The entrance to SOAS was blocked from early morning to 5pm on Wednesday 30th November, in support of striking staff. Students expressed mixed views on the strike and public sector cuts, but for the most part the picket was upheld, and few people entered the building.
Florian, a SOAS student, was part of the picket line and said students had crossed it for a variety of reasons. “A lot of people didn’t understand the concept. They say “I support you but I just need to pop in and get something”. Or, “I need the loo, but I’m not a scab”. But if you go in, even if it’s just for 5 minutes, in you’re saying you think [breaking the strike] is ok.”
A first year SOAS student who was also on the picket added, “People don’t realise that by going in they’re taking a position.”
Other students were less happy about the disrupted access. A student who lives is the Isle of Dogs said “I just wanted to get my paper printed but these people wont let me in. I live far away and now they wont let me in. This is not for the students’ good; are these people even students? Well, I hope they think it’s worth it.”
Ernestine, a SOAS Student, explained that she had encountered little outright opposition to the strike. “The basic message is ‘Yeah we know this is happening, but I want to do what I want to do. I haven’t heard anyone with actually an argument against it, which is kind of a shame. It’s true we set the terms of it, but we let them know about it a long time ago. It’s just one day, use other facilities!”
Eric, a masters student at SOAS, said that he had paid international fees and was annoyed that he was not allowed to use the facilities. “This whole strike thing, I mean, I’m not from here, I’m not British. I’ve paid to come here, contributed to your educational system, your country, to come and study here, and then I can’t use it. I don’t disagree – it’s a right to strike – but I don’t have that problem. At least they could let people in who claim it’s nothing to do with them.”
As one student mused “Only a few dozen have been in since I’ve been here. Which isn’t much, if you think, out of 4000 students.”