Year 2000 No. 90, May 26, 2000

Students at Wolverhampton University Demonstrate against Course Cuts

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Students at Wolverhampton University Demonstrate against Course Cuts

Students at University of Kent Occupy Senate Building

Stagecoach Drivers Continue Struggle

Solidarity with the Struggle of the South Korean People

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Students at Wolverhampton University Demonstrate against Course Cuts

Wolverhampton University students staged a demonstration on the university campus on Tuesday, May 23, because of a decision to axe 22 courses from the 500 it normally offers. The cuts are to be in languages, humanities and the social sciences departments. It is feared that the cuts are the thin end of the wedge in an overall rationalisation programme. The Dean of the University had said that the rationalisation had been carried out "with a great deal of care", but the areas the cuts fall in show that this is the overall direction universities are taking education. Increasingly degrees cater for the requirements of big business rather than providing the higher education students would prefer and should be theirs by right.

On the demonstration there were placards outlining the students’ demands that there should be no funding cuts. An ex-university student supporting the protest said:" You have to see this in the context of cuts in social programmes. Students are being attacked with having to pay fees and doing away with grants and putting them into debt with loans. Everyone feels that the situation has to be reversed with fees paid and grants restored. The cutting of courses is another attack on people's rights to free and fully funded education."

Students only learned of the cuts last week when they came to choose the courses they would be doing in September. They are angry because the cuts mean that they are now not able to study for the degree originally offered by the university to them.

Language and communication first-year student Laura Mellersh said: " They have sold us a course they are not going to give us now. It is false advertising."

Another student studying the same course commented: "At the moment this means that we haven't got a course to go to next year."

Even where alternative course have been offered students will have to extra work over the summer vacation in order to catch up with everyone else. Geography student Rachel Parnell of Canterbury, Kent, said that she had learned of cases where tourism students who had been studying business now had to study leisure instead.

Another first year student, Daniel Hipgrave, who is studying French and Spanish, said that he was now being forced to change his degree. He said: "There have been drastic cuts in French. Now I am having to re-think because I originally wanted to do languages."

Latin American studies student Samantha Thoms said: "Wolverhampton offered a fantastic programme in the Latin American department but now it is being threatened."

The general feeling among the students is that protest over education has to be stepped up by students to win support so that the demand for an increase in this area of social funding can be realised. It has to be recognised that the student struggle is seen as part and parcel of the general demand for increased investment in social programmes.

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Students at University of Kent Occupy Senate Building

Students at Kent University in Canterbury barricaded themselves into the Senate Building from May 10-14 to protest against changes to the examination policy which will put great pressure on students.

They pointed out that students are being asked to sit as many as three examinations in a row, putting them under more stress at a difficult time, with little time to rest and revise.

President of the Students’ Union Geoff Medniuk said: "We think it is such a drastic change that it will seriously jeopardise students’ chances of getting a decent degree, and because of this will also leave the university behind in the league tables." He explained that some students will face nine hours of exams in less than 24 hours.

Some 200 students staged a demonstration against the policy, and at the peak of the sit-in there were also around 200 students in occupation.

A university official gave the explanation for the policy that "examiners have always pressured university management for enough time to mark the papers … and that can also only be achieved by making the exam period shorter".

The student union is optimistic that the University will consider changing the policy for next year.

The students also carried placards demanding "Grants Not Fees" and "No Top-Up Fees".

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Stagecoach Drivers Continue Struggle

Bus drivers at Stagecoach East Kent have been waging a campaign of industrial action over pay and conditions. The drivers have continued to take strike action to press home their demands. A spokesperson for the TGWU said: "We are always prepared to talk, but these talks have not so far been constructive."

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Solidarity with the Struggle of the South Korean People

The May 2000 Bulletin of CILRECO, the International Liaison Committee for Reunification and Peace in Korea, carries an article on the 20th anniversary of the popular insurrection in Kwangjou, South Korea. In reproducing the article below, WDIE expresses its solidarity with the struggle for freedom, democracy, sovereignty and reunification in South Korea.

MAY 2000: On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the popular insurrection in Kwangjou (May 1980) and its fierce repression, let us show our solidarity with the South Korean democratic forces fighting for democracy, sovereignty and reunification.

The sequence of tragic events:

December 1979: Even though the fictitious government exists until May 1980, the army is the one which holds the power, martial law is declared in South Korea, and all those who call for democratisation arrested;

May 15-16, 1980: Students demonstrate in Seoul, most of other universities throughout the country join in as well as workers in cities, they all demonstrate against the dictatorial regime and martial law, they call for democratisation and an end to repression;

May 17: General Djeun Doo Hwan, head of the KCIA, supported by the most fascistic elements within the regime, seizes power after a military coup;

May 17-18: In Kwangjou, students demonstrate, they want Djeun Doo Hwan to leave, army ripostes with extreme violence. In Seoul, the National Assembly is occupied by the army, people demonstrate, the police fire shots, many demonstrators are killed;

May 15-20: Popular protest is growing ever stronger throughout South Korea, and most of all in Kwangjou, where the people, indignant about the "student hunt" by paratroopers and their cruelty, join the students;

May 21: The insurrection in Kwangjou, a true popular uprising forces the army to leave town, the "commune" of Kwangjou is created, it will last a week and will spread to other cities;

May 24: The American General Wickham, commander of the join American-South Korean troops, with the implicit approval of the American government that supports the South Korean junta, authorises them to use the troops under his command to "maintain order";

May 21: At dawn, the town of Kwangjou is surrounded by thousands of soldiers, including the special units of paratroopers, reinforced by hundreds of armoured vehicles, including 120 tanks;

May 21-27: After the attack, days of horror follow, with manhunt, exaction, massacres and atrocities against the entire population without any distinction. People are crushed by tanks, machine-gunned at point-blank range, clubbed to death, women are raped and hanged, some have their breasts cut off, people are buried alive, and those arrested are subjected to horrifying tortures. More than 2,000 men, women and children are massacred by the army rabble;

May 27: In the evening, "American order" rules over Kwangjou, but the repression will continue for weeks throughout South Korea. The military junta hopes to silence once and for all those aspiring to democracy, sovereignty and reunification of the country.

The spirit of Kwangjou lives on. Over the years, it has become a symbol of the struggle for freedom, democracy, sovereignty and reunification in South Korea.

May 2000: CILRECO calls upon all progressive forces world-wide to voice their solidarity with the struggle of the South Korean people between the May 15 - 28, and in particular to:

intensify, during that period, their action against the human rights violations in South Korea, in favour of the liberation of all jailed patriots, return to the North of "long-term non-converted prisoners of conscience", and the abolishment of all repressive measures and laws;

— demand that the South Korean authorities adopt a policy of independence, encouraging dialogue for reconciliation and reunification.

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