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Now universities openly campaign against left-wing students

Debt-in 1The big news of this morning – although it is a story that will largely go unreported – is the forced and violent eviction of the peaceful sit-in at the University of Birmingham. Early this morning, around 25 bailiffs, 25 private security guards and ten police officers, accompanied by a London-based solicitor and university officials, arrived at the occupation and dragged out students who refused to budge.

The students had defiantly voted to remain in occupation – despite a court injunction threatening them with arrest if they did not leave the premises. The university singled out two students in their legal proceedings, an increasing trend in the backlash against student activism in the past few years. But what is perhaps more remarkable is that now, universities are increasingly engaged in open political campaigning against left-wing students.

In Birmingham, management issued repeated statements such as the following:

We are particularly concerned that the actions of this small number of students is diverting safety and security resources and potentially diminishing the safety of our 28,000 other students.

We’ll leave aside, for the time being, that the university website only claims 24,000 students, and some of these must have been in the occupation or on the demonstrations in its support. How nice of the university to be concerned with the welfare of students, and to take the side of the silent (yes, very silent) majority.

But blatant political campaigning against left-wing students is swiftly becoming the order of the day at our universities. In the most blatant act of all, the University of London has waded into the referendum held by its student union on whether to oppose the abolition of the latter, with a document that resembles a smear dossier. The extraordinary “myth-busting” account seeks to use the official voice of the university to sneer at the protest tactics of students! My, my. Take this:

 ULU’s right to protest is unquestionable but the effectiveness of their methods is unconvincing. Furthermore their ability to mobilise support is waning (despite calls for a “national” demonstration to save ULU, last week’s demonstration only attracted about 70 protestors). By comparison, the NUS is already engaged in pan-London issues such as planning regulations to manage the proliferation of private providers of student residences, engagement with regional universities with London campuses, student representation with the Mayor’s Office and the GLA’s Housing Forum, London Higher and Transport for London. Student issues and campaigns are better served by peaceful protest or by mature rational engagement.

Would it be mean to point out that the University is invoking the NUS in an attempt to discredit the student union? Regardless, it’s hotting up. As Tracy Chapman once sang, choose sides. Run for your lives. Tonight the riots begin.

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