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Registry occupation continues at Canterbury Uni

Registry occupation continues at University of Canterbury

Matthew Thomas

Staff arriving for work at the University of Canterbury Registry have been turned away by students this morning, as an occupation of the Registry continues.

The occupation began at 2 pm yesterday, after a noisy hour-long rally against fee rises which was attended by about 3000 students.

The rally heard from several speakers -- including outgoing president of the University of Canterbury Students Association, Darel Hall, president-elect Jarrod Gilbert, and representatives of academic staff -- who all said they were against the fee rises. The crowd gave a hostile reception to a speech by the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Daryl LeGrew, who has proposed a fee rise of an average of 45 percent, from the previous flat fee of $3210 per year.

Professor LeGrew's proposal includes uncapping of fees, so that students such as engineers, who typically take more than a full-time course each year, would pay more than other students. The proposal also includes the introduction of differentiated fees, with science and engineering students paying more than commerce and arts students.

Professor LeGrew said that the Government was under-funding the University by over $100 million, that fees have previously been kept low by using cash reserves which are now no longer available, and that the fee rise was necessary to maintain academic standards. Student representatives have argued that LeGrew is using Government under-funding as an excuse to raise fees by more than is necessary, to pay for lavish renovations of administration facilities and a new computer system.

At the end of the rally, with students outside chanting `Let us in', a group of students found their way into the ground floor of the Registry, and unlocked the doors to the crowd outside. Around two hundred students entered the building, occupying all six storeys. A group of around one hundred students stayed in the Registry overnight.

Inside the Registry, there is the appearance more of a youth hostel than an administration building. Students sit in groups, playing cards or board games, and discussing media coverage of the occupation. Banners reading `No more fee rises' and `Enough is enough' fly from windows on the sixth floor, and the main doors to the Registry are festooned with protest placards.

University security guards have remained in the building, with the cooperation of the students, to guard student and administration records. Registry staff who turned up for work this morning have met in a nearby building to wait until the occupation finishes. Students are currently discussing who to let into the Registry -- University spokespeople have asked to speak to the students inside the Registry, and the publishers of the official University weekly the Canterbury Chronicle are also seeking to enter.

The University Council is meeting at 3 o'clock this afternoon in the University's Ngaio Marsh Theatre, to finalize the fees for next year. It is expected that some of the students occupying the Registry will march to the meeting, while others will continue the occupation. A meeting of students to decide whether to continue the occupation will be held following the Council meeting.

This is the second occupation of the Registry in the past month. Earlier, a smaller group of students occupied the building in protest against less severe fee rise proposals, and a petition calling for a zero fee increase has since been signed by over 6500 students.


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Disclaimer: Matthew Thomas is a student at the University of Canterbury. He supports, but is not actively taking part in, the Registry occupation.

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