Universities such as SOAS are used to occupations, protests by students and radical academics. But at Kings things have been rather different in the past years. Until now. The King’s UCU branch, headed by its energetic and sharp president Jim Wolfreys voted, with a great majority, for industrial action against a 27 cuts programme that has put 205 jobs at risk of redundancy with more to follow. Departments which were set to close include engineering, American studies, equality and diversity with other areas under threat, palaeography, logic, linguistics, Institute of Psychiatry, Biomedical and Health Sciences.

The strike on Tuesday, the 30th of March was very lively. Students were enthusiastic with stalls they established, musical instruments they played, and lecturers were equally excited. The strike spokesperson who presented all speakers animating the public was Stathis Kouvelakis, reader in philosophy at King’s and one of my favourite authors (I will definitely write another post on his work). He was amazing in this role, finishing the rally with the words ‘we will win!’ which, I think, all of us truly believed in at that moment. Other unions (NUT, PCS, Unite, Unison) and colleges supported the strike; local workplaces such as National Gallery and National theatre showed solidarity. Students from other colleges where there were amazing protests such as Sussex brought lots of energy. The whole thing was so colourful and enjoyable, dominating even the traffic and noise on the Strand. It transformed the usual lunch-time into an unexpectedly memorable event. 

Go and support demonstrations at universities even if you may not be a student or academic. Not simply out of citizenship responsibility, left wing sensitivity, or revolutionary solidarity. But for a truly joyful experience. For natural extacy and adrenaline. Durkheim showed how collective practice and rituals gave communities common and shared beliefs (rather than vice versa). The ritual of strike and demonstration is important because it may create new bonds, may remind everyone that things can be different. For people who passed the Strand hundreds of times, for students and academics who entered the School building via Strand, their memory will never be the same after this experience, which will be transmitted via several networks. In my fieldwork, I saw several times how one worker who had a previous experience of collective action and strike in one factory made THE big difference in a new workplace. And the news of success from Leeds bears evidence that we can really win a case here.

Jim Wolfreys correctly says, without exaggeration, for the event: ‘the verve, humour, creativity, imagination of yesterday’s picketing offered us all a glimpse of the potential that exists within this institution for staff and students to make education at King’s more rewarding and enjoyable. All for often this potential is either stifled or bypassed by the dead-end of senior management.’ Now, it is necessary to exploit fully the potential Wolfreys is talking about. This is not simply about resisting job cuts. This is an opportunity to discuss what kind of education we want, to bring together lecturers, students and academic support officers, to get angry, discuss, intervene, alter the coordinates of the given situation by our action.  

See the photos of the colorful strike here:

http://educationactivistnetwork.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/photos-from-the-kings-college-strike/

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