The Guardian reported on Friday that the University of Arts London (UAL) has taken legal action over students staging an occupation over foundation course cuts. 14 of the students received a letter from lawyers, asking them to attend court on the 14th April.
The occupation of the reception area of the Central St Martins College of Art took place following the University’s announcement that 580 foundation places will be cut over the next 2 years. Hundreds of students participated in the occupation, 15 of which the letter named (some of those being elected student union officers).
Stephen Marshall, the UAL’s secretary and registrar, claims the university hopes to regain possession of the reception area “to prevent any further impact on students and staff as we head into the summer term”. However, understandably the letter has been met with outrage from the students protesting against these cuts.
Shelley Asquith, president of the Student’s Union says, “I was not consulted whatsoever over huge changes to our courses; and now I have an injunction being brought against me for having the nerve to protest the cuts. I think this demonstrates the lack of respect the UAL has for student opinion, and how little they care about our welfare. This whole process has been underhand, autocratic and put a lot of students and staff under enormous stress.”
Numerous other students have voiced their upset at the university’s lack of consideration for general student welfare. Daisy Latham, a fine art student of UAL, commented, “The university have got their priorities completely wrong.” She claims that management at UAL have made a “decision to criminalise their own students”.
Following this absurd action taken by UAL, it seems they are rejecting students who stand up for what they believe in, and make their voices heard. Instead they repress the student body’s opinion when concerned with cuts to courses which will mainly affect the student body. Many universities claim to encourage students to get involved with the university, and the student union is an integral part of the student voice. However, the apparent rejection of this student voice contradicts this encouragement. With the recent student elections having taken place nationwide, the elected representatives of UAL hold a precarious moral position; speak out and risk their position in the university, or lay low and risk the student’s voice going unheard.
What is your experience of getting your voice heard at University? Have you felt your opinion has been brushed over or ignored? Or does your university have a great technique for implementing student’s ideas? We would love to hear your opinions in the comments below!