The first ever issue of Concrete reported on a proposal made at Union Council to occupy the registry building in an attempt to force UEA to act against student poverty. The university experience often includes forms of protests, both concerning university policy and wider issues, not necessarily pertaining to the university itself. UEA is no exception, and has had its fair share over the years. 1971 brought a 10-day sit-in organised by students. The protest took place within the Arts building and concerned a student, Bill Hutchinson, who was expelled for drug possession. Much of the controversy came as a result of him being punished for the same crime twice, with both students and staff involved in the call for justice for Hutchinson. Similarly, in 2016 another occupation protest took place in the Registry building on campus, in order to denounce UEA’s investment into fossil fuels and force them to divest. Students lay on the ground and played dead in the reception of the Registry building in an attempt to draw attention to their demands. By 2018 the activists’ demands seemed to have eventually been met, with the university no longer investing into fossil fuels and selling their stocks in these companies, which was well received by students.
In my second year of university, 2018/19, what was heralded as a ‘mental health crisis’ arose at UEA after several students took their own lives within 10 months. Students forged the “We Will Be Heard” campaign with the goal of obtaining more funding for mental health services for university students and improved mental health training. The university did announce an increased investment in student support services, by £250,000, after the fourth of these deaths. For some, however, this came far too late and a group named “notsof*ckingwonderful was established to protest outside the Vice Chancellor’s office, seeing the student’s lives lost as partially at the hands of the university. Concrete started their own Mental Health Crisis campaign that focused on the mental health of students and the deaths that occured that year, to remind people that mental health is a serious issue and the people that we tragically lost “are not numbers, they were people.”