University of Cambridge, England
Two Cambridge University students were arrested on the March 26th and charged with ‘aggravated trespassing’ onto the premises of a London store named Fortnum & Mason, as part of the occupation of the premises by the protest group named UK Uncut.
This action was allegedly taken in response to the claim that the Associated British Food group, in which the owners of the Fortnum & Mason food store (Wittington Investments) have a 54 per cent stake, were evading an annual tax of £10 million.
While one student admits to his participation in the protest as a member of the UK Uncut group, the other student was there as a “legal adviser”, independent of the group, to provide “legal advice to protesters”.
The activists were allowed to leave the store at 6pm, following re-assurance from Police that they would be brought towards a “safe environment”. However, on departing the store, the 150 protestors were surrounded by the police and treated in a violent manner. 145 were arrested for aggravated trespassing and criminal damage.
The protesters claim they were “tricked” by the police, and lured from the building under the pretence that they were going to be directed to safety. The police brutality was condemned due to the alleged “peacefulness” of the protest.
The two Cambridge students will appear before the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on the 13th and 17th of May respectively.
University of Virginia, USA
A first-year college student died from injuries after he fell from the roof of the university’s four storey Physics building on March 26th.
The student, whose name was Thomas Gilliam IV, was pronounced dead upon arrival at the university’s Medical Centre shortly afterwards. Police investigating the incident are treating it as an accident and have ruled out the possibilities of foul play, alcohol abuse and suicide.
University Police Lt. Melissa Fielding explained “when Mr. Gilliam tried to walk along a part of the shingled roof he was unable to keep his footing and fell forty feet to the concrete below”.
A formal statement was released the following day stating the circumstances of the student’s death. In the statement, police clarified that they “are aware that there is a group of University students who try to enter secure spaces on [University] grounds as part of a challenge,” adding that student testimonies confirmed that Mr. Gilliam had gained entry into the building and let other students in so they could “make their way to the roof”.
A memorial is to be held later this week for Gilliam and four other students of the University who have passed away during the college year.
University of British Columbia, Canada
The Board of Governors (BoG) of the University of British Columbia held a meeting to discuss the proposed increase of tuition fees by 2 per cent on April 5th.
The meeting went ahead despite the results of a college referendum held last month, which showed that 8,737 students supported the lobbying for lower tuition. However, the disappointingly low turnout of the university’s students at a number of consultation meetings with regards to the issue was given as the reason for the go-ahead of the meeting.
Student Representative for the BoG, Sean Heisler, who stated that as a result of the lacklustre turnout, the students now “have few options to counter the raise”.
However, students claim that the consultations were not organised sufficiently in advance. Student Ashley Zarbatany stated: “They basically sent out an email saying we’re raising tuition and didn’t give a chance for students to give input back.” A student picket was organised by Zarbatany for the morning of the meeting to “build up momentum” behind their campaign.
The university’s Students’ Union has publicly denounced the prospect of increased tuition fees, and has set up a strategic committee to help students who need financial aid.
Heisler supported this campaign by saying: “If my Dad has tons of money and it’s funding my education, I don’t care about tuition. An ultimate goal is to take that money and funnel it into student aid for people who actually need it.”