Student protests grew in the UK after the rise in tuition fees in 2010
The University of London has caused outrage among student groups by banning protests in some parts of the university
President of the University of London Union, Michael Chessum, condemned the move as an “outrageous and draconian response from University management”.
Management at the iconic Senate House library, part of the University of London, wrote to Chessum on July 26 to inform him that it was “no longer willing to tolerate demonstrations in Senate House, the cloister entrance and the East and West car parks”.
The letter claimed recent protests at the building’s entrance raised safety concerns and left students, staff and visitors “frustrated and intimidated from entering and exiting the building”.
In a written response to the ban, also signed by Daniel Cooper, ULU Vice President and Susuana Antubam, Women’s Officer, Chessum said: “Rather than engaging with the campaign properly and answering its case in the spirit of critical thinking befitting an institution of learning, the university is relying on legal threats and the force of the state.”
The dispute broke out after student protests for the 3 Cosas Campaign, which demands better rights for outsourced workers, including cleaners employed by the University of London.
The move to limit demonstrations at Senate House was seen by some students as politically motivated.
“Clearly the University is rattled by campaign, which has highlighted the stark inequalities at the heart of the institution in the national press and beyond,” the ULU statement said.
ULU vice president Daniel Cooper told the Independent newspaper that the university’s claims about the impact of the demonstrations were unfounded.
\"Most people are very understanding of protests which last on average for an hour during lunch,\" he said, adding: \"The university has used these excuses before and they are using these health and safety measures to make a political statement.\"
In response to the outcry, Senate House released a statement denying it was banning protest, saying it was simply seeking to minimise congestion around the building for the sake of students, researchers and other visitors.
The statement accused protesters of being noisy and disruptive, adding: “Some have been good- natured but some have been more militant. There have now been two arrests associated with the campaign and new rhetoric from the campaigners states that they intend to escalate the protests and instigate a “summer of disruption”. In this context, the University felt it necessary to establish some ground rules.”