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Students occupy Octagon in protest against bursary cuts

“Three weeks of strike. Three days of occupation. And still no answer? How come, Bailey?”

Students at Queen Mary are protesting against the recent bursary cuts as well as showing solidarity with the UCU strike.

They took control of the Octagon, the university’s most prized room in Queens’ Building, on the 12th March, and have been in occupation for four days at the time of writing.

The demands of the students have been distributed on flyers across the campus, and they include:

  • Reverse bursary cuts
  • Bailey to release statement of solidarity
  • Redefine purpose of bursaries
  • Make university finance more transparent
  • Bailey to join striking staff at the picket
  • Release gender pay gap and diversity data

Occupiers have stressed the importance of this activism for Queen Mary’s participation in the wider UUK dispute as well as the privatisation of education.

One student old The Print, “As a university, we tend to bury our heads in the sand and pretend these problems don’t affect us, but they do, and they will keep on affecting us until we find a real solution. That’s what this occupation is about. All students are welcome, whatever your political background. This isn’t a university building anymore, it’s a student building, and that’s exactly how it should be.”

This isn’t a university building anymore, it’s a student building, and that’s exactly how it should be.

Another occupant said, “It’s important to occupy, especially when looking at the level of secrecy management has undergone to justify cutting money from students that need it. It is truly awful.”

One member of the occupation described how they got to a point where they knew they could not just carry on as normal whilst bursaries were being slashed and lecturers neglected. “I couldn’t sleep,” they exclaimed.

Another students added, “The university is taking a million pound gamble on low income and vulnerable students. So, it’s important to come and show solidarity, so that the university knows it is not OK.”

Students occupying the Octagon agreed, “Everyone has been really positive, and it is lovely to see how much support we’ve gotten from fellow students and lecturers. We’ve even received messages of solidarity from MPs!”

“We are grateful to the Students’ Union for their support and we are so thankful to anyone who has donated food or water.”

The general view on interactions with management has been that Bailey and his team have been “outwardly dismissive.”

Some students have taken refuge in the fact “management were not expecting the level of support and the attention that the occupation has gotten.”

One student finally added, “This occupation will go on as long as it has to. We are equipped to last for weeks if it comes to it. There’s no sign of letting up.”

Occupy the Octagon

Images – #OccupyTheOctagon / Twitter and Liam Pape

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