming and amicable, and that I could play a part in their story. For those brave souls who remain, somehow mish-mashing study and dedicated activism into some kind of frankensteiny stew, all that remains to be said is: bon appetit!

The rain is pouring down out there so seemed like a perfect time to slink off to the library and do an update. Yesterday saw Adam Ramsay from People and Planet do a really interesting talk on the economic arguments against the cuts – basically the amount of tax avoidance which goes on in this country is catastrophic and the billions that is lost due to the likes of vodofone and other companies who are not team players could save so many of the services we are told ‘need’ to be cut. This was well received and big thanks to Adam for coming down. Other than that it was a pretty quiet day with a lot of admin and planning with some sing alongs in the evening.

We have been in regular contact with the local media who are all really interested in what’s going on, as are students. Hopefully word is getting out that the camp is not a scary place but a welcoming place as more and more people are coming down to chat about what’s happening and get involved. More tents are springing up every day and gradually we are growing which is very exciting. People keep giving us food supplies too which is really lovely 🙂

In terms of our demands, we have yet to hear the Vice-Chancellor’s response and have been told by her secretary that she will look at the letter on Monday – we will of course keep you posted.

As usual we had our general assembly at 12 noon yesterday and today, and have all agreed that what we really need is as many activities and events as possible – there are so many people that support this cause who have various skills to share so why not put them to good use? Political struggle can be fun as well as, well.. damp.

So far we’ve had samba, music, poetry, economics, and even an impromptu philosophy workshop. So what else? Here is a list of some of our ideas. If you or someone you know would like to lead any of these workshops or discussions please get in contact via occupybrookes@gmail.com and soon!

SOME IDEAS

Talks/discussions/debates on university and what its purpose is, the value of the arts (since they are at particular risk vis a vis the cuts)

Neoliberal economics, Marxism, and everything in between

Anything on the environment, feminism, politics, philsophy, history, architecure, film – any passion you have

Story-telling, ghost stories

Music performances, poetry, plays

Guerilla gardening, urban foraging

Activist legal rights

Banner making

Zine workshops – how to make a zine

Stitch n’ bitch (knitting)

Teach a language

Sports/games – Circus skills, dance class, judo

PIP ERROR – the independent student magazine needs articles

So please let us know ASAP so we can advertise it to as many students as possible – thanks!

Don’t forget to add us as a friend on facebook if you haven’t already (‘Occupy Brookes’) and keep up with what’s happening on twitter by adding ‘Occupy Brookes’ there too, and you can use the hashtag ‘occupybrookes’

Over and out!

Re: The destruction of the public education system

Dear Professor Beer,

We are writing to you with the expectation that you will acknowledge our right as students of this University to determine its future, and ensure that our institution represents us on a national level. Our occupation of Oxford Brookes University is not something that we take lightly. As current students, we have lectures, seminars, coursework deadlines and exams looming.

However, we consider the direction of Higher Education policy to be of critical importance; future generations of students are being sold out by the Government, this institution and the Higher Education sector as a whole. We refuse to sit idly by whilst this happens. Oxford Brookes has the capacity to resist these changes locally.

We are therefore calling for action on the following points:

1. The Government is currently dismantling and destroying the Higher Education system in the UK. Students are leaving University with overwhelmingly high levels of debts, and many potential students are being discouraged entirely from applying. We are calling for you to make a public statement condemning the hike in tuition fees, and stating Oxford Brookes University’s support for the principle of free public education.

2. The introduction of fee waivers as a method of reducing the cost of degrees has been called “a con trick” by NUS President Liam Burns. Research shows that most students will not benefit from fee waivers unless they go on to earn over £35,000p.a. Graduates earning less than this will not feel the benefit, as the debt will be written off before the reduction makes any difference.  People who earn more money benefit more. We are calling for you to abolish fee waivers at Oxford Brookes (as UWE and others already have) and to put that money in the hands of the students who need it most, when they need it most, through increased bursaries.

3. We are sure that staff are trying to keep up their morale but the anti-educational flow of Government policy is hampering this, and students are feeling the effects. More and more control is being taken away from the academic staff upon whom this University relies and as students, this management style impacts negatively on our student experience as more time is diverted from class preparation towards the fulfilment of bureaucratic requirements. We are calling for your commitment to letting academics share their wealth of knowledge and expertise with students, without unnecessary interference from Senior Management.

We are sure you share many of our concerns and we appreciate the University’s co-operation thus far. We look forward to your written response.

Regards,

The Occupy Brookes Team