Although last year saw a small eruption in student activism as a result of Cameron’s cuts to Higher Education, withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance and a stark increase in tuition fees, students of today are typically thought of as apathetic to the student cause. Where our predecessors of the 1960s sparked student activism off with protests surrounding issues from the Vietnam war to Racism and Student Representation to canteen prices, the sit-ins and national student rallies which would attract hundreds of thousands of students then rarely interfere with our student days today.
But are we all just disinterested with a useless cause? Or are we showing activism in another way, a way which keeps up-to-date with our time?
In the past few days alone, it would seem that Birmingham students are coming together in matters close to home. Rumours of a suicide at Selly Oak rail station saw students tweeting condolences and passing the awful news onto peers via twitter on Friday. Although not on par with protests against the Vietnam War, this solidarity at a time of sadness is enlightening for our modern yet lethargic student body. The Selly Oak fire at a local tyre yard yesterday saw hundreds of students take to the streets. Again, no protests here but a clear coming together of hundreds of students with high regard for what was going on in their local community.
These matters are not proving the students of today to be excited about student affairs. A minimal amount of us turned up to the flash mob against raising Tuition Fees and protest against the Browne Review held on campus last year; a minimal amount when accounting for the 28,000 of us registered at this University. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t a clear sense of comradeship here at Birmingham.
Although small in the grand scheme of things, our ability to collect together at events that affect us close to home – like those of the alleged suicide and tyre fire – surely prove that a sense of student solidarity still exists today, away from the visible rallies and sit-ins of the sixties. Even the unspoken recognition of stressed and hard-working students in the library at exam time proves the unique ability for students to share compassion for each other and understand the most important things in our life at the moment, these exams. Although laughable, even the appreciation of the ‘Drinks to Go’ man who has become a Facebook favourite, show mutual understanding between thousands of very different people. When graduating from this University in July, I certainly won’t walk away feeling like I’ve graduated from a dismantled and broken University. Although few, the students who do participate in keeping-up-to-date with affairs that affect students allow for our student community to exist, grow and flourish. You just need to tweet to see it.