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This students' union is allegedly trying to sack its own elected officer after she led a protest


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Student Sahaya James led an occupation against University of the Arts London's role in the gentrification of Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre. 

The Student Union for the University of the Arts London has summoned elected Campaigns Officer Sahaya James to an extraordinary meeting with the union's trustee board to discuss a "motion of no confidence".

She is now being faced with disciplinary procedures by UAL in the wake of an occupation she led at its London College of Communication.

The occupation was a protest against the proposed redevelopment of Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, which would have replaced the shopping centre as well as nearby facilities like a bingo centre with luxury flats and a new LCC campus. The plan would have meant that just 3% of the 1,000 new homes would be genuinely affordable, and it has since been paused by the council.

According to her post, James alleges that she is being threatened with dismissal from her students' union and management are dragging her through a disciplinary process. 

In a recent statement by the students' union, the vote of no confidence "is unrelated to her participation in the recent occupation or the University's decision to investigate her behaviour."

James, who sits on the National Committee of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts said:

"The past few weeks have been difficult and upsetting, but I am proud of the success we have had in pushing back the redevelopment plans at Elephant and Castle and I am determined to continue to serve the UAL student body.

"I have been instructed to keep the disciplinary process secret, but I believe that the students who elected me have the right to know what is happening.”

Campaigners and students alike have opposed the move.

UAL student Lizzy Deacon criticised Arts SU for being "complicit in shutting down dissent on a campaign that clearly has the support of students and the wider community", while NUS NEC member Ana Oppenheim described the action as "clamping down on students’ right to protest."

The former chair of the Arts SU Board of Trustees, Shelly Asquith, also weighed in, saying, "The power to remove an elected union rep from office should lie with those who put them there: the students."

A spokesperson for UAL said:

"There is no sanction on students who took part in the recent occupation of London College of Communication, UAL. This took place with UAL’s permission under the occupation protocol.
"A sabbatical officer of the Students’ Union has been asked by UAL to explain actions which put student health and safety at risk during the permitted occupation. UAL is bound to investigate such matters, as with any student. 
"Without anticipating the findings, similar previous investigations have resulted in a warning rather than a sanction. This is without prejudice to the sabbatical officer’s right to protest."

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