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On the Origins of the Global Student Decolonise Movement

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LSE

LSE commitments 

Non-LSE:

Covid-19 Activism

Solidarity campaigns:

Anti-racism:

Institutional history – antiracist, decolonial activism at LSE:

1964-1969: LSE student mobilisations, protests, and “The Troubles”

  • 1964: LSESU decision to boycott South African products on campus, but has no power to enforce the boycott. LSE administration refuses to support or enforce it. 
  • LSESU, LSE Students Against Racial Discrimination and the LSE Socialist Society (known as ‘Soc-Soc’ and formed in 1965) participate in student mobilisations, campaigns, and teach-ins about racial apartheid in South Africa and Rhodesia which attracts hundreds of students.
  • 12 November 1965: LSE Soc-Soc mobilises 300 students for a march against apartheid from Downing Street to Rhodesia House. Protest ends with police violently dispersing and arresting students. The LSESU pays the arrested students’ fines and sponsors another protest on 15 November with 500 students.
  • Tensions build between students and administration at LSE amid student activism and following the School’s refusal to support the boycott against South Africa. The LSESU’s demands for more student involvement in School leadership and to improve crowded classroom conditions are dismissed by the administration, which further fuels discontent amongst students.
  • 1966: appointment of Walter Adams as LSE Director, without student consultation, acts as a catalyst for heightened student anger. Adams had been the head of University College Rhodesia and was known for cooperating with the apartheid regime. 
  • March 1967: First sit-in in response to the School dismissing student demands. Several hundreds of students occupy the entrance of the Old Building 24/7 for 10 days, with the banner “Beware the pedagogic gerontocracy”. Elderly porter, Ted Poole, dies from heart failure whilst trying to do crowd control. 
  • LSESU President, David Adelstein, and Graduate Students’ Association President, Marshall Bloom, (previously separate organisations) write a letter to The Times. The two students are suspended for this letter and their role in the occupations. Further occupation of the Old Building and protests in response to Adelstein and Bloom’s suspensions. 
  • 1968: Mass student civil disobedience and other actions inspired by protesters in the US against the Vietnam War. LSE buildings occupied by students in support of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign against US involvement in Vietnam.
  • January 1969: School closes following escalation in student protests against LSE leadership. Security gates set-up around school buildings to keep protesters out. Students use pickaxes, crowbars, and sledgehammers to regain control of closed-off buildings. They seize control of several buildings, setting up a ‘LSE in exile’ which was disbanded a day later. Many protesters are arrested, students march to the police station in solidarity with those in police custody.
  • School remains closed for over three weeks. According to the BBC, LSE “brought legal action against 13 people, including three staff, said to be ringleaders. The “troublemakers” were banned from the college for a month and only allowed to return on condition they did not interfere with the management or damage the premises. Two of the three staff were subsequently sacked. A number of the students faced further disciplinary action for disrupting lectures.”
  • 1 November 1969: Marshall Bloom, Graduate Students’ Association President, commits suicide following his suspension in 1968 and receiving call-up papers for military service in Vietnam. 

Sources: 

Hoefferle, Caroline. British Student Activism in the Long Sixties. Routledge, 2014. pp. 58-59, 66-67, 74-75

‘“Beware the pedagogic gerontocracy”: the 1960s protests at the LSE’, Molly Blackall, https://68collective.com/beware-the-pedagogic-gerontocracy

‘The LSE Troubles’ LSE History Blog https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsehistory/the-lse-troubles/

‘1967: Protest over student suspensions’ BBC. 13 March 1967. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/13/newsid_2542000/2542639.stm

‘LSE protests suspension of students’ AP Archive video, 17 March 1967. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIh0lyxls8M

“The Revolution at the LSE”, Rand K. Rosenblatt, Harvard Crimson, 23 March 1967. https://www.thecrimson.com/article/1967/3/23/the-revolution-at-the-lse-plast/

‘1969: LSE closes over student clashes’ BBC. 24 January 1969. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/24/newsid_2506000/2506485.stm

‘1969: Rebel students take over LSE’ BBC. 27 January 1969. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/january/27/newsid_2506000/2506255.stm

‘1969: Once a rebel’ BBC Witness. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/witness/january/24/newsid_2639000/2639609.stm

Marshall I. Bloom obituary, Amherst University. 1 November 1969. https://www.amherst.edu/amherst-story/magazine/in_memory/1966/marshall-i.-bloom-66

For further research:

Agitator. Journal of the LSE Socialist Society. 1965-1971. (Vol. 1-10). (LSE Library)

The Beaver and Clare Market Review archives from this period. (LSE Library)

LSESU Council Meeting minutes from this period. (LSE Library)

‘The LSE Protests 1966-69’ LSE Youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQ3ZxqZRDhU

BLOOM, MARSHALL. “THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: STUDENT POWER AND INDISCIPLINE.” Minerva, vol. 5, no. 4, 1967, pp. 610–614. JSTOR www.jstor.org/stable/41821824

Clare Special on LSE: “Something Is Happening and You Don’t Know What It Is Do You, Mr. Jones?”. London: LSE Students Union, 1967. (LSE Library)

LSE International Socialists. L.S.E., a Marxist Perspective. London: LSE International Socialists, 1973. (LSE Library)

The Gay Liberation Front 

  • LSE played an important role in the LGBTQ movement in the UK. Since 1988, the LSE Library has housed an important archive dedicated to queer life, the Hall-Carpenter Archives. These archives have supplied materials for two dedicated exhibitions: Glad to be Gay (2017) and Social Revolution: women’s liberation and gay liberation in the 1970s and 80s (2019).
  • 13 October 1970: the Gay Liberation Front holds its first meeting in a LSE classroom, where Jeffrey Weeks, a gay activist and historian had just started working. 
  • The GLF wrote demands, formed conscious-raising groups, and organised “think-ins” which attracted 200 people at a time and regional chapters were gradually set up. They also organised “Gay Days.”
  • The GLF was instrumental to London’s first gay pride march in 1972.

Sources:

“The Gay Liberation Front and queer rights in the UK: a conversation with Jeffrey Weeks” 23 May 2019, La Clé des langueshttp://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/civilisation/domaine-britannique/the-gay-liberation-front-and-queer-rights-in-the-uk-a-conversation-with-jeffrey-weeks

“Glad to be gay — the Hall-Carpenter Archives at LSE Library” Gillian Murphy, 1 February 2017, LSE History blog https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsehistory/2017/02/01/glad-to-be-gay-the-hall-carpenter-archives-at-lse-library/

“This is what Britain’s Gay Liberation Front movement looked like in the 1970s” Pete Brook, 16 August 2017, Timeline. https://timeline.com/this-is-what-britains-gay-liberation-front-movement-looked-like-in-the-1970s-c8583401a209

“Gay Liberation Front Manifesto”, 1971. British Library Collection. https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/gay-liberation-front-manifesto

“Queer in the city: London” Steven Dryden. LGBTQ Histories, British Library. https://www.bl.uk/lgbtq-histories/articles/queer-in-the-city-london

2011 Protest to stop LSE’s relationship with Saif al-Islam Gadaffi

  • 2009-2011: LSE received £1.5 million gift from Colonel Gadaffi’s son, Saif al-Islam, who completed a PhD at LSE (2003-2008). LSE’s Centre for Global Governance received £300,000 of the donation from the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation. The LSE’s commercial arm had been contracted to train Libyan civil servants for £2.2 million.
  • February 2011: 150 LSE students protested and a dozen students entered the office of LSE Director Sir Howard Davies.
  • March 2011: LSE Director resigns after the backlash, protests, and report from former Chief Justice Lord Woolf for an independent external inquiry.

Sources:

“Gaddafi funds prompt LSE students’ protest”, Katherine Sellgreen, 23 February 2011, BBChttps://www.bbc.com/news/education-12550876

“LSE criticised for links with Gaddafi regime in Libya”, Stuart Hugues, 30 November 2011, BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/education-15966132

2015 Occupy LSE – Free University of London

  • 15 March 2015: 40 students occupy the Vera Anstey suite in the Old Building, which served as the central meeting room of LSE administration. They used bicycle locks to barricade themselves in the room for several days.
  • Students demand a change to the current university system, for a “liberating” education, run by lectures, students, and workers. They call out the neo-liberal, profit-driven approach to higher-education at LSE in which students become indebted consumers of a “degree factory”. They form the “Free University of London”. 
  • LSE’s initial response: “On Tuesday evening a group of approximately 20 students occupied the Vera Anstey Room in the Old Building at LSE, highlighting a broad range of demands relating to higher education. LSE was founded for the betterment of society and it is clear that this principle continues to be a guide for many of our students. Exchanges between the group and LSE security staff have been positive.”
  • 29 April 2015: LSE takes legal action to evict students from Vera Anstey suite with eviction notice http://www.lse.ac.uk/website-archive/newsAndMedia/PDF/Occupation_2942015.pdf
  • Occupy LSE responds with the following statement: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=423591254468475&id=403346286492972

Full demands from the Occupy LSE movement:

“1. Free and universally accessible education not geared to making profit

  • We demand that the management of LSE lobby the government to scrap tuition fees for both domestic and international students.

2. Workers Rights

  • In solidarity with the LSE workers, we demand real job security, an end to zero-hour contracts, fair remuneration and a drastic reduction in the gap between the highest and lowest paid employees.

3. Genuine University Democracy

  • We demand a student-staff council, directly elected by students and academic and non-academic staff, responsible for making all managerial decisions of the institution.

4. Divestment

  • We demand that the school cuts its ties to exploitative and destructive organisations, such as those involved in wars, military occupations and the destruction of the planet. This includes but is not limited to immediate divestment from the fossil fuel industry and from all companies which make a profit from the Israeli state’s occupation of Palestine.

5. Liberation

  • We demand that LSE changes its harassment policy, and to have zero tolerance to harassment.
  • We demand that LSE does not implement the Counter Terrorism Bill that criminalises dissent, particularly targeting Muslim students and staff.
  • We demand that the police are not allowed on campus.
  • We demand that LSE becomes a liberated space free of racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and religious discrimination.
  • We demand that the school immediately reinstates the old ethics code and makes it legally binding, in line with the recently passed SU motion.
  • We demand that the school ensures the security and equality of international students, particularly with regards to their precarious visa status, and fully include them in our project for a free university.”

Sources:

Occupy LSE Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Occupy-LSE-Free-University-of-London-403346286492972/

“Occupy LSE – Free University of London” 18 March 2015, Marxist Student. https://marxiststudent.com/occupy-lse-free-university-of-london/

“‘Our turn to talk’: Why we should listen to Occupy LSE” Harry Blain, 30 March 2015, Open Democracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/our-turn-to-talk-why-we-should-listen-to-occupy-lse/

“LSE students stage occupation in protest at ‘profit-driven education’” Nadia Khomani, 18 March 2015, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/mar/18/lse-students-occupation-protest-education

“LSE threatens student protesters with legal action to end occupation” Martin Williams and Rebecca Radcliffe, 29 March 2015, The Guardianhttps://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/mar/29/lse-threatens-student-protesters-legal-action-occupation-university

“LSE takes legal action to evict occupying student protesters”, Natalie Gil, 30 April 2015, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/30/lse-takes-legal-action-to-evict-occupying-student-protesters

2018-2019 campaign in response to Nazi student at LSE

  • Early October 2018: it is revealed that Peter Cvjetanovic (sometimes known as Cytanovic), the face of the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ white supremacist rally, is enrolled in the MSc in Political Theory at LSE’s Department of Government. Students circulate an open letter to the School in opposition to Cvjetanovic’s enrollment and condemning his admission. 
  • 10 October 2018: LSE Spokesperson tells the London Tab: “LSE does not discuss details of individual students. Nevertheless, we take any complaints received very seriously and have robust procedures in place to ensure that all issues of concern raised are dealt with promptly and fairly. The School is committed to equity, diversity and inclusion for all members of the School community. Students and staff are free to hold and express their own views, however, we expect everyone within the LSE community to treat each other with respect at all times. Graduate selections are made on the basis of the strength of an individual’s application, with an experienced selector assessing each application, including personal statement and references, alongside agreed criteria set by the department.”
  • 12 October 2018: Students rally against racism and hate speech on campus, starting at the LSESU and finishing outside the Directorate’s office. 
  • On the same day: Cvjetanovic issues a statement to the London Tab expressing regret: “‘deeply regrets attending the Charlottesville rally and the things [he] did and said at the time’ […] ‘reflected deeply on [his] actions’ and that sees that he ‘made mistakes’ and is ‘sorry for the hurt’ that he caused. ‘I’ve reflected deeply on my actions and I know that I made mistakes, I am sorry for the hurt that I caused. I do not hold those views now. I have come to LSE for a new start.’ After the Charlottesville rally Peter initially identified himself as a ‘white nationalist’ in two separate interviews , he later backtracked saying that his words had been his ‘biggest mistake’.”
  • 15 October 2018: Students confront LSE Director Dame Minouche Shafik over Cvjetanovic’s enrollment at LSE at a School forum
  • June 2019: Cvjetanovic grants Beaver interview 
  • December 2019: Cvjetanovic / Cytanovic graduates from LSE with an MSc in Poltical Theory

Sources:

“‘White nationalist’ face of Charlottesville now studying at LSE” John Morgan, 4 October 2018, Times Higher Education. https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/white-nationalist-face-charlottesville-now-studying-lse

“’White nationalist’ from infamous Charlottesville protest now reportedly studying at LSE” Tom Barnes, 4 October 2018, The Independenthttps://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/white-nationalist-charlotteville-protest-enrolled-lse-student-unite-the-right-peter-cvjetanovic-a8568986.html

“Face of Neo-Nazi rally is now a student at LSE” Vaidehi Dhavde, 7 October 2018, The London Tab https://thetab.com/uk/london/2018/10/07/confirmed-face-of-charlottesville-unite-the-right-protest-now-a-student-at-lse-32755

“Face of Neo-Nazi rally LSE student ‘regrets’ going and is ‘sorry’ for his actions” Vaidehi Dhavde, 13 October 2018, The London Tab https://thetab.com/uk/london/2018/10/13/lse-student-who-was-the-face-of-a-neo-nazi-rally-regrets-going-and-is-sorry-for-his-actions-32904

“Students Grill Minouche” Ross Lloyd, 24 October 2018, Beaver https://beaveronline.co.uk/students-grill-minouche/

“Anti-Racism Protests Erupt on LSE Campus” Rajan Chander, 24 October 2018, Beaver https://beaveronline.co.uk/anti-racism-protests-erupt-on-lse-campus/

LSE students demonstrate against a white nationalist on campus” Ilaria Grasso Macola, 2018, London Student. https://londonstudent.coop/lse-students-demonstrate-against-a-white-nationalist-on-campus/

“Exclusive interview with Peter Cvjetanovic” Adam Solomons, 23 June 2019, Beaver. https://beaveronline.co.uk/exclusive-interview-with-peter-cvjetanovic/

2016-2020 LSE cleaners strike and Justice for LSE Cleaners campaign (ongoing)

  • 2016: Campaign denouncing cleaners being treated as second-class citizens (pay below the London Living Wage, pension contribution, annual leave) and pushing for LSE cleaning staff to be brought in-house, led by UVW. Bolstered by video of cleaners explaining they weren’t allowed to access student and staff spaces for lunch and rest breaks. At the time, cleaners were sub-contracted through the company Noonan.
  • 2017: Cleaners strike – first cleaners’ strike in the history of LSE – supported by UVW.
  • 20 June 2017: After 10 months fighting, LSE cleaners are brought in-house and are set to become LSE employees in spring 2018. LSE cleaners become entitled to 41 days annual leave, 6 months full pay sick pay and 6 months half pay sick pay, plus proper employer pension contributions of up to 13% of their salary.
  • According to UVW: “This dispute saw the largest number of cleaners – all of whom are migrant and BAME workers and most of whom had never been unionised before – in UK history strike from a single workplace, and saw the the cleaners take 7 days of strike action in total, with 3 more pledged for the LSE’s student graduation days in July. There were also several protests and two occupations through the course of this dispute.”
  • 2017 strike and campaign heavily supported by the student Justice for LSE Cleaners campaign
  • January 2020 academic year: Justice for Cleaners campaign is revived after cleaners hold a meeting describing persistent discrimination they face, depsite being brought in house. They demand better treatment and better wages, above LLW, and for students to join in solidarity as a way of getting more traction.
  • June 2020: LSESU write a letter to LSE’s senior management committee demanding action against institutional racism at LSE, risk assessments for the Covid-19 return to campus, clarification on furlough schemes, and justice for cleaners.

Sources:

“Justice for the LSE cleaners!” Engenderings editorial team, 26 November 2016, Engenderings Blog. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/gender/2016/11/14/justice-for-the-lse-cleaners/

“The courage of LSE’s striking cleaners can give us all hope” Owen Jones, 25 May 2017, The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/25/lse-striking-cleaners-outsourced-university-injustice

“VICTORY TO THE LSE CLEANERS!” UWV, 20 June 2017. https://www.uvwunion.org.uk/news/2017/6/20/victory-to-lse-cleaners

“Justice for cleaners revived: in-house cleaners say they are ‘left in the Corridor’” Rhea Malviya, 13 February 2020, Beaver. https://beaveronline.co.uk/justice-for-cleaners-revived-in-house-cleaners-say-they-are-left-in-the-corridor/

“Racism at LSE and Justice for Cleaners” LSE Students’ Union, 12 June 2020 https://lsesu.tumblr.com/post/620732672671711232/racism-at-lse-and-justice-for-cleaners

2020 Black Lives Matter