Scottish Students Fully Occupied!

IssueMarch 2009
News by Sarah Young

Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde students ended occupations, after winning demands to fund scholarships, disinvest from military industries and boycott Israeli companies including Eden Springs water. These actions were part of a wave of over 20 student occupations across Britain.

Edinburgh students started their action on 10 February, just as the Glasgow occupation finished, and were able to end their occupation of the University’s George Square Theatre on 16 February.

On 13 February, I met Lucy in the theatre, to find out more about how the occupation was developing. She explained that there had been support from the nearby mosque, and other locals, who had dropped by to donate food.

Scottish Palestine Solidarity had organised a demonstration outside the theatre and the students had received messages of support from Palestinians, via email and Facebook.

George Square Theatre is cavernous; designed for the arts as well as academic lectures. It was fitting that the occupiers were using it as a calm and creative space to host a series of events for students to engage with and find out more about the Palestinian situation. This was part of ongoing outreach to a largely depoliticised student body, the aim being to seek to explain, rather than to hector. The theatre residents had also been organising workshops and meetings for themselves, with an emphasis on non-hierarchical decision-making.

Lucy explained how there are limited opportunities for students to use official channels to effect change within the university. Passing a motion at a Students’ Association meeting, which are often inquorate, represents a mandate to commence lobbying the authorities, rather than the immediate enforcement of demands.

There was a power and energy experienced from not going through the university bureaucracies, and choosing instead to engage with direct action. Since our conversations, the strategy has reaped its rewards.

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