September 14, 2011
12pm: Hundreds of students at Victoria University in Wellington storm through lines of security guards to deliver a protest letter to the Vice Chancellor. Police are called, security guards throw punches.
9pm: Over a hundred students and some lecturers hold a peaceful teach in, under the Auckland University library. Security guards call the police, barricades are erected out of furniture and a stand off ends in three arrests.
Scenes that have not been seen in New Zealand universities in a decade. These could well be the opening moves in a titanic shift in the power relations inside New Zealand universities. Yet whether the shift is in favour of students, lecturers and the community or in favour of the corporates and the neo-liberals is still to be decided. As one Victoria student noted about the security guards response, 'They were mandated to use violence against us'.
Rising fees, attacks on lecturers work rights, the passage of the VSM Bill in two weeks time, the closure of popular academic departments and the increasingly authoritarian style of university management make the situation on our campuses potentially inflammatory.
Isolated outbursts of protest from students and industrial action from the TEU have failed thus far to halt the ongoing commodification of universities, the growing poverty of student life.
Over the next few days students will meet in campuses around Aotearoa to plan more action. These days may be amongst the most critical days for the future of universities and for student power ever in New Zealand history. If student unions are battered beyond all recognition and lecturers unions are severely weakened then a second term Key Government will feel free to continue the legacy of the 1990s - rapidly increasing fees with full interest loans.
An Auckland student told BFM, 'They rely on fear to stop people from doing anything and the only way we can counter that is with numbers.'
We need to name another date for a day of action across the country. One that involves TEU members, mobilises more students and asserts community control over the university.
We'll see you on the barricades and in the streets.
Get connected: http://www.facebook.com/dayofstudentaction