Socialist receives over 300 votes for President of Students’ Union

Socialist receives over 300 votes for President of Students’ Union

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Aidan O’Toole (right) campaigning in solidarity with South African students

Socialist Student members received good results in this year’s Coventry University Students’ Union executive elections, with Aidan O’Toole receiving 307 votes for President (14 per cent). Another Socialist, Sam Kempster, scored a very respectable 102 votes for the position of Vice President of Education.

These results reflect the hard work that Socialist Students have carried out over the year, campaigning on many issues and also it shows the appeal of socialist policies to students who have seen attacks to their rights and living conditions. Tuition fees are set to increase year on year, grants have been cut for the poorest students who now have to take out additional loans and are facing exploitation in the housing sector.

Our campaign was focused on these issues, building on our campaigning work and raising the banner of socialism to a wider audience of students. At the heart of it, we argued that CUSU should take a lead in standing up for students, standing up to the university management when they attack student welfare and taking part in national campaigns for free education.

Students and Workers Unite!

Vital to the work of Socialist Students has been to work with the local University and College Union (UCU) branch, something CUSU consistently fails to do. Instead of working with the lecturers to ensure that both students and lecturers can work together to tackle joint issues. CUSU is seen by some students as the puppet of the university as it time and time again refuses to show solidarity with the UCU in times such as those reported in the Guardian when the university tries its hand at union busting and attacks the rights of its employees (27/09/2016).

Socialist Students, despite receiving little support from within the student council, worked with and supported the UCU and have been consistent in attending UCU picket lines and have organised joint events to foster links between students and staff. We said that if we were elected we would have worked with the UCU to fight back and university cuts, which will become more vital when the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) threatens more attacks on both students and staff.

Housing

Coventry Socialist Students are well known for campaigning on housing issues in Coventry. We have successfully shifted CUSU policy towards housing via grass-roots organisation. This has led to the establishment of a Tenant’s Union which, although in its early days, has the potential to lead campaigns to tackle the exploitation students face in the private sector.

Despite CUSU’s support of this, not enough has been done to ensure its success. Socialist union officers would get involved in things like the tenant’s union and get stuck into any campaigns it leads on. Unfortunately this cannot be said for the vast majority of the CUSU leadership. However, we will continue to work on this issue and stay involved in the struggle against dodgy landlords and rogue letting agencies.

Defending Student Welfare

The university has decided to make vicious cuts to welfare schemes, such as the hardship fund, which will stop many students from being able to finish their education. This cut back is so severe that, despite increasing student numbers, the fund is to be halved year on year until it is only just a fraction of what one of the university CEOs make! This saving is unnecessary and shows naked profiteering which will primarily affect people with caring responsibilities or are survivors of domestic abuse and other unforeseen circumstances.

Socialist Students passed a motion calling for the Students’ Union to organise a campaign against this cut, and a vote of no confidence in the university management if they continue down this line. However, this Students’ Union campaign is nowhere to be seen. We stood to defend this scheme and students were shocked when we told them about these attacks! The

The election is over, but our work doesn’t stop

As a Socialist Students society, we don’t stay quiet all year and pretend to be the saviour around election time. We stand up for students by putting forward a socialist agenda in all our campaigns, all year round. This track record is unmatched on campus and is only partially reflected in our votes.

Despite not teaming up with other candidates just to get votes, or taking part in other tricks that are rife in student politics; we pulled a respectable vote. This is because our socialist agenda connected to those students we spoke to who are facing the hard edge of the recent attacks to their rights.

Aidan, Sam and all Socialist Students would like to say ‘thank you’ to all of those hundreds of students who voted for us.

We encourage all those who agreed with our manifesto to get involved and continue the fight for socialism. With the Tories in power, the attacks on students’ rights will continue and it will become more important than ever that students organise against these attacks. The only way to do that is by putting forward socialist ideas, and the best way to do that is to join the Socialist Students!

Join Socialist Students, fill in the form below!

Surge of resistance to Trump hits Coventry 

Surge of resistance to Trump hits Coventry 

Protest in Coventry city centre

With less than 24 hours notice, hundreds of people joined emergency protests in Coventry and at Warwick University against Donald Trump’s ban on people travelling to the USA from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Protest at Warwick University

These protests were part of a massive display of resistance across the UK, uniting with millions across the world. They follow the women’s marches on January 21st, when millions protested around the world – 100,000 people demonstrated in London alone. Over 1.7million people have also signed a petition against Trump’s planned state visit to the UK.

Tim Bliss from Warwick Socialist Students speaking at the protest

Trade unionists, anti-cuts campaigners and Socialist Party members spoke at the protest in Coventry, stressing the need to build a movement against racism and austerity, and for a socialist alternative to the rotten capitalist system that breeds them.

Have you signed the petition against Trump and want to build the movement against him and his policies? If so fill in the form below!

Say No to Pfizer! Coventry Socialist Students oppose private pharmaceutical corporation

Say No to Pfizer! Coventry Socialist Students oppose private pharmaceutical corporation

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Socialist Students protest against Pfizer

Today, Wednesday 19th October, Pfizer, the multi-national pharmaceutical company, held a recruitment event at Coventry University. Pfizer are renowned for employing allegedly questionable business tactics in order to make profit, including raising the price of vital medicine for epilepsy that Pfizer held a monopoly of, as well as using children in Nigeria to test dangerous new drugs on.

Hearing that Pfizer were going to be on campus, Coventry Socialist Students quickly sprang into action. Setting up mere metres from where the event was taking place, Socialist Students protested against the presence of Pfizer.

The protest attracted a lot of attention from ordinary students who agreed with Socialist Students view that the University should not be accommodating corporations which seek to profit from our National Health Service. Further attention was drawn by the University management’s attempts to get private security to remove us, claiming we were offending Pfizer and University management by protesting. For pictures of the protest click here.

All in all, it was a brilliant protest, highlighted by the fact that a large-scale corporation such as Pfizer could be intimidated by the presence of a group of students with leaflets and a table. Furthermore, it was a great success in spotlighting the opposition to capitalism on campus and introducing the ideas of the socialist alternative to ordinary students.

  • Defend the NHS, kick out the profiteers
  • Bring all pharmaceutical companies in to the public ownership! For an end to profit hungry capitalists profiting from illness
  • Fight for socialism, join Socialist Students!

Tories plan further fee hikes for uni students

Tories plan further fee hikes for uni students

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Aidan (second from right) campaigning with TUC Young Workers

The below article by Coventry Socialist Students member Aidan O’Toole was carried in this weeks issue of The Socialist newspaper. The Tories have planned further attacks on students – students need to organise to fight back.

The Tories want universities that meet their backbreaking ‘teaching excellence framework’ targets to be allowed to increase the cost of their courses with inflation. Universities including Manchester have already announced their fees will rise to £9,250 in 2017, before parliament has even considered the measure.

The future is looking bleak for young people. Houses are unaffordable, jobs are low-paid and insecure, and education is becoming more and more elitist.

Universities received £9 billion in tuition fees last year, the highest amount ever. The government has cut central funding to £3 billion.

Rising tuition fees, along with the end of student grants, are increasingly pushing working class people out of higher education. Working class and some middle class students have to decide if a life of debt is worth a degree, which isn’t a guarantee of employment. And that’s only if they can afford to rent accommodation and feed themselves during the course.

It is no surprise that Jeremy Corbyn’s call last year to scrap tuition fees resonates with so many young people. Anger is clear among students who feel like they are putting themselves in a lot of debt for not much gain. The 2016 Student Academic Experience Survey found that two thirds of students felt their degree didn’t give value for money.

The Socialist Party says education is a right and should be free for all. It should not just be a privilege for the super-rich who can afford extortionate fees and high living costs, relying of the bank of mum and dad. We fight for an end to fees, cuts and closures in higher education, for a living grant for all students, and for the return of EMA student payments in further education.

Student solidarity with lecturers strike

Student solidarity with lecturers strike

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UCU members picketing at Coventry University

Coventry Socialist Students have produced the below statement in solidarity with striking lecturers this week. Please read and share, and support the strike however you can!

This week, the UCU trade union (representing academic and related workers, including many students who teach as postgrads) announced their campaign for fairer pay in higher education. They will be on strike at universities across the country on 25th-26th May, and at the same time beginning to work to rule, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

Socialist Students supports the UCU in this strike as the fight for free education cannot be isolated to students alone, but must be linked to lecturers and all workers in FE/HE to fundamentally challenge the neo-liberal race to the bottom policies that are stripping away education.

Coventry University UCU will be picketing outside Graham Sutherland Building, Coventry University from 8.30-10.30 on both the strike days. Please join and show solidarity!

Fight for free education, fight for socialism!

Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

Coventry Labour council schools chief sets up academies firm

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Cllr David Kershaw

A Coventry Labour councillor has set up a business designed to take over schools and turn them into academies. Councillor David Kershaw, who is cabinet member for education, is heading a new academy company called the West Midlands Academy Trust.

Writing in the Coventry Observer, Les Reid revealed that the company was set up just last month by Cllr Kershaw and is believed “to be in line to win Tory government permission to take over five struggling schools in Birmingham. The five schools are understood to be those which make up the Perry Beeches Trust and are already Academies. The fact that these schools are struggling is a clear indictment of the government’s Academies programme.

Cllr Kershaw has done this at a time when Labour are campaigning against Tory plans to force schools to become academies, and have been distributing leaflets around Woodlands ward claiming local Labour council candidate Patricia Hetherton is “fully behind the campaign to save Woodlands Academy”. After the release of the Panama Papers implicating leading politicians in tax dodging, this is yet another example of hypocrisy.

Hetherton’s leaflet also claims that “[she] knew that the opening of Finham Park 2 would have an impact on student numbers in the area”. “Local” Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson also features on the leaflet, and last month he said the same to the Coventry Telegraph. However, while they say this now, Cllr Kershaw wrote to the Department for Education last year expressing support for Finham Park 2!

Cllr Kershaw has also been key in advocating and pushing through the council’s library closure plans, and the (currently shelved) plans to cut transport to schools for disabled children. As a former headteacher, it is shocking that he seems willing to make cuts that will clearly damage children’s education.

Other partners in the business include Alan East, a Labour candidate for Bablake ward in May. Locally this is yet another example of Labour saying one thing and doing another – how do Kershaw’s actions compare with the anti-austerity policies of Jeremy Corbyn?

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are campaigning against the enforced academisation of all schools and will be balloted over strike action against funding cuts and threats to teacher’s contracts and pay and conditions. We give them our full support – concerted industrial action can stop these plans and bring this government down!

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

NUT protest in Coventry against Tory academy plans

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Coventry NUT (National Union of Teachers) has organised a protest this week against Tory plans to turn every school in the country into an academy. The protest is outside Coventry DFE (Department for Education) offices in the Butts on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm.

We have already seen the negative effects of “academisation” in Coventry, with a number of schools such as Blue Coat, Grace Academy and Woodlands facing financial difficulty – Woodlands Academy is currently under threat of closure.

Forcing all schools to become academies is indicative of the Tories’ desire to privatise public services, by removing schools from local authority control and handing them over to big businesses. Teachers, parents and students need to fight these plans – save our schools!

Protest outside Coventry DFE on Wednesday 23rd at 4.30pm!