Thursday, 8 December 2011

Initial statement, more thoughts to follow

Why we're leaving

A group of students have been occupying the management corridor for almost 200 hours. They took possession of this space last Wednesday with the purpose of applying pressure to the Senior Management Team (SMT) to respond to demands outlined in the Principal’s Pledge. This document insists that Principal Paul Layzell publicly condemns the White Paper on Higher Education, halts all plans to cut academic departments and remove threats of redundancy to college staff.

We are vacating the occupation for a few reasons. We do not feel that legal proceedings have been a last resort. Rather, negotiations were undermined by the intimidation caused when SMT sought to take their students to the High Court rather than meaningfully discuss their concerns and demands.

Professor Layzell unilaterally suspended negotiations on Monday with the occupiers, after only two meetings, despite persistent appeals to reopen dialogue. He insists that he has spent “many, many hours” dealing with these students, yet over the course of the week we have been in occupation, he has only deigned to meet directly with us twice for no more than an hour on each occasion. We believe his continued hostility to productive discussion is indicative of the perverse management culture in place at Royal Holloway, where planned reforms are shrouded in secrecy and consultations are reduced to “farcical exchanges” (as described by the UCU) stage-managed by the SMT. Rather than engage in frank discussion with his own students, Professor Layzell has instead belittled our aims and defamed the respectable purpose of the occupation in communications with the student body. He has preferred to take costly legal action against us over the free option of negotiation.

Senior management have botched the consultation and negotiation process despite hiring an extortionately costly restructuring consultant. Senior management seem to mistake stating where they disagree and agree with an injured party as negotiation, and then plough on with their original policies (see the SMT’s initial response to the pledge).
Furthermore, they hide behind the white paper to justify cuts that they were beginning to implement before the tuition fees vote was decided.
They have additionally pressured the Students’ Union and the UCU to withdraw their support for us through alleged harassment and attempts to meet in non recorded meetings.

One of the final actions in the conclusion of the occupation, which is generally indicative of management’s short-sightedness was when it was indicated that the the vital annual college fund, which students rely on, would not be allocated if they were not assigned the room they had asked Occupy RHUL to provide.
These actions amount to nothing less than blackmail, and as such we believe that it is not efficient to remain in this occupation.

What we’ve achieved with occupation

The main purpose of the occupation, to have sensible adult discourse with senior management and to make the case against cuts, was derailed by the SMT refusing to negotiate. However we feel that the occupation has been justified by putting the issues and facts of the abhorrent cuts on the table with the student body and staff.

In addition we have put serious pressure onto the Senior Management Team, and demonstrated to the staff and student body where the SMT’s priorities really lie. As well as pushing for an unjust cuts agenda, they have demonstrated they cannot even do this successfully, blundering and posturing their way through unplanned proposals.

Finally, the occupation has expanded and galvanised the anti-cuts movement at RHUL beyond what we had previously hoped. This will help immensely in the continuing campaign against the unnecessary cuts at Royal Holloway.

What we're doing now and what we want

This occupation has proved many points. First and foremost, it has proved that the anti-cuts movement is more than a group of students sat in a corridor. Over the last 8 days, the movement has garnered messages of support from hundreds of lecturers and students; locally, nationally and internationally, with support from the American Student Association and numerous other universities and groups. This obviously puts management in a difficult position, and as such this has had management pressurise occupiers through despicable tactics of intimidation, refusal to negotiate and even threatening an injunction against all protest on campus.

Closer work between the UCU and the Students’ Union, as well as the Students’ Union’s recent motion of no confidence in David Willets, have convinced us that we have left to do greater things. This will certainly include peaceful, direct action as supported by the Students’ Union’s motion, in addition to taking part in what management have assured us will be a large number of constructive meetings.

Occupy RHUL calls on other organisations to use the break afforded to us by the holiday season to organise and prepare for a renewed campaign in the new year. We will be planning a series of actions starting early on our return to the college, and continuing frequently and often to disrupt the unjustified actions of the Senior Management Team.

Our final demands upon leaving of senior management is that there to be absolutely no victimisation of peaceful protesters, as previously agreed with the SMT and especially not to pass costs on to activists or the Students’ Union.

The occupation’s ending is not the end of our efforts, but is simply the resurgence of a strong ongoing movement by the anti-cuts community as we resume an encroaching campaign against the unnecessary cuts to vulnerable courses led by the Senior Management Team.

Press Release: Occupation ends as management threaten High Court action

Press Release
For immediate release: Thursday 8th December 2011

Royal Holloway occupation ends as management threaten High Court action

Today at 1220 hours GMT, the student sit-in going under the name ‘OccupyRHUL’ left the senior management corridor of Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) after 8 days of occupation.  The senior management team (SMT) threatened High Court action to get a possession order and injunction against the protest.

The group left citing a breakdown in negotiations, saying they felt they had been forced out by SMT’s decision to take legal action rather than enter into meaningful negotiations over the occupiers’ concerns and demands.  The demands of the occupiers included halting cuts to courses and departments, condemning the HE white paper, and halting the entrance of for-profit providers into the university.  Occupiers also demanded that Royal Holloway Principal, Professor Layzell, withdraw Section 188 notices and redundancy threats.

There has been widespread support for the sit-in amongst the academic community and staff at Royal Holloway and beyond.  The occupation has exposed widespread discontent with the senior management team at RHUL and their priorities for the future of the university.

“The Principal has said he’s had hours and hours of discussion with us; in actual fact it was only two hours.  He failed to engage the issues, instead just stating where we agree and disagree.  The support we’ve received from lecturers has been immense.”

Another student said, “There is no justification for the redundancy threats.  There has been no economic or business case put forward and there has been no market research into the restructuring.”

“The HE white paper poses serious threats to the university sector.  In these uncertain times university Principals and Vice-Chancellors all over the country are vacillating, yet Paul Layzell seems keen to be a poster boy and flag-bearer for the white paper.”

The occupiers say this is the beginning, and not the end, of a campaign around the issues of course cuts, redundancies and the white paper.  They say they will be utilising the galvanised support of students and lecturers in future actions.


Notes for Editors
. Over 100 students and staff have taken part in the occupation over the course of the week
. Further information can be found at
. Pictures and interviewees available
. Royal Holloway, University of London, has announced tuition fees of £9,000
Name: Craig Gent Tel: 07824 331240
Royal Holloway, University of London

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Important Public Meeting @ 7pm

An important public GM is planned to start at 7pm tonight at the occupation, it is really vital that we have a good turn out so please come a long even if you've not been to the occupation yet. We have been issued with legal papers from the Senior Management Team and a lot of issues need to be discussed. Come along and bring friends! See you at 7!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Clarification of "£150,000 of student funding withheld...for a room?"

We would like to clarify that Ms Coleman's initial statement was, to paraphrase, "if the meeting does not take place in that meeting room, then it would not take place." We sought clarification by asking whether it could be rescheduled or relocated, to which she replied no. She clarified "If the meeting does not go ahead today then we will not allocate the funds." Ms Coleman has confirmed that these were indeed her words, and it was based on the understanding that without the room the annual fund would not be allocated, and the implicit blackmail, that we allowed this meeting sole use of the room, our silent study space.

Ms Coleman has since attempted to clarify her words to us, at approximately 16:25 and states that she intended to mean that the funds could not be allocated today, not that they would not be allocated this year. The latter is what we understood from her earlier statement, given that we were told that a rescheduling of the meeting would not take place.

£150,000 of student funding withheld...for a room?

£150,000 of student funding withheld… for a room?

The occupation had previously said to management that the ‘Principal’s Meeting Room’ was available for use if booked in advance. It should be noted that this agreement was made before the management decided that in place of negotiating and debating with students over the future of the college it was simply easier to seek legal action to evict us from our own campus.

This morning, we were forwarded an email from the Students Union’ (as management have refused to even email us anymore). This email informed us that management require the use of the room for a discussion of Royal Holloway Alumni, the AAG, to discuss the Annual Fund and its allocation. This was ostensibly because they were unable to use the previously booked room in Huntersdale, but comes at a convenient time when management are looking to disregard our arguments by tarnishing our conduct.

We replied that they would be able to use the meeting room, but that students would be in the room studying whilst the meeting took place. This is due to a lack of study space on campus, our need to secure the occupation, and that there are numerous other meeting rooms available on campus for them to move to.

Management entered the occupation approximately two hours before the meeting was scheduled to start, and refused to negotiate with us. They have demanded to use the room, and stated that if anyone remained in the room, then the meeting would not be relocated or rescheduled, but instead, management said that the annual fund would simply not be allocated. We obviously will grant the meetings full access to the room, with no students inside, given management’s outrageous demand.

We vehemently condemn their decision to make an ultimatum, which could impact so many students significantly, over so petty an issue as which particular room they hold a meeting in. In the 09-10 academic year, the Annual Fund allocated £150,000 in bursaries, scholarships, and other student support. That management were prepared to forsake the allocation of these vital funds is disgraceful, and reveals their real priorities: that they would rather win a trivial victory over the use of a room, than facilitate aiding students who wish to study at this university, supposedly their core objective.

Occupy RHUL

Good Morning!

Hello Everyone!

Just to let you know that you are more than welcome to pass by the management corridor at any point to ask us questions or get updates. We really are very friendly people!

We are having a General Assembly at 12 today, so please come by and voice your opinion on the matters raised.

We've also got a board up with all of the responses and statements from one party to the other, so you can understand the process and sequence. We're more than happy to explain anything, or listen to your opinion.

Looking forward to seeing you all!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Response to Principal's request to leave

We believe that the principal’s decision that now “is a sensible time to conclude
the occupation” is untrue. Management have been uncooperative and stubborn
in both meetings and formal discourse (please see the Principal’s response this
morning on This is a real disappointment to the
Royal Holloway community, as we are all united by our desire to provide
excellent services and provoking thought to further ourselves as individuals.
Furthermore it is important to state that the decision to conclude is thoroughly in
the hands of the occupiers. We have collectively decided not to respond to
threats of legal action but to leave only when a suitable dialogue has been
achieved, bearing in mind that the occupation occurred as a result of a deficit in
meaningful discussion.
As previously stated, the claims of costs and student occupation numbers were
addressed in our Analysis of the Principal’s Response. This document is
available online at
If we don’t leave when asked by management, then the occupiers become
trespassers. We are not concerned by this development. Trespass is a civil, and
not criminal matter. Management would have to seek a court injunction to prove
they own the building, and this takes time.
Security can only remove us during trespass in order to prevent harm to others,
or intentional damage to property. Firstly, this is not occupation-specific, but their
right on all of campus (e.g. if there’s a fight after a club night). Also, we have a
well organised welfare team, a no drugs/drink policy, and are careful not to
damage anything.  They have no reasonable grounds to suspect harm to
others or to property.
In regards to the criminal case of aggravated trespass,  we are not interfering
with the lawful business in this corridor. We are allowing open access to
everyone to enter, leave, and to go about their lawful business. It is
management’s choice to reschedule or cancel meetings, we are happy for them
to continue here, as members of the UCU have also stated. Having sleeping
bags, banners, or music inside the corridor does not stop people from working, or
aim to do so – we want them to engage with us, and to carry on working if they
want to by allowing them access. We are friendly and open.
If an injunction does arrive, and we ignore it, we face criminal charges of
‘aggravated trespass’, and we could be escorted off the premises by bailiffs.
However, we have been clear that even in the event of an eviction, we demand
no victimisation of students. We already have pledges from the management not
to victimize us, the full support of the Students’ Union, many members of staff,
the UCU, and the wider local community, including trade unionists in Surrey
County Council.
We hope you will therefore withdraw your denial of our right to be here.