The Students’ Union was formed with the University in 1965, and quickly gained the University the reputation of ‘Red Warwick’- an activist university, at which many students had left-wing views. And it was after six years of fighting, and many sit-ins, not to mention the controversial ‘Files Affair’ that gained national media coverage, the Students’ Union was finally granted their first building in 1974.
Students have protested on many different issues - from their continued fights with the University over rights and space, to issues concerning Third World Debt, as well as politics closer to home.
The University and the Union have had many arguments, over the perceived lack of space at the birth of the University, the sharp rise in rents in the 1970s (which provoked a rent strike), and many ongoing issues concerning accommodation, its standard and provision. More recently, our anti-top-up fees campaign, voted to be out ‘priority’ campaign, has continued out tradition of protest.
1974 saw the sad death of Kevin Gately, a student at Warwick, and it was to him that the Union building is dedicated. Kevin died at a NUS protest against the National Front, and the Union still upholds a policy of no platform for racists and fascists in the Union.
Warwick Students also protested strongly against the educational reforms enforced by the Conservative government of the 1980s, and saw eggs being thrown both at Margaret Thatcher, and her education minister, Sir. Keith Joseph, and a concerted effort in the anti-poll tax campaign.
This Union protested strongly against Apartheid, the Union itself refused to accept Barclay’s credit cards in opposition to the South African government. The Union was also affiliated to many other campaigning organisations, and set up societies devoted to issues such as nuclear disarmament and the Northern Ireland debate. More recently the Union has turned its ethical side to Third World politics, with protests against Nestle and McDonalds in 2000, strong support for the Jubilee 2000 campaign, and the abolishment of Third World Debt.
Overall, the history of Warwick Students’ Union has been coloured with politics, activism and campaigning. Success hasn’t always come easily or without great sacrifice, however it is Warwick’s nature of perseverance and commitment that will propel us forwards to even greater achievements.