Last Friday I went to London to help defend a Westminster University student who was summoned to a disciplinary panel over his alleged role in a March occupation. It’s a familiar situation for Sussex students, although apparently Westminster is a little more incompetent in their handling of troublemakers. Whereas Sussex students got riot police and suspensions, Westminster apparently couldn’t muster more than a bumbling couple of administrators who didn’t seem to have any real idea of what they were doing. Good news for Simon Hardy, but yet another embarrassment for university managements. Violence doesn’t work, repressive punishment doesn’t work, bull-headed managerialism doesn’t work. Those pesky workers and students keep fighting anyway. It’s like they’re committed to a cause or something.
People with no principles can’t understand the idea of sticking to yours no matter what. The difference between Michael Farthing and real human beings is that we are willing to inconvenience ourselves or even endanger ourselves for the sake of doing the right thing. He isn’t. None of VCEG are willing to stand by their ideas- if they were, they wouldn’t keep running away after they implement their genius plans. None of VCEG are committed to Sussex University- which is also why they keep running away.
At Middlesex University the reasoning is even more ludicrous. Close a well-respected and highly profitable department in the hopes- let’s not pretend, these are hopes, faith even- that other departments will prove more profitable. Business culture at its worst. This is precisely the sort of inane gambling and profit-chasing that caused the financial crisis, and the people in charge of our universities want to apply it to education! This line of behaviour is not sustainable, and it will destroy our universities the same way it destroyed our economy.
So Middlesex is occupying. They are also discussing direct action, legal action, and the sort of community pressure that Sussex students applied to our management to beat them on the suspensions. If there’s anything I’ve learned from Sussex, it’s that there is no one way to beat managers. They have one tool in their arsenal: authority. We have many, many more which are much, much harder to undermine. Authority is the proverbial house built on sand. It’s time to start digging.