Talbot Campus on #dayx3*

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.

The Police: The Arm of the State?

The police have come under fire lately for their handling of the recent student protests – the tactics that they have used and the level of force utilised. There are at least two sides to every story, we are told, and two differing sides have clearly been portrayed in the protests of late.

On the one side we have the view that the student protests have been mainly violent affairs, with the majority creating havoc and destruction and damaging their own cause. Supporters of this view praise the police for their actions and for showing “restraint” against the rampant “mobs”. On the other side, we have the view that the police have over-reacted and they have been the ones who instigated the violence, with supporters of this view claiming that it is the police who have been acting violently and over-extending their powers, detaining or “kettling” protestors for many hours on end with no access to food, water, toilers or shelter – effectively removing their civil liberties. What doesn’t help either side is the biased media shows that are played out, with many only showing the most sensationalist aspects of the protest, whilst ignoring the peaceful majority.

It is times like these when the people must ask the question: “who do the police really work for?” Are they there to facilitate peaceful protest and work for the people? Or are they there to support the government, with the people coming second? At the Whitehall protest, I asked one officer who was refusing to let us leave: “Do you work for the government, or the people?” He replied: “Well, the government pays me”. In that case, who pays the government? Continue reading

NUS Leader Responds to Clegg’s Letter

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Image by The CBI via Flickr

NUS president Aaron Porter responds to Nick Clegg. You can read the full letter here: NUS response to Nick Clegg PDF. Some extracts from the letter are noted below:

“I am pleased that you have clarified that your recall proposals were to apply to serious wrongdoing. But you should know that we would regard the breaking of signed, individual pledges to vote against higher fees as both serious and wrong. This is not as simple as coalition parties having to compromise.” [pg.1]

“You herald bringing part-time students into the scheme as a success – we agreed on the day Browne was published – but only those studying at 33% or more will benefit from a loan.” [pg.1]

“You trumpet the change in the post-graduation repayment threshold – convenientlyignoring that the £21k level won’t be introduced until 2016, or increased until 2021. If inflation is higher than 2.2%, the £21,000 earnings repayment threshold will not offer any real advantages to graduates by 2015/16.” [pg.1]

“You argue progressivity through the example of a nurse Continue reading

Broken Promises, Broken Buildings

A peaceful protest turns violent as protesters storm Conservative Party HQ, smashing windows and lighting fires

[This is a video montage that I created using footage of the student protest in London, November 10th. It includes video clips from several sources, and I have included footage of Nick Clegg filmed prior to the General Election. I in no way advocate the violence or the damage to property that occurred during the demonstration, however the aim of this video is to convey the emotions and feelings of the activists engaged in the protest in contrast to the promises made by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg prior to the election. This video is not-for-profit and I do not own the rights to the footage used. I will be happy to remove any or all footage if asked to by the owners.]

Over 50,00 students turned up in London on Wednesday to protest the government’s proposal to raise University tuition fees by more than 200%, which could leave many students paying back the debt for the rest of their working lives.

The student protest began peacefully despite the unanticipated scale of the demonstration and the underwhelming police presence. The demonstration marched from Horse Guards Parade, central London, and past Westminster, however when the march reached the rally point at Millbank, the protest took a turn for the worse.

At around 1.37pm it is reported that over a hundred protestors broke off from the crowd and stormed Millbank Tower, the Conservative party’s headquarters, occupying the lobbies and waving flags from the rooftops, shouting “Tory Scum!” and “Nick Clegg, we know you, you’re a fucking Tory too”, according to the Guardian’s Matther Taylor, who was present.

Workers were evactuated from the building shortly after as the protestors smashed windows, threw missiles, lit emergency flares, spray-painted anarchist logos and anti-Tory messages on the walls, Continue reading