Interest groups such as the Stop the War Coalition (SWC) and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) seem to split students into two camps. While there are plenty of sympathisers and supporters, a surprisingly large number of students find ‘that bunch’ very annoying. Perhaps its all the aggressive rhetoric and blocking the steps of the Queen Margaret Union, perhaps it’s the volatile persecution complex, or maybe its just the hats and scarves. The most common complaint seems to be; “Well they’re never going to stop the war from here so why don’t they just give it a rest?”
Such complainers should be made to eat their words since, in the past few weeks, these groups have brought radical changes not just to the institutions we inhabit, but hopefully changes that will be noticed on a more global scale. This sudden wave of political activity in universities across Britain has provided long awaited evidence that protest can make a difference. Though the nature of the occupations has generally been peaceful, the tactic of targeting the central nervous system of a university, i.e. the registry, seems faintly inspired by the Bolshevik revolution, and has proved almost as effective in achieving its goals.
The very idea that Dundee University should completely disinvest from BAE Systems would have seemed too fantastic if it hadn’t already happened, and that Strathclyde should so willingly agree to almost all of their occupiers’ demands is equally surprising. Strathclyde were faced with some very taxing demands, and their offer to hold a public debate on the future of BAE Systems’ relationship with the University must have been the most diplomatic solution, especially given the considerable sums of money that are no doubt involved in any dealing with the company.
At the time of going to press our own occupation continues. Surely the principal will be feeling the pressure not just from them, but also from the example set by Strathclyde and Dundee. As our university would not match the gestures made by its sister universities the irate reaction from those pushing for solidarity with Gaza is unsurprising.
Whether in favour of, or in disagreement with their agenda, one has to appreciate the product of their efforts. It is an admirable feat that a small group of passionate activists can lean on an institution as massive as a university, armed with nothing but an argument and a petition. Perhaps this achievement will raise their profile in the eyes of otherwise disinterested students, though judging by some reactions it might just serve to increase the divide.