Press Release: Monday 13th December 2010

News release: For Immediate Release
Exeter Occupation continues

Students at the University of Exeter are continuing their peaceful occupation of the largest lecture theatre on campus to protest against the cuts to higher education and the subsequent rise in tuition fees. The group of over 100 undergraduate and postgraduate students have received impressive support from students from Exeter college, staff, and members of the general public since they marched in to Newman Lecture Theatre A at the Peter Chalk building last Wednesday.

The students have vowed to stay until the end of term this Friday when they will march out again with drums playing and banners flying. The numbers have fluctuated between 20 and 100, but support within the community remains at a high level, with over 550 people subscribing to a page called “Exeter Occupation” on the social networking website Facebook.

The occupiers have set up a “Free University”, where anyone can teach and anyone can learn. “This is in direct contrast to what the government is trying to do to our education system” said Caitlin Hayward-Tapp, a third year English student “They want to privatise schools by making them into Academies, and raise the level of tuition fees so only the children of the rich will be able to go to university. We want to enable everyone to learn about whatever they want to learn, without payment”.

University lecturers and others have spoken on such subjects as ‘Democracy and Space in Classical Athens’, ‘The Geography of Protest’, and ‘Education Alternatives’. Meanwhile, occupiers are learning about Tai Chi, consensus decision-making and French feminists.

All kinds of people from Devon and beyond have expressed support. A group of children from Exeter Woodcraft Folk ran craft activities on Saturday. Members of the
National Union of Teachers and the Green Party have visited, and Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, came to show his support. Members of a local Methodist church sent cakes, and a nine year old girl made a passionate plea to help protect her education.

On Saturday a 92-year old grandmother dropped in to show her support – one of the first women to study at Oxford university. She said “I agree with what the students are doing here – it’s important for people from every generation to support students. Also, of course, charities are being affected and the elderly will no doubt be hit by the cuts too”.

“It’s been fantastic” said Ghee Bowman, a local man who supports the students “there was a lot disappointment on Thursday evening after the vote in the House of Commons, but we’ve realised that we’re part of a bigger movement against cuts that will continue, and our spirits are high. We’re creating something new here, a new way of learning, a new way of taking action in society”.

Although many of them are sleeping in the lecture theatre, the occupiers have been taking great care of the the space, with the help of the porters. Disruption to lectures has been kept to a minimum, the rubbish is being separated for recycling, and there has been no damage to the space.

The occupiers have extended a cordial invitation to anyone who’d like to come for a chat, a cup of tea or to show their support.

There will be a public meeting on Tuesday 14th at 7pm in the Occupation, with student activists, staff, anti-cuts activists, trade unionists, and members of the community speaking about building a lasting anti-education-cuts organization able to work in solidarity with all those resisting government cuts.

One of the organisers, Rob Edwards, said “Exeter’s occupiers have shown how students can peacefully organize and create a functioning ‘free education space’, while also building the networks necessary to fight the Con-Dem’s unnecessary austerity measures. They are a model for effective protest”

624 words
ends

Notes for editors
More info can be found at
https://exeteroccupation.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/press-release-monday-13th-december-2010/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Exeter-Occupation/166480736723228

For more info, contact Rob Edwards on 07743501732 or re223@ex.ac.uk exeteranticuts@gmail.com
or Ghee Bowman on 01392 422216 gbowman@gn.apc.org

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