Category Archives: Uncategorized

Solidarity with Sanaz Raji

                        The Exeter University occupation stands in full solidarity with Sanaz Raji, a PhD student who since 2011 has faced an ongoing battle with the University of Leeds, having had her scholarship wrongfully revoked by the ICS (Institute of Communications Studies).

 

                        On August 15th 2011, Raji found her scholarship to be revoked without prior notice, two weeks before the start of the 2011-2012 academic year, leaving her with a steep £13,000 tuition fee and no means to continue her education. The University of Leeds have failed to provide an adequate reason for rescinding her scholarship, and her treatment by the ICS has consistently contravened the rules and regulations stated in the University of Leeds Research Student Handbook. The aggressions against Raji precede the loss of her scholarship, and include denial of sick leave following a physical injury and the inappropriate questioning of her first language, which was asked of no other PhD student and which we therefore believe was part of a conscious effort to unnerve Raji by exploiting her Iranian ethnicity.

           

            The removal of her scholarship not only prevents Raji from continuing her studies but also from having a decent standard of living with the food, comfort and shelter that all students demand as a human right, regardless of nationality or race. She faces eviction from her flat and the revocation of her visa status, and has faced legal harassment from the university, who have attempted to stifle further protest with the threat of an ASBO (anti-social behaviour order). We the undersigned believe that Raji is a victim of harassment by the ICS, who have attempted to undermine her confidence in resisting the illegal action facing her with racial abuse in the form of condescension and intimidation.

           

Raji has had little active support from organisations that purport to defend all students, regardless of social status or background. She has had minimal response from her local student union and from the NUS, while the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) have accused Raji of abusive behaviour when after much delay and frustration, she repeatedly requested a letter to be drafted by the committee leadership and sent to the Home Office. While she has received solidarity from grassroots campaigners and friends from much of the UK, she has little access to legal aid primarily due to government cutbacks and her own legal status as a temporary resident.

 

There is no justification for the abuse inflicted upon Sanaz and others in similar situations. Not only are such incidents an attack on her human rights, we believe that there is no economic rationale for any such sanctions on students, including the introduction of tuition fees and the subsequent loanbook privatisation.

 

            We firmly believe that Raji is the latest victim of a wave of increased marketisation of campus life, with policy enacted not to benefit students but to rob us of our living standards, our agency, our quality of education, our transparency and our very right to study. We commend Raji on her resolve, and recognise that she and others in similar situations, particularly students that are part of a minority and are thus at risk of marginalisation, cannot be left to stand alone.

 

                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As such, with Raji’s case as a lightning rod, we call for:

 

* Universities UK to condemn the ill-treatment of Sanaz Raji during and since her time spent at the ICS.

 

* The NUS and its International Student caucus to launch further campaign action to combat the systemic ill-treatment of students, particularly those that are POC (people of colour).

 

* A pledge by all student campaign bodies to actively maintain a safe space for the international students they are mandated to represent, both locally and nationally.

 

* Teaching and university staff union bodies including the UCU and Unite to maintain a dialogue with student activists working to resist attacks towards staff and students.

 

* The reinstatement of Sanaz Raji and the scholarship to which she is entitled, the fulfilment of all her prior noted complaints, the withdrawal of her eviction notice and all legal action towards her, a full public apology to Raji in the university’s published media and nationally circulated printed newpapers, and an investigation into the conduct towards Raji and all previous international student alumni. Additionally, we call for a reform of the appeals procedure to prevent future incidents.

 

* All students of both UK-born and international status to publicly raise incidents they have experienced similar to Sanaz’s, and to call upon their local representative bodies and campaign groups to actively support them and show solidarity in times of crisis. Additionally, we call for the establishing of networks of radical students and staff to combat threats against international students.

 

           

For more information we ask that you join the Justice 4 Sanaz group: (https://www.facebook.com/groups/468135473264681/)

 

Alternatively, if you do not have Facebook, more information can be obtained from the Change.org petition: (https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/vice-chancellor-university-of-leeds-stop-treating-international-students-like-2nd-class-citizens-2/) 

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Occupation against privatisation of the student loan book

Exeter students have entered into occupation of the Queens Senior Common room to demonstrate against the privatisation of the student loan-book and to defend the right to protest. Last year Danny Alexander announced the government’s intention to sell the student loan-book, and a Whitehall-commissioned study included a proposal to retrospectively change the terms and conditions of existing student loans to allow interest rates on them to increase. If implemented this would mean students and graduates paying extortionate amounts on their student loans.

Privatisation equates to profiteering, costing all students.

In protesting against this, the broader marketization of higher education, and other related issues, students across the country have marched, occupied, campaigned, and linked this issue to the fight for better pay, terms and conditions by campus workers. In response to sustained campaigning for several years by students at the universities of London, Birmingham and Sussex, university managements have done all in their power to clamp down on student protestors. 5 students at Sussex University were suspended from their courses for taking part in student protests. University management at the University of London made use of the police to break up a student protest, which resulted in a number of arrests including the editor of the student union’s newspaper. The metropolitan police have come under criticism for their heavy-handed, arguably brutal treatment of student protestors. In the past few days, student protestors have also been arrested in Birmingham. This occupation is in defence of the right to protest and in solidarity with arrested students.

The occupation is part of a national week of action called by the Students’ Assembly Against Austerity, with actions taking place at 45 campuses across the country. There is an on-going industrial dispute between campus workers and university managements across the country on the issue of pay, and the occupation supports workers fighting for their right to a fair wage.

The occupation calls on the Exeter Students’ Guild and the National Union of Students to step up their campaigning on these issues, and to campaign alongside students and workers to challenge university managements and the government on these points. The occupation also calls on the University of Exeter, as part of the Russell Group, to back away from pressing for a further increase in the cap on tuition fees.

The occupation began at 5pm Monday 3rd February, and will continue until Friday 7th February. The occupation will be supporting striking workers on Thursday 6th February on the picket lines, and will be bringing the issue of privatisation of student loans to the sabb elections currently taking place in the Students’ Guild.

The occupation will feature a ‘Free University’ which will include a number of talks and seminars on various topics, to demonstrate the kind of free education we’re fighting for.

Educate! Agitate! Organise! Unite!

–          the Exeter occupiers
https://twitter.com/ExeterUniOccupy

STATEMENT FROM THE EXETER OCCUPATION

On Tuesday 3rd December, many staff at the University will strike against the proposed cut to their pay of 13% in real terms. We the students have organised an occupation of the Queens’ building in support of this issue. Whilst many may see this pay cut as necessary in the current economic climate, it is difficult to see the justification for these cuts in the context of the Vice Chancellor has received a bonus on top of his already six-figure salary. 

This is part of a national student movement. Students in the Universities of Birmingham, Sheffield, Goldsmiths, Edinburgh, Ulster, Sussex and others have all occupied in solidarity with the staff striking against these cuts among other issues such as the planned privatisation of student debt, campus services, and the right to protest. The truth is that the people cutting staff wages are the same people privatising our student loans. Students and staff alike must unite against cuts that affect us all. 

Many realise the detrimental effects these cuts and other issues will have on our education and in general at a time when the cost of higher education is so great. However, as students we are consistently under-represented by those who claim to represent us in the NUS. This is why students across the country are organising as one and taking direct action to fight against cuts and fees.

The cuts themselves link in to a wider economic policy pursued by the current government of marketising higher education. After the increase in student fees in 2010, we are now seeing the privatisation of student debt which may lead to further rises in the price of university education, prohibiting poorer sectors of society from attending. We find ourselves, as students, in a situation where we are paying an increasing amount for an education of decreasing quality due to staff pay cuts. In the recent e-mail circulated around the student body, we were ensured that the university would ‘withhold pay from any member of staff who participates in strike action’ whilst no balanced explanation of the reasoning behind the strike was given. 

It is clear that the interests of university leadership are utterly opposed to the interests of those who make up our universities – that is, us, the staff and students. 

This is just one in a series of actions on the behalf of students nationwide to fight the increasing corporatisation of universities. Universities should be places for free thought and balanced discourse, accessible to all, and not subject to the whims of government or big business.

Educate! Agitate! Organise! Unite!

– The Exeter Occupiers