A combination of Bolton students, local youth, trade unionists and activists from anti-cuts campaigns converged on the University buildings to put pressure on the University management.
Although Student Unions must legally be run through student-democracy, the University bosses have replaced Shana with an unelected University Governor, Chris Minta.
Minta has been installed by the VC, George Holmes and is only accountable to the University itself, not the student body he is supposed to represent.
Whilst it was encouraging to see activists from many different campaigns and organisations coming out in support of Shana, there is one organisation who’s presence would make a huge difference.
Chris Minta is the branch secretary for the UCU at Bolton, although there were UCU members at the demonstration, a greater presence from them would surely have been hugely significant.
After meeting outside the Students Union, the demonstration moved to the Octagon Theatre to pressure the University officials enjoying themselves in there, probably under the pretext of having a meeting.
Of course, a peaceful gathering of activists and students merits a small amount of police harassment, and we were not disappointed. Our friends in blue were out in force making sure we did not commit atrocities such as blocking a footpath or “causing a fire-hazard.” It was disheartening for activists on the demonstration to see the organisers asking the police for permission to walk about in a public area and advising the police as to where we were headed next.
Overall the demo was important step towards organising more widely to defend student democracy. Student Unions are an important part of the fight against the Con-Dem Government’s attacks on higher education as well as a vital support for students against problems such as racism, coping with disabilities, academic issues and financial problems.
Without a democratically elected leadership, Student Unions are just another part of the University bureaucracy and will not work in the interests of students.
Successive governments have gradually restricted SU powers, enthusiastically supported by the University itself, which funds the SU. Ultimately the role of the state and university bosses in funding our Student Unions means they can never be truly independent bodies fighting in our interest.
- Shana Begum should be immediately reinstated, with unreserved apology from uni bosses.
- Campus Student Unions should organise solidarity action, and offer practical support like fundraising.
- At a national level, the NUS and UCU should condemn this attack.
- Students should form a democratic committee to investigate the actions of university management.