Over 300 students gathered today to protest ongoing cuts and redundancies at Victoria University this afternoon.
More than one hundred students marched to deliver a letter outlining their concerns to Vice Chancellor Pat Walsh. At that point University security guards blocked access to the students, whose sole intention was to deliver their letter to Walsh or a representative. Security staff proceeded to push students down stairs and punched several in the head.
“I was just trying to slip the letter under Pat’s door; security came up and started trying to push us down stairs. There were people behind us; people could have got hurt if security had actually succeeded. Because of that, they started punching me in the head. I guess they’re not fans of non-violent protests…” Says student Sam Oldham.
A number of current and former students spoke beforehand including a recent PhD graduate, as well as a number of staff. Speakers highlighted issues of course and staff cuts as well as incompetent and short-sighted management running the university into the ground. It was put forward that senior management at VUW have cultivated a culture of fear and intimidation over more than half a decade, with staff fearful of speaking for fear of repercussions.
“I am disgusted that this culture of intimidation at VUW has extended to management condoning and supporting security staff violently attacking students. If we can’t be critical of uni policies and changes, how are meant to act as the critic and conscience of society?” Says postgraduate student Amanda Thomas.
Hundreds of outlines of students were drawn in chalk to represent the death of quality tertiary education. The sheer amount of chalking stopped security from immediately washing out any slogans they disliked, something that had been going on in the preceding two weeks. Security have claimed that chalking is “banned” at VUW.
Students are organising more actions to stop VUW management further damaging the institution. “I’m disappointed in the university, it is supposed to be a critical and creative space, but when we actually use those rights, we’re literally pushed down stairs,” says student Octavia Palmer.