A far less confronting form of protest hit Monash this week: following on from similar events at ANU and the University of Melbourne, a group of students were involved in a “read-in’ outside the administrative building at Monash Clayton.
The protesters were calling for Monash University to oppose the Federal Governments cuts to education, to withdraw its support for deregulation (as a part of the Go8), and for the university to comply with its Social Inclusion Strategy. The Administration building was made the target of the protest because; quote from the protester’s fliers “this [building] is where the big decisions are made”. Monash Universities outgoing Vice Chancellor, Professor Ed Byrne, has been in vocal support of for fee deregulation from as early as 2012. In a speech to the national press club in 2012, he stated that “If we are to have an open market, then universities must be able to compete, at least to a reasonable extent, on price.”
Education minister Christopher Pyne told the ABC that ”if Melbourne University thinks they can charge ‘x amount’ for a university degree, Monash, Latrobe, [or] Deakin – others will compete with them on price, forcing prices down”; suggesting that university deregulation will lead to lower university fees. However, it is suggested that deregulation is more likely to make university fees will rise, due to the cuts to higher education. In 2012 the United Kingdom deregulated university fees, and since then it has lead to a rise in fees as high as 200%. While there is no way of knowing exactly how much university fees will rise in the next few years, many analysts estimate that university fees in Australia will follow a similar trend to the United Kingdom.
Unlike earlier rallies, these read-in protests at universities across Australia have been, if anything, serene. No yelling, no chanting, no budget burning, no confrontation, and no arrests. Staff members were able to freely access the administrative building at all times during the Monash protest, and the presence of security guards was minimal. Some members of faculty walking past the demonstration told protesters that they agreed with their cause. While the Monash protest had key organisers, the read-in was not lead by any particular on-campus political group. This ultimately means that this protest lacked any kind of specific ideology, arguably making this event inclusive to students with a broad range of political views.
Florence Roney, one of the organisers of the protest described Monday’s read-in as a “… peaceful, non violent protest” that she hopes will “ continue throughout the week, [to] get more students involved and thinking about what effects [university fee] deregulation could bring.” Another protester stated that it is up to the intellectuals and those in privilege [such as the leaders of Monash University] to stand up against the problems that effect everyone including those less fortunate.
Image courtesy of the author