Something remarkable has happened at Warwick over the last couple of years: management’s gross and escalating failures have resulted in a crisis of legitimacy,
This has never been more evident than in their latest press campaign, which verges so closely on parody (‘Free Education Campaigners Issue Death Threats to VC’). The yob-gate episode more closely resembles a playground scrap than it does the actions of an in-control management. So what should the campus left do when their management are reduced to making outrageous accusations in an attempt to desperately win over some form of public sympathy?
Well, it’s very clear that Thrift & Co. want the student body to react to their tabloid tactics. They want to bait the reactionary right to turn on WFFE and aligned campaigners, in an attempt to drive us out of the mainstream of student political discourse and onto the ‘radical’ fringes. But so far, this doesn’t seemed to have happened. Everyone appears to be treating their claims as absurd and defamatory (as indeed, they are), whilst also recognising that WFFE represents generally held concerns.
Like we said so many times during the summit, the SU has at least 5 democratic policies, voted on at All Student Meetings, which represent large elements of our opinion:
- Warwick Against Tuition Fees
- A Better Pay Deal for Staff
- Building a Democratic University
- Lower Living Costs on Campus
- No Confidence in Nigel Thrift
Therefore, we have a very strong claim to be acting on the basis of mass support. This is not to say that WFFE would be illegitimate without general support – a great number of brilliant movements have existed without a majority – but that in these specific circumstances our aims to clearly link up with the democratic opinion of students. Similarly, we have very close links with staff and are very grateful to be able to work alongside the staff union, UCU. On this basis, we can say students and staff support us.
I think the first step is to recognise that. We should be confident that we are not speaking for a super-niche fringe, and we should not act as if most students will never support us. We have a fantastic opportunity to link up with the general student body and reinforce our broad base of support. WFFE is a coalition campaign which needs to appeal to the widest possible set of students, and we should keep this in mind over the coming months. We are approaching a point where mass support will be vital.
This is because as management plunge (or continue plunging) into crisis we need to advance an easily understood structural critique of higher education in the UK. We need to make the point that Thrift is not the devil incarnate, he is a product of a neoliberal education system.
This critique, then, would form the basis of the second part of our response: to push for a mass movement on campus, and to win. Nigel Thrift has already backed down on supporting 16k fees, publicly stating that he doesn’t toe the Russell group line. Of course we have to do the hard work of building infrastructure which will last on campus for many years after we have all graduated, but there is also now an unprecedented potential for management to make key concessions.