So for the second time in the last few weeks, the students are kicking off. From the sound of it, a good number of them have spent a chilly afternoon being kettled in Whitehall (which, for those unfamiliar with the term, means they’re boxed in on all sides by the police and held in one place. If we’re going with household appliances, I’d have gone with a pressure cooker, but hey ho. “Kettling”, to me, rather implies a nice cup of tea. And maybe a biscuit. But anyway).
Predictably, it’s all got a bit complicated and there’s been some… issues. Note: vandalising a police van? Really? Because that’s clever, isn’t it? Really going to win friends and influence people – and chances are it’s not even a student who’s part of the organised protest who started it.
Back in ye olden days when I started college, tuition fees were new, shiny and hated with a passion – made worse by the fact there were people studying who didn’t pay, by a fluke of timing, and doubly so by the fact that most of us had been too young to have a say in the previous year’s election. I remember a protest march that started outside ULU and was at best 50% students, 50% dodgy blokes in jackets and scarves looking for a punch-up. Thus goes the world. And that’s why the marches, the demos… none of it will gain any sympathy.
This, however, is something I can get behind as a form of protest. Non-violent, organised and eloquent: a group of UCL students have occupied one of the rooms in the main campus. Seeing as that’s where I studied, I’ve been watching with interest, and the way they seem to be running things is fascinating. They’re shut in and they’re plugged in: not only are they on Twitter, they’ve set up their own blog and e-mail address.
I can’t imagine it’ll do much: like I said, there were protests when I started, and I seem to remember a bunch of first-years barricading themselves in the Finance wing that autumn, and very little happened… but if you’re going to protest and you want to be taken seriously – you want your voice to be heard, not simply lost to the void – this seems like the way to do it.
Good luck, guys.