South Park Self

Truth! Freedom! Justice! And a hard-boiled egg!

We are closed for another week, i.e. lectures and tutorials are suspended, but other university "operations" are supposed to continue. I am on campus today, and it's all quiet. Too quiet, she says, channelling her favourite Fallout 4 companion. Suspiciously quiet. It's very difficult not to read the quiet as a lull while increasingly conflicted and deadlocked students/protesters/university management plan their next move, which may or may not be another round of dramatic mass action. I'm still having the room-invasion nightmares, I woke myself up last night with a yell in the small hours, because two bearded men were standing outside my window, dissolving it with some sort of projector thingy so they could come in. They seemed... affable but implacable. With a decided resemblance to Terry Pratchett, actually, tending to underline the fact that Pterry was an affable gent with an ideological spine of steel. Affability notwithstanding, I got a hell of a fright; I had to switch on all the lights to persuade myself I'd dreamed these two gents, and I lay there shaking like a jelly for about half an hour. Bloody adrenaline.

I am feeling, in short, a little beleaguered, and more than somewhat exhausted at the thought of all the knock-on implications of these closures: two weeks delay to the semester, exams set back, grad ceremonies cancelled, probably another set of expanded deferred exams in January as all these poor kids try to negotiate booked plane tickets and work/holiday plans which are now affected. That's supposing the unfortunate vice-chancellor manages to wrestle some sort of compromise out of the negotiations, and we actually open again next week as planned. If we don't, things really get hairy.

Right now discussions seem to be running aground on the jagged shoals of the handful of protesters whose intimidation/vandalism antics last year got them interdicted and disciplined, who are now demanding that the charges be dropped as a condition to any other sort of agreement about fees. This is at heart a profound philosophical difference about the nature of protest: whether or not any (criminal, destructive) action performed under its auspices is somehow acceptable by virtue of its political intent. I am not even attempting to be balanced about this, as my language may suggest. I do not wish to negate or trivialise the very real grievances of black students fed up to the back teeth with the slow processes of political, institutional and cultural change; there are a lot of the tenets of the protests with which I am in wholehearted agreement. But I think we have failed in our duty as an institution of higher learning if we launch back into the world student leaders who have been encouraged to think that there are no consequences to violence and destruction. These should not, in my view, be the leaders of the future. The protests have revealed that we have some damned fine potential leaders, we don't need the ones who actually burn buses. And to hinge the continuation of the academic year and the progress of the fees talks around what is not just a political issue but one of self-preservation seems more than a little dodgy.

I don't even want to get into the "free higher education" demand which is part of the protest discourse. In the immortal words of Pratchett in my subject line, they can want what they like, but they might actually get the hard-boiled egg.
A beautiful post. Thank you!

May your nights be free of further shady gents. I've also been having nightmares...