Lead articles

Does second attempt at protest show students to be less apathetic?

Following the poor turnout of the first fees protest at the university, on the 30th November the organisers of Nottingham Students Against Cuts and Tutition fees staged another protest and occupation. Feedback from the first protest suggested that not enough people were aware of the event; the second attempt saw an endeavour towards better publicity with a Facebook event advertising the campaign. Although the Facebook page stated that over 500 students would be attending the protest, the turnout was not quite so impressive with around 60 students gathering on the steps of Portland building at 11.30 a.m.

Dave Pike, one of the organisers of the event, started things off as he addressed the crowd that had accumulated outside Portland. He introduced SU President Will Vickers as the first speaker, who was quick to state that although the SU were not directly involved in this protest, the cause had his full support. Vickers encouraged protesters to follow his lead by getting in touch with their local MPs.

The extent to which the protests against cuts in education have come to involve lecturers and academics was represented in the statements of Roger Bromley (relayed by a student in his absence), a Professor of Cultural Studies, and Professor Andreas Bielber from the Law and Social Sciences Department. Bromley called the Government “brazenly ideological,” and provoked widespread hilarity when stating that the coalition government made Margaret Thatcher seem like a democratic socialist.

Sophia ‘M’, a postgraduate and one of the event’s organisers gave a short speech condemning investment bankers, “Investment bankers got us into this mess. Why does the government think we’re supposed to pay for their mistakes?”

Pike looked to capitalise on the tone set by Sophia’s populist rhetoric, announcing that higher tuition fees would see “the power elite being put above ‘normal’ people”. Many at the protest seemed keen to place education cuts within a broader context of class struggle and the Socialist Worker Party’s slogan ‘Fuck Fees’ could be seen amongst the gathering.

One of the most powerful speeches came from one of the University’s lecturers. Calmly delivered, she asserted the value of education describing it as a political act in itself; a right that we are all entitled to which allows us to gain a better understanding of the world around us. Tuition fees put a price tag on education, she stated, and therefore makes knowledge a commodity. The lecturer also acclaimed the strengths of being subjected to the “rich diversity” of a student population that is representative of our wider community. Her warning was that cuts and higher tuitions fees would destroy the multiplicity of both the student and staff population.

The whole protest seemed to be fairly disorganised. Once the speakers had said their piece, Dave Pike encouraged the crowd to make some noise, then asked if anyone else wanted to talk. In an act of democracy, Pike then asked the crowd to raise a hand if they felt the next step should be to “make some noise” outside of the Vice Chancellor’s office. Following a positive response, the march progressed towards Trent. Once inside, the organisers of the protesters were keen to emphasise that the aim of the march was to disturb people working in the building as little as possible.

There was little need for the 6 security guards that emerged once the crowd reached the courtyard of Trent; other than chanting “Green, Green, Greenaway, do not make the students pay” the protesters were not looking to cause trouble and instead focused on occupying a space in the Trent building, although this was only decided after more “democratic” questioning. Again, Pike asked “Where do you want to go now?”, to which a call responded: “To the library!”. Once the Great Hall became free, though, the protest settled there and began discussing the next steps.

The group soon formulated a statement with which they aimed to confront the University. The predominant point on the statement is “to lobby the Russell Group and government to issue a statement condemning all cuts to Higher Education”. Other points include a call for an “Open book policy in regards to existing budget constraints”; and to “Ensure no redundancies for teaching, research and support staff”.

The intentions of this protest were not to cause damage or to harass. Immediately the organisers began creating a code of conduct to be implemented throughout the duration of the occupancy. The protesters were determined to portray themselves as responsible and non-riotous, and were planning on negotiating with University Management and University Security.

While there has been some talk of the protest continuing for days, if not weeks, it remains to be seen as to how long this resolve will be sustained. The last time an occupation of this magnitude occurred, security physically ejected the protesters after five days.

Emily Sargent and Calum Paton.

Lead articlesNews
8 Comments on this post.
  • David Chappelle
    1 December 2010 at 23:47
    Leave a Reply

    Its good to see Impact finally covering the event and to point out the peaceful and respectful nature of the protest. The fact that Nottingham University has engaged in an occupation is fantastic – it is a real rareity to see this happen particularly at a University which has a relactive lack of a history of student protest. Whilst this is only a one thing, it is part of a wider movement which is gathering pace. Across the country students are standing up and being heard. We are breaking the stereotypes so readily and quickly inflicted upon us. For too long we have been dergraded by our peers as lazyand apathetic. Whilst the article counts 60 present at the demonstration I would like to point out that the head count at the first meeting of the day was over 100. Whilst this is only a small percentage of the 30 000 students present at this University it is still a staggering acheivement. This University has had a history of victimising student protests with an SU that takes no interest in student politics. I clearly understnad why they put their own careers ahead of those that voted for them. Perhaps they should join a club with Nick Clegg? It is also necessary to note that at NO POINT did Will Vickers give his or the SU’s supports to either the occupation, the protest or the campagin against the rise in fees. The SU are here to protect the welfare of students; the rise in fees clearly contradicts the welfare Students – I therefore ask what are the SU doing? Do they support those who clearly do not support students? They don’t have to support the occupation, but it would at least be nice to know that those who are supposed to be representing you actually give a fuck about you.
    Perhaps you may be in favour of the rise, beleiving it necessary means of funding education. The fact remains that no matter waht the fees are the universities will want more. It is a simple fact of consumerism. What happens when the fees treble again in 5 years? With simple economic policy and more resourceful spending this government would easily find the necessary funds. I ask you to do some research into how much tax is written off for the Nations richest firms. The amount would fund higher education many times over.
    If, for some reason, you are not concerned with this issue you may like to plan for the future. What happens when it is your turn to send your children to universtiy and you are unable to fund the fees?

  • joe tanaway
    2 December 2010 at 00:14
    Leave a Reply

    absolute rubbish that 60 people were there
    there was around 200 people
    get your facts right

  • Joseph Clough
    2 December 2010 at 00:52
    Leave a Reply

    To find out if the SU support the demonstration, you would have to go to the extreme lengths of finding your way to the front page of their website. The info you require is currently the third link in their news section (http://www.su.nottingham.ac.uk/news/article/6001/2332/) .
    The SU did help to advertise the protest. The evening before, their facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/UofNSU which has nearly 5000 likes) sent out the news in their status two times. Also, before you had written your lovely comment, they had sent out the link to the news story on their website, with the SU president’s comments. The evening before the protest, the SU also put the news of the protest on their website.
    One question unanswered, is why the publicity was only done the evening before, when they knew of the protest days before it happened. (although, this can also be seen to be an advantage, so people dont forget about the event days after they se it advertised)
    And as for your diatribe about IMPACT finally writing this, you do realise that this is only day 2 of the occupation? IMPACT did, incidentally, put a news story about the occupation on the day of the occupation, however it was mysteriously taken off and is slightly different to how it appears in its current form.

  • David Chappelle
    2 December 2010 at 01:52
    Leave a Reply

    Thank Joseph for making the policy of the SU clear, and my apologies for mistakenly claiming the SU did not support the protest march. The SU have provided support, as you mentioned they announced the march the night before it was due to take place, but it was disappointing from the point of view of the protesters for the Su to show their support but have an almost non-existent presence at the protest.
    My comments realting to impact were not intended to criticise, just that it would have been nice to see them respond to one of the biggest protest events on campus in recent years slightly faster.

  • Ben McCabe
    2 December 2010 at 09:42
    Leave a Reply

    @David Chappelle,

    In response to your comment on Impact’s coverage – obviously the magazine is run by volunteers, not by people who do it as their job. This means that, although we sent reporters along to cover the event (as we always try to do in these cases) it was not possible for a full edit to take place on the article until later, due to essay deadlines etc…
    We obviously try to remain as up to date as possible, but sometimes that is just not possible within the constraints of our courses.

  • Joe
    2 December 2010 at 23:30
    Leave a Reply

    @David, I did nopt make the SU position clear, all i did was provide a link that was accessible from the front page of their website.
    Although I have seen a few photos of the demonstration outside portland, I have yet to see any, provided by anyone, that would suggest that over 60 people attended. Was the headcounds of 100 or 200 people conducted after the portland protest, (and people had moved into the Trent building and had been joined by demonstators from Trent uni and the city)?

    I appriciate Impac’s coverage, as far as I can remember it far surpasses the coverage of the previous occupation.

  • Tom
    9 December 2010 at 23:54
    Leave a Reply

    @Pedromtw It’s absolutely disgusting what these students are doing! The police should draft in a fleet of fire-engine’s to hose the lot of them down. And if that doesn’t work call in the army. Who do these minority of morons think they are. This country is going down the pan and we need to stop it before we loose it to these barbarian’s!!

  • Joe
    10 December 2010 at 06:16
    Leave a Reply

    who is Pedromtw?
    Just on a note about student apathy – today the SU council voted to lower the % of students needed in a petition or quorum for there to be a referendum. Am I correct in thinking, however, that ironically, the students of the SU council are so apathetic that there wasnt enough voting members at the council for there to be a quorum.

  • Leave a Reply