PROTESTS BY staff and students at the London School of Economics (LSE) have forced pro-business director Howard Davies to turn down a directorship at the TotalFinaElf oil multinational.
News reached us a fortnight ago that Davies had been 'recommended for appointment' to the board of the world's fifth largest oil firm. Total has been criticised for prolonging civil wars in Sudan and Angola. Former directors are facing prosecution in France's biggest post-war corruption scandal. They are accused of grabbing $30 million in illegal 'kickbacks' following a series of takeover deals brokered by a former aide to Saddam Hussein.
Most seriously, opposition leaders in Burma have said that TotalFinaElf's $1.2 billion operation has been the 'best support' to the country's military dictatorship.
Our director, Davies, is a former director of GKN, Britain's third largest arms manufacturer. He got off to a bad start with students, meeting George Bush at a banquet while over 1,200 of us protested against the US president, closing LSE. He then published an advert in a national newspaper on the eve of the top-up fees vote, calling on MPs to support the government, despite his assurances that he would do no such thing.
A well-attended meeting with former LSE student Rachel Goldwyn, who was imprisoned in Burma for her pro-democracy work, kicked off the campaign. Hundreds of students and staff signed a petition. Flying visits-once with a samba band in tow-were made to Davies in his 11th floor ivory tower, after which he went into hiding.
A small group broke into a meeting of LSE's Court of Governors to hand over a pile of petitions. An apoplectic Davies, hurling abuse, admitted in front of the School's ruling body that he would be turning the directorship down.
STUDENTS AT Swansea University are angry at the response by police to a recent peaceful protest against the closure of several departments. Twelve police vehicles were called when students protested against the 'Going for Growth' plan to save £750,000 outside a meeting of the university senate.
THE BOSS of one of Britain's most prestigious universities admits that industrial action by lecturers over pay is working. Malcolm Grant, head of University College London (UCL), has sent an e-mail to staff warning that a boycott of assessment and admin work by members of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) will hit exams.
'We know who is responsible for any effect on students,' says UCL student Anindya Raychandhauri. 'The university employers are refusing to give lecturers proper pay. Students face variable fees. Staff face variable pay. Both are about the market in education.'
UCL lecturer George Paizis says, 'The provost of the university is threatening to dock the pay of union members who are part of the action. That is providing a further impetus to organise as a union. 'If the employers' pay proposals go through it will mean setting university against university, department against department and lecturer against lecturer.'
The AUT conference meets next week to discuss how to take the pay campaign forward. Leaders of the EIS union are balloting lecturers in Scotland with a recommendation to reject the employers' final pay offer. And activists in the Natfhe lecturers union are also arguing, against the recommendation of their negotiators, for rejection and to join the AUT in fighting over pay.