• Thu. May 30th, 2024

Appleton Occupied: students barricade key building in solidarity with striking staff

ByCraig Buchan

Feb 27, 2020

Student activists have occupied the University of Edinburgh’s Appleton Tower in support of striking Universities and Colleges Union staff.

The building was barricaded from the inside on Wednesday morning by OccupiED, a student organisation aimed at supporting staff on strike, and classes were prevented from taking place in the building.

Informatics students, who predominantly use the buildings, are being allowed access to equipment in the building, but teaching sessions are not being allowed to go ahead.

This includes the five large lecture theatres used by many departments across the university.

There has been a notably high presence of campus security at the main entrance to Appleton Tower since the occupation began.

Speaking exclusively to The Student, one member of the occupation, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “We have occupied the building in solidarity with the UCU and their four fights.

“In addition to those UCU demands, we as an occupation think it is really important that the university has minimal compliance with the hostile environment policy, which is a policy from the Home Office about the monitoring of students on certain visas.

“Essentially, if they are not attending tutorials or certain other things, students or workers can get deported and that is obviously very stressful for them.

“It affects them if they were ill or if they were striking, so it is very hard to strike if you miss three tutorials and suddenly you are getting deported back to a country that might not be safe for you.

“We have been talking with students and staff. There has been quite a lot of support.

“We have been bringing awareness to people who maybe were not so clear about the strike beforehand and people are generally quite supportive, particularly the students.”

The spokesperson also responded to the Stirling 13 situation, where 13 students at the University of Stirling are, should their appeal be unsuccessful, facing an eight week suspension and eviction from university accommodation for a similar occupation during industrial action in November and December 2019.

The spokesperson said: “We are really scared. The University of Edinburgh has also made noises about disciplinary action regard the occupation here which they did not do last occupation.

“We feel like the thing at Stirling has created a bad trend where universities are feeling like they can be increasingly authoritarian.

“Stirling is a campus university so by suspending students and not allowing them on campus they have effectively rendered them homeless. This has really potentially dangerous consequences for students who might not have parents with a home they can access or for students who are not from Britain.”

The spokesperson added: “I think the occupation is working in that we are showing clear solidarity with the workers and we are increasing the visibility of the strike.”

Responding to the occupation, a spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said: “The University respects the right of people to protest lawfully and peacefully. We are working hard to relocate affected teaching and other activities to other areas, and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our students.

“While we understand the strength of feeling expressed by some of our staff and students over the issues that have led to industrial action, we have a duty to the entire University community to keep any disruption to a minimum.”
UCU Industrial action is due to continue until 13 March unless a resolution is reached sooner.

Image: Stinglehammer via Wikimedia Commons