Published on November 18, 2013 | by Beau Bass

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Union president arrested after protest

Activists were protesting against the privatisation and management takeover of ULU on November 13 [Seren Jenkins]

Michael Chessum, University of London Union (ULU) president, has been arrested in connection with a protest staged against the privatisation and management takeover of the University of London Union.

He was arrested on November 14, the day after the protest, and taken to Holborn Police Station. Witnesses told The Independent that he was “intercepted by several police officers” at the ULU building in Bloomsbury.

ULU have stated: “This is a clear attack on the right to protest. It is a transparent and shameful attempt to intimidate students from demonstrating against the actions of university management.”

Dan Cooper, the vice-president of ULU, said that Chessum was arrested under the Public Order Act “on the grounds that ULU failed to properly notify police” about the demonstration.

Chessum was later released on police bail.

Decision

The November 13 protest saw students mobilise to fight proposals that will see ULU lose its position as a student union with elected officials.

Chessum stated during the protest: “The University of London has no right to shut down its students’ union. No student got a say in the decision.”

The decision that ULU would be replaced with a management run service centre, effective from August 2014, was announced in May of this year.

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts asked students to come together in order to “save your union, reclaim your campus”.

Democratically

The protestors want ULU to remain in student hands and to be run democratically so that they can continue to fight for their students across London.

Chessum said: “We want to see ULU’s building and activities continue as a student union which represents all students in London.”

“Student unions only exist because we fight for their existence. If ULU is closed, it will send a green light to university managements all over the country that they can get away with slashing student union funding and taking over student-run services,” he added.

The Students’ Union (SUARTS) is in full support of the fight to save ULU; its president, Shelly Asquith, said: “This move is an attack on student democracy and we need to be clear that if we don’t resist it, it will make it easier in future for University managements to shut down our student spaces and our ability to organise.”

Threats on services

ULU is active on issues such as housing and workers’ rights. If the union is privatised, control over ULU-run services will no longer be in the hands of students.

The ultimate aim of this campaign is to keep ULU in the hands of students in order to preserve campaigns, activities and space.

ULU also wants to expand its activities to cover all universities and colleges in London.

One protestor explained: “We’re the ones who pay for university so we want to keep unions in the hands of students. We want to defend democracy and fight the increasing cuts on education.”

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