UCL has chosen the Carpenters Estate in Newham, a council housing estate adjacent to the Olympic park, home to 318 households who are now set to lose their homes and community, as the site for its proposed Stratford campus. Many have already been forced out by Newham Council over the last decade. UCL’s process thus far has included little to no satisfactory consultation with residents and the wider UCL community, including students, academics and alumni.
UCL’s students’ union has initiated a ‘public campaign to fight in solidarity with the residents against UCL’s current plans and to ensure that their demands are met.
At the end of November UCL students occupied in the Wilkins Building to protest against the eviction of the Carpenters Estate tenants. The UCL management in collaboration with Newham Council , controlled by the Labour Party with Robin Wales at its head, are determined to remove the 300 tenants. After a well attended demonstration on November 28th the Garden Room in the Wilkins Building was occupied and the following day several events were put on there with a Carpenters Estate resident.
However the occupation ended after university management gave notice that they would hold three students liable for £40,000 worth of costs The students were served with a court order and injunction, which singled out three individuals. The occupiers faced a court hearing on December 5th if they chose to stay in the room. The group felt there was no option but to end their occupation, in the light of the victimisation of individuals for what was evidently a collective act.
The management have behaved in a high handed way, refusing to enter into any dialogue with the occupiers, using CCTV footage and online surveillance, and then resorting to legal threats to intimidate and remove them.
UCL students will have to build up their campaign and involve more students in the ongoing campaign. The links that were created with the Carpenters tenants was a very positive development. Now further links with other tenants, residents and community groups in East London need to be strengthened, In addition the recent actions taken by cleaners employed by a sub-contractor to UCL over their wages and conditions, and by UCL lecturers over changes in management right to fire should be seen as part of the same struggle against this bullying management, more concerned with profit than with the genuine needs of education.