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Last day today, come and celebrate!

The Exeter Open Occupation draws to a close today, and many events are planned to celebrate what we have achieved. There will be ‘Free University’ lectures from 1pm,  a final rally at 5.30, and we will be leaving together at 6.30. Please join us to celebrate the last 9 days and to plan for the future.

The Exeter Open Occupation xx

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Solidarity

We now have a solidarity wall where all the wonderful messages of support from around the world are being posted. Yesterday Steve Bell, an Exeter graduate and Guardian cartoonist, sent his support and a cartoon.

Steve Bell

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1 week on…

Last Wednesday students from Exeter College, University and friends marched through the city. When we reach the college we were told the demonstration had ended…but we continued onward and upward, with the beautiful sight of almost 150 joyous people pouring into the Peter Chalk Centre. Our aim was to peacefully occupy in protest to widespread funding cuts and to open a new, free, space for learning and discussion.

In the 7 days that have passed the Newman A lecture theatre has transfomed into a free university, with lectures, workshops, discussions, performances, and creativity a plenty. Whilst scheduled lectures take place we sit peacefully, but when they finish we fill the space with a wonderful and organic programme of inspriational talks and lectures, free tea and delicious food, and many beautiful ideas.

The Christmas tree is now up, so please come along and join us for the last few days of the Exeter Occupation and enjoy the space of our free university.

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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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PLEDGE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF EXETER OPEN OCCUPATION ALLIANCE TO THE VICE CHANCELLOR PROFESSOR STEVE SMITH IN RESPONSE TO THE INITIAL PASS OF THE VOTE ON CUTS TO THE STATE FUNDING OF HIGHER EDUCATION

Dear Professor Smith,
In response to the outcome of the vote to cut state funding in higher education today, 9th December 2010, the Exeter Occupation Alliance hereby pledge to continue to fight what we understand to be an ideological move on the part of the current government. We do not believe that cuts must be made to the public sector in response to the current deficit, and we also believe that making cuts to higher education will not, by any means, prove beneficial to the educational sector as a whole. By supporting the increase in tuition fees, we feel that you have misrepresented thousands of students and staff today, and many more students and staff of the future, both as vice chancellor of the University of Exeter and president of Universities UK.
We are therefore making the following pledge in response to an overwhelming show of solidarity among students, staff, and the general public across the country and around the world. We pledge to:
– continue to oppose these cuts and do everything in our power to challenge the ideology that they represent.
– continue to organise marches of protest at the University of Exeter, in the city centre, and across the country to show our commitment to overhauling the outcome of the vote.
– continue a policy of occupations of university buildings at times when the University of Exeter and Universities UK support or propose new action to the detriment of students and staff working in higher education.
– continue to lobby and petition our local MPs for a reversal of this new legislation.
– petition for a full public inquiry into higher education reform to be undertaken by an independent body.
– continue to challenge the University of Exeter and Universities UK when we feel that their actions and decisions misrepresent the greater good of students today and in the future.
– support staff industrial action taken in response to redundancies.
– fight for Exeter to commit to lead the way for widening participation, meeting and surpassing pledges of other universities.
– continue to build links with students and staff groups at other universities, trade unions, anti-cuts alliances, and other organisations to coordinate a unified opposition to this legislation.
For us, and for many other student and staff groups across the country, losing the vote on cuts in higher education today marks the launch of an energetic new campaign, and we hereby pledge to do everything in our power to fight this new legislation until it is reversed.

Signed,
The University of Exeter Open Occupation

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Don’t leave those kids alone

Good morning guys,

We’ve been informed that lectures in Newman A have been moved or even cancelled altogether due apparently to our occupation. This was not our intent. The Occupation wishes to state that interfering with the students’ right to learn and the lecturer’s right to teach is not and will not ever be in our aims; we offered to watch in silence but appear to have been ignored.

We hope that all students are able to catch up on any lectures missed and hope that if you share, as we do, the belief that disruption to education is fundementally wrong, you will come join our occupation if you are free at any point today.

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Spotlight

Fantastic footage of the protest and occupation just gone up on BBC Spotlight… have a watch before it’s too late here, at about 6:11.

As the first day of occupation closes, thanks to everyone who’s shown solidarity to us and the other groups of students occupying and protesting around the country. We again encourage all the MPs voting tomorrow to vote against the proposed cuts and changes to fees, and ask for your continued support.

Tomorrow is a very important day, and we will be ready.

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