As a student, you are probably aware of the feeling of being belittled or patronised on the regular. Whether it is your uncle telling you a degree in English Literature is a waste of money, or your landlord explaining how your boiler works in slow and laborious detail, students are consistently labeled as naive, self-righteous and entitled. When your own university takes part in the condescension conversation, however, it really takes the biscuit. While it is important to remember how lucky we are to study at a good university, and in a wonderful city, Goldsmiths management should not expect us to shut up and put up and with their decisions. Unfortunately, much like our system of Government, true representation is rarely on the cards. So what do we do when our voices are ignored? We protest.
At Goldsmiths, however, the political activism of its students has become a key selling point for prospective students. As a result, the University is more able to ignore the wishes of its fee-paying students. Our executive can now over-enrol, under-fund and dilute its services with impunity, incorporating the resulting student protests into its marketing. Indeed, Goldsmiths must see the Student-Led protest that took place on the last month’s University open day as an inexpensive and convenient PR stunt. While the Goldsmiths Student Body is committed to propagating the concept of a left-leaning and forward-thinking institution, it should not come at any price.
So how do we students effectively make our voices heard without our dissatisfaction being dressed up and sold back to us?
There are organisations that look to represent students rather than university management or government ministers. In particular, the National Union of Students has staged mass protests in central London and across the country: protests which bring together all universities, ensure a national audience and do not inadvertently bloat Pat Loughry’s salary. National petitions can also be very effective. Many may scoff at the idea, but parliament is obliged to debate any petition that reaches 100,000 signatories. This may seem an awful lot; however, with two million students at British universities, it seems significantly more realistic.
Archival protest footage CC Patrick Threlfall
Much like the situation with the EU, we are stronger together. What we all want to avoid is ineffective protests that impact on the learning potential of our peers. While there may be a thrilling feeling of rebellion from a well-meaning Occupy Movement, it is generally more of a hindrance than a help. Third-year students will remember the infamous 2015 ‘occupy Deptford Town Hall’ incident which saw several worthwhile causes piggyback on the initial protest causing confusion and conflict.
It is also worth remembering that 90% of the time, academic staff are supportive of students and therefore interfering with Lectures or Seminars is enormously counter-productive. However, On-campus protests against Goldsmiths-specific issues can certainly be effective. Occupation of management spaces and financial offices, a total boycott of the National Student Survey are sure-fire ways to construct an effective campaign. After all, it will always be important to stand up to injustice but let us not aid our opponents.