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[COMMENT] Student Demo…when did I get to Disneyland?

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

This week, some 52,000 students and tutors demonstrated against what comes across as back-door privatisation of HE without due debate or public assent.

But that wasn’t the news.  Meanwhile, much of the media went nuts over the the actions of a small group who went even further, pushing into  Mordor Conservative HQ and occupying the building for four hours.  The Evening Standard covered Goldsmith College’s UCU President and Secretary writing a statement supporting the occupying group (the statement’s full text is here, the media only seems to be using partials).

Let’s unpack this.

The occupation of Millbank was absolutely a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, yet people line up to condemn the actions of a few.  Yet we don’t hear enough people questioning the decision to distort news by focusing on those few actions.  (For the sake of sanity, don’t read the Mail).  A protest of some 52,000 people saw very little aggression and violence compared to, say, the aftermath of a football match or the pre-Christmas Friday night in Carlisle – also known as ‘Black-Eye Friday’.

Watching the Police Minister’s statement on the protests yesterday was also an experience.  Tory ministers, positively quailing and quaking in their nice shoes, all stood up and talked like a horde of ravaging students were going to break in like a horde of raiders from Mad Max, to butcher the men and shrink from violating Anne Widdicombe.

Nadine Dorries got up to a good start by defaming NUS president Aaron Porter, calling him ‘the architect of a dangerous demonstration which could have resulted in the loss of life’.  As usual, she was lying for 70% of that; Porter had already vehemently and repeatedly distanced himself from those actions on Newsnight.

One MP praised  Baroness Warsi for ‘bravely’ continuing to work while the building was occupied.  Maybe some of the more statistically-minded students could have helped her find out which Labour constituencies had benefited from electoral fraud “predominantly within the Asian community” – she hasn’t managed to find proof for her claims.

Another MP, fear emanating from his trousers, compared the action in Millbank to book burnings in the 1930s.  Book burnings in the 1930s. I call Godwin!   And massive ignorance of history; Aaron Porter clearly doesn’t have the right kind of moustache, although he could maybe do it for Movember.

You could positively hear them wailing ‘it’s so unfair when people fight back!’  Downing Street said that “praising violence over peaceful protest is frankly irresponsible.”  Others carried the same theme; only peaceful protest is OK.

But what use is peaceful protest?

It doesn’t help that the media has made it clear on how to get noticed – you don’t protest peacefully, en masse, you don’t act sensibly – that just gets you shouted at for stopping traffic.  No, you break things up if you want to get noticed.

Not only that, but millions marched against the invasion of Iraq and were dismissed by the PM and media of the time.  People have been lining up to roundly condemn the (little) aggression that did take place, but they didn’t care about the protests in the first place.  So why should anyone care what they think?

In fact there seem to be similarities between the last big protest and this one;  the anti-invasion march saw many ordinary, non-protester types finally taking up the banner because what was supposed to be their government went too far.

This week we saw students, not known for their, political action, pulling themselves off their sofas and getting angry for the first time.  This blog is one that noticed the  change.

And it’s not surprising; students have been used and abused for some time now.  Back in 2001, Labour’s Manifesto made a clear promise:

We will not introduce ‘top-up’ fees and have legislated to prevent them.

No prizes for guessing what they introduced next…  Fees also then went up from about £1,000 to over £3,000 in 2004 – I’m not sure, but I think the introduction of fees originally came with a promise not to raise them.

Then Labour set up the Browne Report which, from the start, leaked an intent to pave the way for a ‘free market’ in higher education.  The public didn’t ask for it, but that’s what they’d get.

This year the Lib Dems swore up and down that they would oppose tuition fees to the very end – which arrived about four minutes after the election, when Clegg decided that he couldn’t be bothered, or something.

Point is, this has been a long time in coming.  I would personally rather see more direct action than just more protests, but I am going to cherish the sight of Tories freaking out because some people stood up to them, for some time.

I personally dream of a pledge from students, promising not to vote for any of the parties that brought in and enhanced tuition fees.  That probably means a vote for the Greens, but hey, they seem to do nice things in Germany.

UPDATE 1: And now the Guardian brings news that the Lib Dems had already decided to jettison their fees promise, while publicly going out and promising to fight for it.  As the Guardian says:

A month before Clegg pledged in April to scrap the “dead weight of debt”, a secret team of key Lib Dems made clear that, in the event of a hung parliament, the party would not waste political capital defending its manifesto pledge to abolish university tuition fees within six years. In a document marked “confidential” and dated 16 March, the head of the secret pre-election coalition negotiating team, Danny Alexander, wrote: “On tuition fees we should seek agreement on part-time students and leave the rest. We will have clear yellow water with the other [parties] on raising the tuition fee cap, so let us not cause ourselves more headaches.”

Running away from manifesto promises to do something the public didn’t vote for is one thing (and, sadly, a pretty common nowadays) but running on false promises in the first place…?

UPDATE 2: And from the BBC…news that the NUS will put out a pledge for students to sign.

The NUS wants people to sign a pledge not to vote for any MP who backs the proposals to allow universities in England to charge up to £9,000 a year.

Someone read this blog perhaps?  Nah, I know I don’t have that reach.  I have to say that I like this approach from the NUS; we’ll have more testicular fortitude, please.

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Movember Man

November 11, 2010 Leave a comment

For November I am going to grow an epic moustache.

It’s for a scheme called Movember and I will be looking for raise money for prostate cancer.  Many know about breast cancer in women – there’s even regular fundraising events for it – but prostate cancer is the silent killer of men.

Plus, the prostate is the male G-spot – and therefore very important to all pleasure-loving men.

Here’s a link to the Prostate Cancer Charity for more information.

Think you’re OK? (well, if you’re a woman you are, but otherwise…)  Go here for more stats.  It’s the most common male cancer in the UK, so be worried.

Here’s the deal: give me money and I will grow facial hair on an epic scale.  Feel free to make suggestions as to style and length; I’ll try anything twice.

I also have a Mo Space page here.

Please, spare some cash.  This is an important issue; I think it’s important that all men should know that cancer of their special place is not going to kill them.

Here’s a starting point; me after a couple of days’ growth.  Seriously, it won’t take long to have a nice bit of face fluff…

My first Movember pic of the month.

My First Movember Pic

Yes, that’s a BBC Good Food magazine calender in the background; very middle-class, I know…

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On a Highway to…Somewhere.

November 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, it looks like we’re on a path to greater sanity.

I’ve talked with the President and it went well.  We’ve still to talk details, but by and large it looks like a few people have caused a lot of problems.

One thing of note is a lack of communication; as I’ve said before, this could have been sorted with a quick talk; no motion needed.  We haven’t, for example, been continuing last years’ production meetings with the Comms Officer, because said officer simply hasn’t had time for us.
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UPDATE 16/11/11: The Comms Officer assured me yesterday that this isn’t true.  She did not refuse to meet due to being excessively busy and has said that if we want weekly production meetings, we can have them.

The Editor assured me yesterday that she definitely did suggest having production meetings and was rebuffed by the officer, who did not have time for them.  She also accepted the offer regular meetings.

So that’s all cleared up then.
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And it goes on.  While the President has been wonderfully receptive and good to talk to, I worry how much reaching out other officers will expect of us – and who will try reach us mid-way.

The SU as a whole clearly has little-to-no idea of what we do and what our work involves, so we’re talking about some form of seminar where we talk about our process and work ethics.

Now we get Issue 2 (2010) out and see what it takes to push Issue 3 out as well.  I certainly didn’t work an entire weekend to get my pieces junked!

All this AND I was at the radio meeting last night!  So much for a quiet year…

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The Long, Hard Road…

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

My last post was serious. It was a call for some sanity. It was, also, according to one Exec, unhelpful.

Nonetheless, I persisted and sent a version of it to the President, with one addition: a request to meet and talk this through.

Let’s make no bones about this: this should have happened from the start. After the last meeting was cancelled at the last minute, we certainly had no desire to chase people who, we felt, had gone out of their way to bypass us. It really was a decision to do this.

And it may work. This morning I will have an initial meeting with the President to discuss this problem. There is a lot to discuss, not least what we expect of the magazine as a final product.

We are open to change and have played nice in giving in to their demands before now; but we are very aware that we are the ones reaching out. As such, this brings the expectation of reciprocal action.

My fear, my worst case, is that the ground has already been too poisoned; that the editors will move on, our writers will lose an outlet. Meanwhile, the SU will lose a success story and have to start again from scratch.

Let`s hope it goes much better than that, eh?

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