Making Noise and Looking Thoughtful – Student Politics
Maybe the title doesn’t make it clear, but I’m talking about Student Politics. Most young students spend their first few months at university learning how to wash their clothes and not die from alcohol poisoning, then realise their course is only a few hours a week and need a hobby of some description to remind them of their ‘top of the food chain’ existence at school. Some choose Rugby (more practising how not to die from alcohol), some choose Gymnastics (If only for the foam pits) and then there is a minority who go a different direction.
Student Politics always seemed a strange choice to me. It exists in a closed environment, where much of the campaigning, arguing and finally voting is centred on projects that affect the students around them. New sports centres, safety on campus, which bar opens when, should we have a Starbucks. These issues affect many of the students and so wanting to have some effect on these seems fairly sensible. Once the voted in ‘representatives’ came to power, they then turned their attention to their real concerns. The sports centres never got repainted or the bars never changed their hours, but there was Palestine protests, organised sit-ins and general noise made.
The problem with the furthering of these issues in a student platform is that for most of the students, young, energetic and excited about life, there is very little interest. Student representatives were voted in on their take on campus issues, and then proceeded to graffiti the campus in protest of a sovereign state’s behaviour abroad. Their actions were very rarely representative of the vast majority of students, and were mostly disruptive and frustrating. For many, including myself, with an interest in politics, this seemed like a pointless waste of time that served no one but the protesters themselves. At my university they gained national coverage, but not for their stance on foreign policy. No, their coverage was how students at the university were aggressive, ranting and incoherent. Police involvement became tense, fuelled by social media campaigns about how ‘brutal’ and ‘rough’ the police had been ejecting them from buildings they had no permission to be in. They seemed to delight in trespassing, being kicked out, then claiming they had been removed too forcibly. Incredibly ego-centric, incredibly pointless and ultimately self-destructive.
The university stopped taking them seriously due to all the damage and delays caused, and started to view student politics very negatively. No changes were ever made to the campus or student life, and for the 95% of students who weren’t interested in protesting, life became awkward and difficult for weeks at a time.
I did find myself asking, how could this be different?
Well for one, the university should have separated the two political spheres. Keep the campus improvements and student worries to one side, and the larger scale political demonstrations on the other. Representatives were banned for not doing anything about student issues and solely focusing on big issues, but this didn’t quell the ‘big issue’ approach. If anything, it just made those involved more visible and gave them a greater platform.
If this form of campus based political movements continue, no-one will ever have a voice at university again. No change will ever be made unless it comes from the board of governors and they won’t care about student/campus issues.
I don’t want to remove these people’s desires to gain political platforms and affect issues on a larger scale. But I do want to get them out of student representation, because clearly they didn’t represent anyone there.