Article @ Morning Star, published 7 March 2015
Student activists stormed and occupied the administrative centre of the University of London yesterday in order to “reclaim International Women’s Day.”
Fifty women and non-gender-binary people, lead by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), walked into the university’s iconic Senate House in the early afternoon.
Security officers quickly raised an alarm, with other students reporting that the building’s doors had been locked.
Fine art student Daisy Latham told the Star: “The security men wouldn’t even let me wait outside.”
Occupiers were eventually able to persuade Senate House management to let them stay until International Women’s Day tomorrow.
The three-room occupation, including the Senate Chamber, was planned a few weeks in advance after female students associated with NCAFC decided to take a stand against sexism in education.
The group’s Raquel Palmeira said: “Free education is an inherently feminist demand.
“When you argue for the redistribution of wealth from highly paid university executives to low-paid cleaners, you benefit migrant women.
“When you argue for a liberated curriculum, you benefit overlooked women theorists and academics,” the University College London student added.
“When you argue for true living grants for all who study, you benefit the 92 per cent of carers who are women and state living costs as one of the major factors that put them off education.
“Free education is a demand for liberation, and too often this is forgotten — or worse, name-checked and not acted upon — in the mainstream student movement.”
Occupiers announced they would use the space for “discussion and debate” on the meaning of International Women’s Day today.
In a statement published from the occupation, campaigners said they chose Senate House due to its symbolic value.
“Senate House is the administrative heart of the university, and yet it is a university that does not actually teach anyone directly, it is a service provider to its constituent colleges,” it read.
“This service and branding-based model is the epitome of the neoliberal model of marketised education.
“What good is a university that only provides a brand, not education?”
From inside Senate House, Warwick University activist Luke Dukinfield echoed the sentiment, saying: “We have chosen this space because it represents the peak of neoliberal education.
“We will be using this space as it should be used — for education and free discussion.”
A similar occupation of the building in December 2013 lead to dramatic scenes as student activists fended off violent riot police.
The Cops Off Campus solidarity campaign that followed saw thousands of people take to the streets, including some of Britain’s most acclaimed academics.