On the morning of Wednesday 4 March, the Student-Staff Solidarity Network Edinburgh released a statement stating that the Chrystal Macmillan Building (CMB) has been occupied.
This is the third occupation to happen this academic year after David Hume Tower (unofficially named Mairi Mhor Nan Oran Tower, or MMOT) and Appleton Tower.
The Student interviewed two occupiers of CMB who explained issues important to the occupation group from their perspective.
One said that they were disappointed by the negative coverage of the occupation and strikes, but not surprised due to what they described as “corporatisation and privatisation of education” which treats their students as “customers.”
They said in response to some negative reactions, “That’s why we have to organise and make sure that students are more aware and active in terms of politics of the university. It just shows people sympathetic to strikes, occupation and radical actions like this how much more work we need to do and it’s a daunting task but if anyone’s up for it, it’s this group of people.
“In general, the occupation always tries to have this dual goal: on the one hand, it’s disrupting the operations of the university, but essentially that’s what a strike is.
“When you strike, your biggest leverage or tool as strikers is to disrupt the core money-making functions of what you’re striking against e.g. taking an entire building and shutting it down for the day is a big disruption to the university and on that note, I see a lot of students complaining that it only affects students and it’s true that strikes and occupation affect students, but it’s not only students.”
They added, “It goes back to that failure to see beyond the first contact, ‘I’m annoyed that my classes got cancelled’, ‘I can’t go to lectures or talk to my lecturers,’ but you shouldn’t be angry at the striking staff, be angry at the conditions that force that staff to strike.
“CMB is too early to tell but I like it as a base of operations and it’s a smaller space to manage than the other buildings that we’ve taken and that probably bodes well for us.”
The occupier also spoke of the desire for the space to encourage “mutual co-operative learning.”
Another occupier said of the negative press regarding occupations: “I think they have escalated tensions between students and us.
“It’s important for people to know that statements that we put out are in official capacity. It’s something we agree on as a group through consensus and it’s the only representation of our stance as a group, and we understand that students have individual complaints and maybe they add up, but it’s not a fair conversation to have us on the one side being in this alternative, non-hierarchical structure where we’re trying to organise as democratically as possible, and on the other side, people who disagree with us are cyberbullying us.
“So while we do take serious concerns into consideration, it’s important to understand that we’re an honest group and when we say we aren’t doing this to hurt the students, we mean that. It’s just a fact that direct action has really unfavourable and uncomfortable consequences that will harm those who we do and don’t seek to harm, and we do try to medicate that as much as possible.
“It’s not possible to remove all of those unwanted consequences and the fact is that the university has ignored the demands of the strikers for so long… that this is the last resort we have and we won’t stop disrupting the university until we get our demands.”
They also spoke of their ‘Safer Spaces Policy’ and how this has informed their decision to not have anybody opposed to the strikes inside the occupation.
Students have also received updates on the occupation from the University. An email sent out on Thursday informed students that the William Robertson Wing was fully accessible again, though teaching and booking rooms have been affected.
The Student will continue to cover the occupation.
Follow @Occupi_ED on Twitter for more information
Image: Stinglehammer via Wikimedia Commons