Two Trinity graduates among LSE occupiers

news1Trinity graduates Sinead Mercier and Alison Spillane are two of about 40 students taking part in an occupation of an administration room at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) since Tuesday night. Among their demands are calls for genuine university democracy, an end to zero-hour contracts and a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment.


Speaking to Trinity News over the weekend, Mercier, who is studying for a Masters of Laws at the university, said she joined the demonstration in an attempt to resist the university’s commercialised approach to education. Its neoliberal agenda, she said, is mirrored in LSE curricula, which focuses all too often on “trickle down” economics. “Universities, such as LSE, simply cannot continue to take such a hegemonic approach to economics, especially as so many who graduate with these economic degrees go onto to define governmental policy that affects us all,” she said.

She added: “It’s so important that students highlight what the university should be, and how our degrees should be able to help humanity as a whole rather than serve a singular self-serving purpose,” she said.

Alison Spillane – a Trinity graduate studying for an MSc in Gender, Policy and Inequalities at LSE – told Trinity News she got involved in the occupation because of the university’s focus on employability rather than holistic education. “The intrinsic value of education is being lost as universities shift their focus to the production of perfect employees rather than individuals capable of critical thought,” she said. “With this occupation, we have created a democratic non-hierarchical space for the exchange and exploration of ideas and we are motivated by the belief that education must be universally accessible for all.” She added: “I think many students in Ireland share these concerns, as evidenced by the recent actions of NCAD students who are protesting against cuts and overcrowding, and we at Occupy LSE stand in solidarity with them.”

In a statement released last week, the group said that universities like LSE  are “increasingly implementing the privatised, profit-driven, and bureaucratic ‘business model’ of higher education, which locks students into huge debts and turns the university into a degree-factory and students into consumers.”

Europe-wide demos

The occupation in LSE’s Vera Anstey Suite is one of several actions currently taking place in European universities such as University of Amsterdam and the University of Oxford. The still ongoing Amsterdam occupation, which began on February 13th, is calling for a “new university” movement with greater democracy and financial transparency. Meanwhile, in Oxford, a group of alumni has occupied a university building since March 16th in protest at its ruling to defer a decision on fossil fuel divestment.

Photo: Occupy LSE