UoL Justice for Workers occupation alarmed by Senate House fire evacuation while library announces weekend closure

University of London (UoL) managers appear to have been hit by bad luck twice in the past twenty-four hours. First the exclusive Chancellor’s Hall was taken over by students to force the university into making all outsourced staff direct employees. Then, at approximately 3pm, a fire bell subjected Senate House to a general evacuation.

Activists barricaded in Chancellor’s Hall reacted with shock at the fire bell. A startled tweet from the UoL Justice for Workers campaign (UoL J4W) claimed it was: “AN ATTEMPT TO PUSH US OUT”. Meanwhile staff and student flowed out of the Senate House front gates just below the occupation.

The UoL press office told London Student the event was “contrary to some reports on social media … confirmed as a genuine alarm activation by the commander of the London Fire Brigade who attended the scene.” They also said it was unrelated to the occupation.

Staff and students obeyed fire regulations and poured out of Senate House.

As the initial surprise subsided, a less shaken tweet from UoL J4W, who want UoL to end outsourcing for cleaners, security guards and receptionists, announced they were told by a fire officer that “there was no fire and that the alarm went off on the opposite side of the building – far away from us.”

The tweet said: “We are all okay and we have held our ground.”

Just before the fire bell, the Senate House Library, home to over two million books, unexpectedly announced it would be closing early at 5pm and not open on Saturday. The Institute of Historical Research (IHR), located in the north wing of Senate House made a similar announcement.

The hall occupied by UoL J4W is not adjacent to neither the library nor IHR entrances. No official explanation was given for the extended closures.

Watching the fire evacuation, an outsourced security guard working for a university near to Senate House, told London Student he was pleased to hear about the occupation. Nodding in the direction of the occupied hall he said: “I used to think being a security guard was all about putting down the ‘evil-doers'”. With reference to the university administration, he added: “now we know who the real cowboys are.”

He said: “I hope we get brought in-house as well.”

Senate House gates closed in the evening below the occupied Chancellor’s Hall.

By 6pm the scene was quiet. A few security guards were seen watching as a temporary fence was placed below the first floor windows where a UoL J4W displayed the slogan “Boycott Senate House”.

The UoL press office told London Student that no events at Senate House had been rescheduled because of the protest.

Photo credit: David Dahlborn

For updates, follow @UOLJ4W and @LondonStudent on Twitter.

This article was updated at 21.32 on 14 June to include comments from the UoL press office.


Opinion Editor. Cambridge History PhD student.

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