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Protest against closure of UEL and cancellation of G20 Alternative Summit

Open UEL Collective | 31.03.2009 15:17 | G20 London Summit | Education | Globalisation | Repression

Following the decision of the University of East London's
Corporate Management Team to close down the entire university on
Wednesday, April 1st and Thursday, April 2nd, staff and students have
launched a petition to keep the university open, arguing that they
"would feel ashamed of UEL if this institution [...] were to become known
as the university that had closed its doors to democratic debate and
education in times of crisis such as these."

The University of East London was scheduled to host the G20 Alternative
Summit on Wednesday, April 1st, intended as a popular assembly for
everyone engaged in current struggles for social justice. Amidst fears
over 'security' in light of these G20 protest events, management first
withdrew its support for the Alternative Summit and subsequently decided
to shut down the entire campus for the duration of the G20 summit and
protest events, cancelling lectures and classes and shutting the library.

In the petition, staff and students are arguing that such 'security'
considerations are a “classic excuse for every historic attempt to
curtail free speech. Instead of seizing the opportunity to become a
common space thriving with creative energies, [the University of East
London] plans to become an empty shell for two days."

The petition states that,

"It is time for the university management to become accountable not only
to the government funding bodies, but to the wider public to whom it
owes both its livelihood and a duty to fulfill its role as a part of
civil society. The past 3 decades have seen public spaces such as
universities hollowed out by the state and by corporations, as more and
more of our common resources are transformed into sterile commodities,
valued only in cash terms. In universities this has led to a policy
regime which increasingly sees 'employability' in the 'creative
industries' or in 'business and finance' as the only benchmark of
success by which a university education can be judged; which sees
research separated from teaching; which sees 'knowledge transfer' to the
commercial sector as the only legitimate destination for the fruits of

The signatories to the petition, which include a number of well-known
academics from universities across the globe, including writer and
activist Naomi Klein, are urging UEL management to "reconsider [their]
decisions and take this unique opportunity to open the university as a
crucial centre of democracy, since democracy is now the only safe path
for the world out of the current multifaceted crisis. We must keep our
university open to staff and students, rejecting the claims and 'risk
assessments' that reproduce fear instead of promoting dialogue. We urge
you to take responsibility for enabling the university to act as a truly
public space for debate in a time when nobody can doubt that radical new
ideas are needed."

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  1. The answer is simple... — Squat the world