Exactly a year ago tomorrow I published a post called ‘A Striking Strike’ as we, students and teachers, were also on strike, like today. I wrote then and I repeat now that I’m not joining the strike as (I’m quoting myself): “a) my not teaching students for one day does not bother anyone, [much less Minister Wert] b) I’m sick and tired of giving back more and more money every month to the Government(s) between the pay cuts and the rising taxes.” I’m not at all against protests, quite the other way round: I’m complaining here about the lack of imagination of the strike organisers, as they will not take alternative suggestions that might result in a wider media coverage and might also do away with the tiring feeling that taking to the streets leads to nothing (except, maybe, beatings and arrests by the also underpaid police –that might explain a little of their violence).
Nothing much has changed in the last 12 months because of last Spring’s violent strikes both here at UAB and downtown. We’re stuck with the same problem: lack of money. The 84-page long report on the sorry state of the Spanish public university system by a committee of experts working for Minister Wert to improve it, offers the same tired suggestions, it is unbelievably undemocratic and, basically, expresses the self-defeating hope that foreign academic and administrators drop from the sky to change a system that needs to be saved from the inside –by the very same persons wasting money on that report.
Since the increased fees have not resulted in a significant decrease in the number of registered students (logically, there are no jobs to compete with university education), the local Catalan government is satisfied that they have been accepted (not true). The surplus money generated by the new fees has not resulted, however, in a better financial situation for the Catalan universities; the money has gone elsewhere, possibly to paying for the interests of our mounting national debt (so much for our future independence). A tiny part will be soon returned to us as additional grants for doctoral students already enjoying a scholarship –the idea is that they will become as well teaching assistants, which is absurd as this will have a negative impact on their research. We get at UAB only 36 of these appeasing grants, no new jobs at all. This is something, by the way, I already commented on one year ago.
I work for a university founded in 1968, a historic date that makes discussing the effectiveness of teacher/student strikes quite difficult. It even feels disloyal. What I fail to understand again and again is the logic of the strike –if a factory worker goes on strike, nothing is produced, the factory owner loses money, hence pressure can be applied. However, if a student goes on strike s/he is the only loser as the boss (the corresponding Minister for Education) does not care, as we can see, whether students get an education or not. Precisely, that’s the whole reason for the protest!!
I’d say that the only sensible in-your-face attitude against these irresponsible Education Ministers would be staging protests that benefit the students’ education. A colleague suggested a lecture marathon, 24 hours non-stop, with different teachers and students, or a 24-hour reading marathon in Plaça Sant Jaume. All to show that teachers want to educate and students want to be educated. She was booed down. Instead, we stop all academic activity and, I can’t remember how many times I’ve advanced the same argument, we look to the rest of society as the lazy, privileged bunch they all assume us to be.
For the last two weeks I’ve seen hanging in the hall of my Facultat a banner announcing an indefinite strike. For whose benefit I have no idea.
PS I’m adding this 2 days after the strike – it was a real shame to see that band of vandals destroying all they could on our campus. Were they students at all? They filled the classrooms with garbage… This makes me really sick.