Inspired by and in solidarity with recent occupations at universities across the UK and the world, following mounting concern with the trajectory of our education system, coupled with a collective frustration among students of King’s College London on the issues of: tuition fees; democratic representation; college transparency; accessibility; liberation; worker’s rights and pay discrepancies; and ethical investment — a group of autonomous students have occupied the Council Room on the Strand Campus, KCL.
Our aim is to provide a safe, accessible and inclusive space that welcomes students, staff and other university workers from across the entirety of the King’s community. In doing so, a diverse range of current concerns can be raised and then discussed. Using consensus decision making and informed by active working groups led by representatives from affected groups, we are formulating specific and achievable demands that we will issue to senior management. It is our hope that this action accelerates positive change in the many areas we are concerned about.
Following from this, our provisional demands are stated below. These have been specifically based on discussions with individual students and representatives of the affected groups. The formation of focus groups, workshops and general assemblies continues to facilitate discussion of the issues informing these demands. We will continue to hold discussions of these stated and further issues to inform our on-going demands.
King’s College Council to hold an open discussion at the beginning of the next academic year, to explain to students how the administrative system works. This should be accompanied with a clear, transparent and easily accessible document with the same function.
The establishment of an independent review committee drawn from members of the student, academic and non-academic staff bodies, with the intention of overhauling and democratising existing College Council and administrative formats. This committee should ensure adequate representation of the entire university community in decision making processes at the university, and their reports should have have binding assurances of being used to implement changes by the College administration.
The compilation of all College Council, Remuneration Board and Business Board minutes, along with the minutes of their attendant sub-committees, to be released within a week of the relevant meeting, in a format that is easily understandable and available online. This should be carried out by impartial representatives from all trade unions on campus i.e. UNISON, UCU and KCLSU.
Agree to all Freedom of Information requests submitted, both past and in the future. This includes the University and College Union’s 2014 request into top-end staff pay and expenses at King’s.
Hold well publicised consultation forums on the implementation of new policies which will affect members of the King’s community, for example the new property investment on Aldwych. In these forums it needs to be made explicitly clear how these policies would be implemented, what they would entail, and how they would affect all current and future members of the King’s community.
Explain the process of how Prevent and the Counter Terrorism Bill is being implemented at our university, whether any students have been targeted by Prevent, and what training staff are receiving in order to implement the policy.
Fair treatment of Academics
(Full statement of solidarity and message of support from UCU available here: https://medium.com/@margotmerlot/statement-on-academics-rights-message-of-solidarity-from-ucu-cf458ccc0d2b)
We stand in support of fair working conditions for GTAs at King’s.
KCL Principal to hold Faculty Experience Forums open to staff and students at the beginning of each term, with the KCLSU VP for Education in attendance.
Create a framework of assessing the quality of teaching conditions at the university based on academic workloads, full-time staff to student ratios, class sizes, and proportion of academic to administrative staff. This should be done in consultation with representative lecturers, GTAs and heads of faculty from all departments.
End vacancy freezes in all academic faculties, and to bring an end to the practice of using punitive Key Performance Indicators to make academic staff redundant.
Ensure greater financial support for NHS students, in accordance with the on-going KCLSU ‘Lifeline to Learn’ campaign.
Implement a greater range of bursaries and scholarships for students from low-income backgrounds.
While we support the principle of free education, we demand that in the short term King’s addresses and meaningfully reduces the disparity of domestic and international fees, particularly those of non-EU international students.
Equal representation and liberation:
Diversify the curriculum by taking steps to implement greater gender and BME balance, and engage with minority identities and minoritized groups. This should extend to course content, module options, and academic staff, and includes acknowledging and taking steps to tackle Western-centric biases in academia.
Diversify alumni windows with greater representation for BME and minority gender groups.
LGBTQ+ sensitivity and BME sensitivity training for all personal tutors.
Pronoun training for all staff, especially in health centres and counselling services, with a more straightforward process for students choosing to change their preferred personal pronoun.
Establish more gender neutral toilets and the removal of signs that represent a gender binary.
Expand vegan, kosher and halal provisions in all KCL catering facilities, ensuring there is an option for each of these dietary requirements every day.
Provide a full, continuing scholarship that includes living costs to a student from Gaza by the next academic year (on top of the one currently provided to any Palestinian student) and look into establishing a twinning partnership with a university or educational institution in Palestine in support of the Palestinian right to Education.
Mental health and disability:
Abolish the ‘Fit to Sit’ policy in accordance with the ongoing campaign by KCLSU on this matter.
Ensure mandatory training for personal tutors, particularly in relation to advice surrounding mental health services.
Employ an additional permanent CBT therapist to cut down the waiting times for counselling and psychiatry.
Commit fully to the accessibility of all King’s buildings for those with physical disabilities.
Issue a public statement clarifying the university senior executive team’s position on free education.
Facilitate an open forum with the senior executive team on the subject of free education, and the possibilities and benefits of facilitating it. This should be open to the whole of the student community, with a diverse representation of academic staff in attendance. The result of this should be the formation of an action plan based on the consensus of the King’s community as a whole.
(Full explanation and statement of solidarity available here: https://medium.com/@margotmerlot/statement-of-solidarity-with-outsourced-workers-e94729ff03d6)
Ensure that outsourced contractors (particularly Servest) pay their staff at KCL on time and at the latest rate of London Living Wage calculated by the living wage foundation, to be implemented immediately.
Oppose Servest’s attempts to unilaterally reduced employee hours, and support employees’ continued opposition to these hours reductions.
Pressure Servest in providing cover staff for sick leave and holidays.
Support UNISON’s demand of recognition from Servest, and to guarantee that all outsourced workers are afforded the dignity and respect they deserve to be shown.
Ethical Investment Demands:
Commit to responsible investment as outlined in models like the United Nations principles for responsible investment.
Explore the implications of fossil fuel divestment through an independently conducted report seeking multiple viewpoints to be presented at the next college council meeting.
Develop an ethical investment policy in the next 12 months, which outlines a framework by which it will remove all holdings in unethical investments (fossil fuels, tobacco, and arms manufacturing).
A concise and explicit declaration of all investments that are made on behalf of King’s by third parties.
Review and divest from all institutions or state-sanctioned institutions involved in violations of international law, for example G4S and Veolia due to their complicity in the illegal occupation of Palestinian territories by the current Israeli government. King’s should also review its academic ties between the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (ICH) due to the ICH’s involvement in Israeli policy formation regarding the occupation of Palestinian territory.