We have now sent a letter of reply to University Secretary Dr Kim Waldon, as a furthering of our negotiations.
Open Letter in response to statement issued 29th November 2010
We appreciate the response to our previous communication, and in the spirit of transparency mentioned, we request clarification on a number of issues. We also have a list of motions that we have agreed on, presented in a similar format to those of a EUSA assembly. The outcomes of these motions will require continued contact with the members of the occupation, who will be represented in the event of the ending of the occupation by the Edinburgh Anti-Cuts Coalition. We can confirm that we will not stay beyond Monday the 5th of December, as this is the start of exams in the Appleton Tower. We cordially request a reply by 5pm Thursday 2nd, and apologise for the time taken to formulate our response. It is not our anticipation that the outcomes of the motions will be answerable in the course of two days; we prioritise a response to our questions. We understand that it is not feasible to obtain official opinions from the University of Edinburgh as a body, so we have phrased what we believe to be realistic questions in a categorical format to which we would greatly appreciate a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, followed by some context and clarification if appropriate. We are gratified by the engagement of the senior management of the university and await a response.
Edinburgh University Occupation
1. Does the university expect its budget to be reduced next year? If so, by how much?
2. Is the University able to confirm that budgetary projections will not include a reduction in the number of any of the following in the next three years:
*degrees on offer
*schools and departments in the University
*resources for staff and student welfare services
3. Are there plans for a change in the ratio of scholarships from private, university and corporate sources?
4. Is there a cap or limit on the number of corporate scholarships disbursed by the University?
5. Does the University officially (in terms of policy) recognise representation from student or staff groups outwith EUSA or staff unions, on issues affecting the entire student or staff body?
6. Is it an official position of a representative of the University that the UK parliament’s ‘cuts and fees’ package will adversely affect students from disadvantaged backgrounds?
7. If future cuts by the Scottish government to tertiary education include an element of prioritisation (much as the UK proposals prioritise sciences over arts and humanities), is the University able to compensate for this in any way?
8. If the answer to the previous question is ‘yes’, are there current University plans to compensate for potential differential funding decisions?
9. Is there a current University policy on the ratio of Scottish, UK, EU and non-EU students?
10. Is there a University policy to solicit a greater number of students that pay fees (i.e. not full-time Scottish or EU students) in the next ten years?
1. We note that the University’s preferred means of receiving student representation is through EUSA. We also note that EUSA does not have the ability to contact its members either at will or without review by the University. We believe that a representative body’s democratic mandate relies on its ability to have unfettered two-way contact with all of its members. We also believe that EUSA’s members and elected officials are capable of deciding the frequency and appropriate content of any such correspondence. We move to demand that the University allow EUSA access to the email addresses of its members in such a way as not to breach the Data Protection Act, in order to comply with the beliefs above. We also believe that EUSA does not adequately represent the members of this occupation until this demand is fulfilled.
2. We note that some people prefer to a) represent themselves in person and/or b) receive important information in person and/or c) do not recognise the representative authority of existing unions or associations. We believe that these people should not be excluded from University consultation procedures. We move to demand that the University agree in principle to organise, and respond to requests for, open meetings with its staff and student body, with the details to be discussed in further negotiations with non-hierarchical organisations, such as Edinburgh Anti-Cuts Coalition.
3. We note that the University has not moved to remove us from Appleton Tower, and has essentially tolerated our presence. We note that staff have been running the Tower under normal rules and increased security presence, weather notwithstanding.
We note that there was a significant departure from this norm on the 30th November, when the building was closed to non-students with no prior notification. We also note that this was in contrast to many other occupations around the country, where large assemblies were held on the same day. We note that there was a coinciding large police presence, including forward intelligence teams, on the invitation of the university. We note that there was an abrupt move to lock the occupied space of LT1 on the same day, on grounds of reduced security presence.
We believe that the move to lock our occupied space without warning, the increase in security presence, the invitation of police to the university, and the partial closure of Appleton Tower, were all unnecessary actions to take, given that the conduct of the occupiers and their associates (student and non-student) has been universally peaceful and respectful.
We move to demand that the University does not invite police on to its premises in relation to any future anti-cuts protests and occupations unless a crime has been committed. We move to demand that the University informs any future co-operative occupations of any changes in access policy. We move to demand that the University does not provide increased security, over and above that required to satisfy health and safety regulations, in the event of future occupations. We move to demand late-access negotiations from the University in exchange for co-operation of current and future occupations.
4. We note from your correspondence that no disciplinary action will be taken against the occupiers of Appleton Tower unless they commit an offence or engage in misconduct as defined by the General Statement. We note that the General Statement covers a broad range of misconduct, and is not explicit in some of its clauses. We believe that some general actions of our occupation (such as entering a room in the university and declining to leave) could be misconstrued as ‘misconduct’ in this statement. We move to request clarification on this issue, and assurance that none of our actions to date could be defined as ‘misconduct’, to the best of your knowledge.
5. We note that there are many mechanisms of reducing staffing costs in relation to budgetary cuts. We note that these include, but are not limited to, pay freezes, unpaid overtime, reduced hours, part-time working, redeployment, pension reduction and voluntary redundancies. We note that many of these have been used in the past to avoid compulsory redundancies, notably in the recent restructuring of Moray House. We believe that as a modern employer with a large staff base and a secure financial position, the University should not include compulsory redundancies as part of its options for reducing staffing costs. We move to demand that the University commits to not utilising compulsory redundancies as an option for reducing staffing costs, and that any actions taken will be completely transparent.
6. We note that the University will ‘work hard to influence other universities within the Russell Group and within Universities Scotland’. We believe that the context of this is not clear from your correspondence. We move to request clarification that the University will influence other universities in line with their own stated reaction to tertiary education cuts and fees, and how they will go about doing this. We also move to request that the University will clearly state that they will lobby Scottish and UK governments regarding this issue.