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Editorial

By website-comment on 12.8.2023

The Death of Student Campaigning

Is this the end of student campaigning as we’ve known it? Are students too lazy or disinterested to take part in active campaigning for the issues they should care about? These are some of the most important, urgent, million-dollar questions facing students, themselves, today in contemporary society.

Answers to these questions are all the more important considering those in the higher echelons of the NUS (National Union of Students), namely newly elected President Wes Streeting, seemingly for some, with his ‘uprising of student realism’, which constitutes his new approach to campaigning, (particularly against lifting the cap on tuition fees) suggest this signals the end to student idealism, although Streeting himself has denied this.

It also must be well noted that in the last few years, the variety of people in the media that hark back to some golden age of national campaigning and student activism in the 1960s. This golden era of student politics for many symbolises the high point in student idealism and activism- amongst other things sits in and mass campaigning against injustices and the Vietnam war; a long ago Eden of student vivaciousness that contrasts sharply with the fall of students into current day inertia. Of cause no one can underestimate campaigns against the Iraq war and against fees- but these campaigns seemed to have failed to instigate a majority of students and have dried out in light of the inevitable.

Should we aspire to the activism of the 1960s? President Tom Christian states that although it might have been the case that students campaigned more in the 1960s, it was mostly of those from the ‘domain of the white, middle class background’ and times have moved on.

In order to understand more about why the student body was in the apathetic state it is in and the possible causes of this, I spoke to Louise Robertson, the president of one of the more successful campaign societies on campus, Kent Student CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament).

KSCND, with their trip to campaign at Aldermaston Nuclear facility, created great publicity for their society, with their members in colourful face paint and dressed up as weapons inspectors. This got them photographed in the Newbury times, The Telegraph as well as in a video of the Aldermaston demonstration in a South West News website. It was the 50th anniversary of campaigning at Aldermaston for the national CND, and Louise Robertson emphasises how the event reinforced the link between KSCND and the history of the national CND organisation right back to its formation in the 1960s.

She highlights that CND is ‘still relevant today as the issues still remain’ as the debates on renewing Trident in parliament attest to, an event that first helped members of KSCND ‘recognise themselves as a society.’ Despite the obvious success of the society at Aldermaston with the media, its innovation and relentless campaigning on campus, Louise Robertson bemoans the fact that they were the ‘overriding presence’ at Aldermaston because ‘of a lack of other student groups there.’

The lack of mobilisation of campaigning groups and national student campaigns in general can be put down to a lack of desire on the student’s part because of a failure to ‘look to the future and at the broader picture’ and only consider ‘just their own current situation.’ The reason for this is that the ‘whole make up of university is not geared towards making a lasting contribution.’ Universities are now ‘businesses’ or ‘degree supermarkets’ where student come to pay and pick up their degree, and then move on to make money in society at large. In all of this, what is lacking is a ‘common motive or morale for causes that our important’ that bring students together.

Interestingly enough, another important factor to add to this is suggested by Karl Brooks, assistant professor of history and environmental studies at the University of Kansas. He told a newspaper ‘More students know what’s going on in the world, though fewer of them may understand the political process itself.’ Although it may be this same political process, muses Tom Christian, which may lead to student apathy itself. This is as we live in a welfare-state were people are more comfortable than ever, were ‘everything is expected to be given to you, we have forgotten how to fight for things.’ The solution? We need to ‘reengage individuals emphasising duty and action you have to take yourself’ and remind people of the time ‘when they didn’t have the privileges and rights’ that they have now and that they have had to fight for them.

Additionally, in an era of continual technological change and advancement, campaigning on things in cyber-space, on social networking sites (such as Facebook) on the internet has become much more popular. Rodney Barker, LSE reader in the Guardian, has written that ‘The internet has ended the need for colleagues and collaborators to be in the same place, and a committee can confer with its members spread around the globe.’ Although this is a useful tool in getting messages across, I personally cannot see this as a fundamental tool that will magically inspire students to action. It is even an important question whether such methods perpetuate us into actually doing less in the way of real effective campaigning.

It seems that the longer student organisations such as the NUS drags the student body into campaigns without students actually engaging, student campaigning and activism will be the preserve of the active, knowledgeable minority. Louise Robertson says that in the absence of student engagement in campaigns such as CND, local groups are left to push forward without mobilisation- leaving people behind. It seems whatever the reasons, whatever our intentions; the longer we fail to engage the student body around us the less we can hope to fight for and successfully achieve in the future.

Comments

  • I spit on the middle class.

    LOL!!!!!!

    By website-enterta… on 29.9.2023

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  • Hi Lauren,

    As a university Kent has a higher proportion of state school students (about 90%) than most universities. The number of working class students here is far greater than oxbridge and most red brick universities.

    Also George’s point is not that you haven’t done anything, how would he know? Why would he say that? He was pointing out that your comments belied a prejudice against middle class students – hence a ‘double standard’.

    Anyway, enough of this class war!

    By chairman on 15.9.2023

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  • ‘Stating a fact doesn’t mean he is prejudiced…’

    Fact? Just because Kent is predominantly middle class does not mean that other universities are.

    ‘…unlike you. Congratulations on framing yourself in a double standard.’

    I’ve worked my arse off last year campaigning and will continue to do so this year. What makes you think I haven’t done anything?

    By Lauren Crowley on 14.9.2023

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  • “Charlie how exactly is that a fact? Slightly prejudiced?”

    Stating a fact doesn’t mean he is prejudiced…

    “I couldn’t be further from Middle Class.
    Working class students know the real problems in this country and in my experience are doing more about it.”

    …unlike you. Congratulations on framing yourself in a double standard.

    By George Berry on 12.9.2023

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  • Hi Lauren 🙂

    Not sure how you came to the conclusion that I have class prejudice, it’s just that in my experience the opposite is true.

    Congratulations on the award!

    By chairman on 12.9.2023

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  • Real good argument, Lauren. Using that many exclamation marks, you must be right. (:

    By website-comment on 10.9.2023

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  • Charlie how exactly is that a fact? Slightly prejudiced?
    Especially ironic that I won Best Campaigner and I couldn’t be further from Middle Class.
    Working class students know the real problems in this country and in my experience are doing more about it.

    By Lauren Crowley on 10.9.2023

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  • Student campaigning will NOT die!!!!!!!!

    By Lauren Crowley on 10.9.2023

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  • President Tom Christian states that although it might have been the case that students campaigned more in the 1960s, it was mostly of those from the ‘domain of the white, middle class background’

    What is Tom’s own background? What is the predominant background of the current protesters?

    Middle class students come from backgrounds that give them for greater opportunities to communicate with the world issues. It was a fact in the sixties and is a fact now. I fail to see what has changed.

    By chairman on 14.8.2023

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  • “These are some of the most important, urgent, million-dollar questions facing students, themselves, today in contemporary society”

    What are you Zain? A yank?

    By chairman on 14.8.2023

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