Over 100 students refused to go to lessons and staged a protest outside the New College Nottingham High Pavement campus this morning. Students are angry about plans to concentrate students at the campus and radically alter student timetables next academic year, as well as claiming that they have been excluded from the decision making process.
The protest started before 9am and was enthusiastically supported by staff, who were unable to strike but made their appreciation clear. Students were vocal with chants of “Give staff a voice!” and “No more Amarjit!” in reference to the college’s Principal and Chief Executive Officer, Amarjit Basi, who is behind the proposed changes. The students lined the entire pavement in front of the building and waved banners proclaiming “No Change Needed”, “College not business”, “We aren’t ca$h cows!” and “Excellence, Employability, Entrepreneurship. Where’s Education?”
Principal, Amarjit Basi, came out to speak to the protesters soon after 9am but looked very uncomfortable as anger about his alleged lack of engagement with students was voiced. “You’ve totally ignored us, you’ve gone behind our back, and you’ve left it till the last minute to let anyone know”, a student challenging him to loud applause, “I do not want to be at a college that doesn’t listen to me.” Students claimed that staff had been threatened with disciplinary procedures if they supported the protests. One student told Basi “You’ve blackmailed them because they can’t support us.”
Apparently, many students who rely on the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) had had to cross the picket line otherwise their payments for the week would have been voided. Otherwise the picket might have been much bigger.
Staff gave applause to the students (and were applauded in turn) and brought out solidarity drinks and food for the students including several pizzas, a tray of flapjacks and packets of ice lollies! Lots of cars and vans going down Chaucer Street gave honks of support.
At one point a passing police car pulled over and an officer came over to see what was going on, had a bit of a chat with some of the senior managers and obviously decided it didn’t merit any further attention so headed off.
I spoke with one of the students about the protest and he told me that “We tried to put our point of view across about the changes but we haven’t been listened to whatsoever. So what we’re trying to do today is prove our point, to show that we aren’t just people who are going to take whatever they throw at us. We’re going to stand up for what we believe in and we’ve got a very good point of view and we should be listened to. That’s what we’re trying to do today, to get our voice heard and to get involved in the decision making process”.
He mentioned that the Principal has infrequently come in to speak to vocal students individually, in small rooms, in what he saw as an attempt to silence dissent. “If you try and communicate with him he just cuts you up and carries on”. They have attempted dialogue in the form of a letter to the Principal as well but felt that it was ignored.
“We have made it very clear to the management that we are prepared to take further action if we aren’t listened to”, he continued,“and if in the future we aren’t involved in the decision making process. We want to rectify a fundamentally flawed system and get involved.” The College’s communication had “not been open and honest” and had been limited to meetings announced only an hour or so before they were due to begin. He speculated that next time they take action they could have the support of a whole new year’s intake of students who have not been told about the changes that will be in place by the time they start.