PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 31st 2009. 3 p.m.
G20 SUMMIT: PUBLIC OUTRAGE AS UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON CLOSES CAMPUS TO EDUCATION AND DEMOCRACY
* The G20 Alternative Summit must go on! Classes and lectures must go on!
* In only a few hours a petition to Keep UEL Open receives over 1400 signatories from across the world, including well-know academics and writers, e.g. Naomi Klein.
* University is a crucial centre of democracy. Democracy is now the only safe path for the world out of the current multifaceted crisis.
London – Following the decision of the University of East London’s Corporate Management Team to close down the entire university on Wednesday, April 1st and Thursday, April 2nd, staff and students have launched a petition to keep the university open, arguing that they “would feel ashamed of UEL if this institution […] were to become known as the university that had closed its doors to democratic debate and education in times of crisis such as these.”
The University of East London was scheduled to host the G20 Alternative Summit on Wednesday, April 1st, intended as a popular assembly for everyone engaged in current struggles for social justice. Amidst fears over ‘security’ in light of these G20 protest events, management first withdrew its support for the Alternative Summit and subsequently decided to shut down the entire campus for the duration of the G20 summit and protest events, cancelling lectures and classes and shutting the library.
In the petition, staff and students are arguing that such ‘security’ considerations are a “classic excuse for every historic attempt to curtail free speech. Instead of seizing the opportunity to become a common space thriving with creative energies, [the University of East London] plans to become an empty shell for two days.”
The petition states that,
“It is time for the university management to become accountable not only to the government funding bodies, but to the wider public to whom it owes both its livelihood and a duty to fulfill its role as a part of civil society. The past 3 decades have seen public spaces such as universities hollowed out by the state and by corporations, as more and more of our common resources are transformed into sterile commodities, valued only in cash terms. In universities this has led to a policy regime which increasingly sees ‘employability’ in the ‘creative industries’ or in ‘business and finance’ as the only benchmark of success by which a university education can be judged; which sees research separated from teaching; which sees ‘knowledge transfer’ to the commercial sector as the only legitimate destination for the fruits of inquiry."
The signatories to the petition, which include a number of well-known academics from universities across the globe, including writer and activist Naomi Klein, are urging UEL management to “reconsider [their] decisions and take this unique opportunity to open the university as a crucial centre of democracy, since democracy is now the only safe path for the world out of the current multifaceted crisis. We must keep our university open to staff and students, rejecting the claims and ‘risk assessments’ that reproduce fear instead of promoting dialogue. We urge you to take responsibility for enabling the university to act as a truly public space for debate in a time when nobody can doubt that radical new ideas are needed.
* Dr Jeremy Gilbert, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0)7745886735
* Dr Eva Turner, email@example.com, +44 (0) 7940537794
*Prof. Massimo De Angelis, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 (0) 7951991754
* http://www.petitiononline.com/openUEL/petition.html; http://www.altg20.org.uk/