The cold cuts deep despite the sun’s subtle warmth. A young girl pulls her coat tight around her, shivering in the bitter air as she makes her way to the warmth of Poole House. Shelter.
Inside, the canteen marks a departure from the desolate barrens of the outside world – conversations compete for attention as students sit nursing hot drinks, discussing the ebbs and flows of existence. Despite the chatter, however, many seats are empty; the abandoned tables contrast with the hub of activity that the canteen usually brings. The cashiers wear Christmas hats, trying to invoke some festive spirit. A tiny Christmas tree sits atop a counter, looking forlorn. Today, we mourn.
Today is the day that Parliament votes on the proposals for the rise in tuition fees; today is the day that our government votes to condemn future generations to a lifetime of debt. Perhaps this is the reason Talbot Campus is so empty, so unwelcoming – a taste of things to come. I head out of Poole House and make my way to the AUCB campus, to see if the atmosphere is any different. As I step onto AUCB soil, the rays of the sun hit me in the face, blinding me. The campus, however, is also deserted. A stack of abandoned goods lay strewn on the side of the path – chairs, desks, planks of wood, a TV. As I make a right and head down the path towards the courtyard, I see a few students wandering aimlessly, some sitting on benches smoking cigarettes in the bitter cold as a bulldozer makes its way towards a construction site, scattering a few students who look lost. The atmosphere here is no different from Talbot Campus; it is empty, uninviting and desolate. Today the whole of Bournemouth University appears to be in mourning, the outcome already pre-empted by the few who walk the twin campuses with no real purpose. I depart. A small procession of students passes, some carrying placards, making their way to the SUBU coaches bound for the London protest. Some have not given up yet, imbued with a fighting spirit and a sense of optimism. They are chatting amongst themselves, laughing. It inspires hope in me.
In the circle courtyard outside Poole House, a banner reads: “Bournemouth University against Education Cuts”. The courtyard itself is empty. Work is still commencing on the newest “state-of-the-art” lecture theatre, the construction site fenced off. Who knows whether it will ever be filled once the cuts start to bite? I head back into Poole House, into the warmth. Grabbing a coffee, I sit down and mull over the scene before me. Suddenly, Christmas music pipes up, lifting the bleak mood. BU language society members stand in a line, enacting the songs in sign language for those who sit attentively. People clap. I chuck a few pence into the donation pot and make my way out, hands in pockets, deep in thought.
*#dayx3 is the twitter hashtag for the third day of student demonstrations which took place on the actual day that Parliament voted on the proposals to raise tuition fees. I wrote this feature on dayx3, as I walked around Bournemouth University’s Talbot Campus. It was a cold winter morning, and the campus was fairly quiet, perhaps an indicator of things to come, I wondered. I filed this under Comment as well as Fiction>Stories, as it is also a piece of creative, journalistic writing.