NUS president Aaron Porter stated his support for student led occupations at UCL on Sunday November 28.
UCL students have occupied the Jeremy Bentham Room since the second national demonstration day on 24th November.
Porter said: “For too long the NUS has perhaps been too cautious and too spineless about being committed to supporting student activism. Perhaps I spent too long over the last few days doing the same.”
He added: “I just want to apologise for my dithering in the last few days.”
Porter agreed to support the next national demonstration day on Tuesday November 30, and expressed his full support of all forms of non-violent protest at a National Coordination meeting organised by Education Activist Network at Birkbeck on the same day.
The UCL Occupation group sees Porter’s support as an encouraging result of the student action. Almost 200 students joined the occupation at UCL.
The occupation is led by students and supported by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
Ben Beach, one of the organisers who is a second year Architecture Student at UCL said that there is an urgent need for students to act. “I see our occupation as extremely effective, so for example, it swung the position of the NUS, which was reluctant to express support at the beginning.”
Clare Solomon, ULU president, also praised the UCL Occupation. “It is a shining example of student protest. It is democratically run, very organised and politically spot on in terms of its approach to both the NUS and the government.”
Michael Chessum, of UCL Union said that the union has no official position on occupations or direct action on campus – and the occupation currently under way in the JBR was not organised or initiated by the union.
He said, however, that “UCLU supports the right of students to take part in peaceful protest against fees and cuts. Broadly, it is union policy to support student led opposition to cuts. Education is a right not a privilege, and should be free and accessible to all.
“We will defend all students from any form of victimisation as a result of taking part in peaceful protest, whether on or off campus. We remain totally committed to the welfare of all members.”
“We commend UCL for retaining an open access policy for the JBR, and would also urge the College not to take out an injunction on the occupation.”