Students and staff who are occupying and protesting: share information!
Today, in the lunch break of a great conference on Social Egalitarianism and the Economy, Miriam Ronzoni organized a get-together for staff and students from Manchester University with the students who had just ended a weeklong occupation of the 9th floor of the business economics building. Since I was around, I shared with them a brief summary of what has been happening in the Netherlands in the last months. That’s been quite a lot – first the Humanities rally at the University of Amsterdam, where the plan to drastically reorganize and cut the Humanities Faculty was opposed by staff and students; subsequently the occupation of the Bungehuis, an awesome university building in the heart of the city of Amsterdam that will be sold and turned into a British club; and after the students of the Bungehuis were evicted by the police, they occupied the Maagdenhuis, where the occupation, including nightly visits by the president of the university and the Meir of Amsterdam were live screened on local television (and on the internet). Ultimately the Maagdenhuis was evicted too, but in the meantime the protests have spread to virtually all Dutch universities, and while the nature of the protests has been very different in the various universities, it has been clear to anyone reading the Dutch newspapers that there is a deep, fundamental discontentment with the corporate/neoliberal character of our universities (which, alas, are still supposed to be public goods).
The demands in the Netherlands can be summarized in three main categories: democratic reform in the governance models which requires, in part, a change of the Dutch law on higher education; democratic reform at the level of the university by giving faculty and staff a larger say in how the university is run; and a rethinking of what we expect from universities, and the proper funding for what the government expects us to do so that we can deliver quality education and research, without working in jobs with extra precarious conditions and/or in jobs which structurally require massive extra hours in order to get the work done.
The good news is that all the activism and protests of the last months are leading to results – most impressively the decision, today, in Dutch parliament, that students and staff should get a much larger say in the running of the university.
But apart from (rather in a hurry) reporting on these facts, this post wants to provide a platform for students all over the world who have been occupying and protesting to tell their stories – what has been happening, what the demands are, to what extent staff, unions, and other parties are involved, to provide links to their websites, and, perhaps, what good piece of advice one group wants to pass on to the other. For not all students and faculty know (enough) about what is going on in other countries, and as is always the case, knowledge is power.