Free education, marking boycott and G4S to be discussed in action-packed DSU Assembly

The Assembly begins at 19:00 at Dunelm House

The lecturers marking boycott, the suspending of Durham University contracts with G4S and the abolition of tuition fees are some of the motions proposed for the DSU Assembly on Thursday 13 November.

Students are being urged to attend the meeting of DSU officers and college and society representatives to contribute to the debate, although ordinary students cannot vote.

Members of the UCU Union, which represents university academics, began a marking boycott on 6 November 2014 over a pension dispute. The DSU Academic Affairs’ Officer, Leigh Spanner, wants a debate at the Assembly to decide the Students’ Union’s official stance on this issue.

The proposal to suspend the University’s contract with G4S for cash handling and access control comes in buildings comes in response to growing evidence that human rights abuses are being perpetrated in detention facilities overseen by the organisation.

“We need to send a clear message that human rights abuse is unacceptable, and as a company, G4S is complicit if not the direct cause of such abuse.”

In 2011, Amnesty International released a damning report on the treatment of deportees and asylum seekers by G4S, in which detainees claimed to have been strangled, beaten and dropped down aircraft steps.

The British multinational operates security systems at the Ofer prison and the Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention facilities in Israel, where human rights organisations have documented the systematic torture of Palestinian prisoners.

Meanwhile, a G4S run prison in South Africa came under investigation last year by the South African government after leaked footage appeared to show electric shocks and forced injections used against inmates.

Zainah al-Haroun, who proposed the motion, said: “We call upon Durham University to end all its contracts with G4S, or at the very least, we urge them not to renew their contracts with G4S next year and find an ethical alternative.

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“We need to send a clear message that human rights abuse is unacceptable, and as a company, G4S is complicit if not the direct cause of such abuse.

“It is integral to Durham University’s reputation, but it is also our duty to stand for rights and human dignity. Join Durham Amnesty International, Friends of Palestine, Labour Club and Feminists in our campaign, and say ‘No to G4S.”

G4S: the target of numerous protests

Assembly members are being asked to support the abolition of tuition fees by William Pinkney-Baird, a member of Durham Students Against Austerity. The NUS voted to recognise the principle of free education for all at their conference last April.

Mr Pinkney-Baird commented: “A student union exists to look after its students’ interests, and in certain cases this may involve taking a political stance, to hold politicians to account and demand positive change for students.

“Tuition fees are, quite simply, not in students’ interest. They are leaving students burdened with decades of debt and tearing down the principal of higher education as a public service open to all.”

Alice Dee, DSU College Representative for St Aidan’s, said: “These motions are things that affect every student in Durham and I hope that students will exercise their democratic rights and come along to Assembly.”

Do you support the marking boycott?YesNo Should Durham University suspend its contracts with G4S?YesNo Should tuition fees be abolished?YesNo

Are there other issues you think the DSU should be discussing? Comment below.

Clarification (2pm, 12/11/2014) – The article was amended to make it clear that ordinary students, while welcome to attend the debate, cannot actually vote on the motions.

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