As you may have heard, over the past two weeks students have been occupying the Octagon on campus in protest of cuts to bursaries.
In the face of many cynics, we have had to justify our actions to no end. Here is why I occupy.
I occupy because cuts to bursaries affect those who need education the most. These bursaries enable students from low income backgrounds to access education. They enable students to eat, to pay their rent, to afford text books. The bursary means that these students don’t have to take on work outside of university, so they have time to do well in their degrees and so they can have positive mental health without financial stress looming over them constantly.
Cutting bursaries is a direct attack on these students
I occupy for those students who, without the bursary, could not finish their degree. I occupy for those students to whom university is not an option without that vital financial support. This is why I occupy.
Queen Mary has a long history of welcoming students of low-income backgrounds, of welcoming students of all ethnicities, religions and classes. Furthermore, the original People’s Palace, of which the Octagon is a remainder of, was built to bring education to those in the East End who couldn’t afford it, those who never had the chance to have a university education. No student today could afford to book the Octagon for a study session, the books are inaccessibly locked to access; indeed, you’ll only see this building when you register for university and when you graduate.
I occupy the Octagon because this space has become just a pretty asset in Queen Mary’s jewellery box, instead of a place for learning, instead of the accessible and inclusive space it was intended to be. Like access to the Octagon, the University is trying to restrict learning to only those who can afford it by cutting bursaries.
I am occupying the Octagon because Queen Mary needs to remember its founding ethics, it needs to remember who exactly the university is there for. Is it there for only the rich or for everyone, regardless of background?
I am occupying for my fellow students. Come and join me.