What an amazing day for Leeds Trinity Students Against Cuts and everyone involved in the anti cuts movement. Leeds Trinity witnessed its first ever student protest today on campus. Around 70 people including tutors, staff and students gathered at the front of reception to rally against the cuts. There were several speakers and the mood was set by some great chants which could be heard, we are reliably informed by the ever wonderful Laura Miles (UCU national exec), from the car park at the back of the uni. We even managed to wake some people up in halls, which serves as a lesson to us, the next time we have a rally, we will have to allow for the student lifestyle and start in the late afternoon.
Before the speakers got started Iain Dalton lead the rally off to some of the chants, which really seemed to get people going and showed exactly how much noise 70 people can make when they are angry, this started to get some interest from people in the crowd and even drew a few people in, who seemed shocked to see a protest going on at all. The mood was really lifted by this and as we all started in high spirits and mutual disgust at the cuts.
Ian Pattison from Leeds University occupation and several other organisations was the first speaker and talked about his experience with the build up to the student movement and the difficulties we face. The speech was really inspiring and offered some interesting insights into how to move forward the campaign and where we should be looking to get some of the money the banks lost back from. Ian is a seasoned speaker now and following him is never easy but the overall interest was really piqued by the information and some of the more disturbing facts and figures.
Diane Maguire (secretary of Leeds Trinity UCU branch) was next to speak and she gave an emotionally charged account of the pride the staff had in the student protestors on and off campus. While looking into how the cuts are going to be targeting the poor and the students of Leeds Trinity but also the staff and how we are going to need to work together to make sure we are all heard and represented after years of being ignored and having no real voice. Diane is a strong supporter of everything fair, just and wonderful and without her help, this campaign would certainly not have the love and morale it does now.
Iain Dalton spoke as a representative of Youth Fight For Jobs and Education, which LTSAC are affiliating with as we speak bringing some major union support in conjunction with the amazing support we have had from UCU and Unison thus far. This will give us much needed support and hopefully more credibility than we already have. Iain discussed some of the issues facing young workers and the history of the struggles of young workers under a tory government. The speech itself was great and served to remind us that all this has happened before and we beat it then too. If anything, it seemed while Iain was talking, that people were reminded of the struggles young workers faced and started to associate them directly with the struggles now. This is vitally important as people seem to have dissociated what is happening and what has happened.
Following the three great speakers, one of LTSAC (Andy Smith) gave a speech about what is happening at Trinity and the way we feel we should combat the cuts locally and nationally. The speech was focused largely around the lack of fairness in society and offering some of the alternatives that we feel the government should be considering. With £100bn in unclaimed tax a year and a reduction in the bank levy, we are not short of options, especially with Osborne ducking £1.6m a year in tax. The student voice was also compared to the voice of people in society, for too long people have seemingly felt their voice would not make a difference, that their choice did not matter and this is no longer an attitude which is going to help society. If people are not going to help, then there is something wrong, especially when they do not even help themselves.
The biggest point of the rally and the other point Andy discussed was that of working together. There are a number of relationships which have been sadly lacking in an institution that prides itself on their existence which sorely need repairing. The tutors at Trinity are amazing and most of the reason we are here, if they are cut or their lives made so unworkable, they are miserable, then Trinity for us is dead before things like closure can even be discussed. There is no Trinity without every member of staff and every student current and former. Trinity is not a pile of bricks with some money passing through it, it is a place of ideas with people passing through it. We need everyone to work together to keep this idea alive and help mould the future of it. Put simply, we need everyone to oppose the cuts with us, with the unions, with Youth Fight For Jobs and Education, with the staff and with the other movements who require our support. Please come to the occupation for information, a chat and a coffee and let us help you have your voice heard.