John Murray. This is the opinion of an individual, not WFFE.
Warwick’s turbulent year rolls on, and the new logo is the most recent debacle.
Soon after it was announced petitions were started, and social media went into a flurry. The uni was being slammed on Facebook, and it didn’t take long for the first Nigel Thrift meme to emerge. We have even been treated to the bizarre spectacle of management PR guru, Peter Dunn, arguing with students on Overheard. Now student consultations are being offered, and some are claiming this is a victory for democracy and a sensible move on the part of university management.
They are wrong. In fact, a ‘consultation’ (rather than, say, a vote) after the fact is only a rear guard action against a 4000 strong petition. University democracy, as we have argued before, is fundamentally broken. When the SU passes policy about free education, the living wage, staff pay, fossil fuel divestment, the cost of living on campus, or our lack of confidence in Nigel Thrift we are ignored. A conversation about precisely what kind of management speak the university uses to sell our campus does nothing to change that. The fact is the university loses next to nothing if they back down on this logo. So I, for one, do not consider this a substantial democratic process – nor do I consider the removal of this new logo a substantial victory. We want student and staff democracy, not customer feedback!
I am not trying to say that the petition signing students have done anything wrong. I’ve signed it myself and encourage others to do so – it sends a strong message that students do not support the corporate image which Warwick seeks to develop. Yes, we should feel angry when we see our community being reduced to a marketing strategy designed to build a brand and attract investment. Yes, we should make clear we don’t support it, make clear that we find it ridiculous, make clear that we want to be students not consumers of the Warwick experience. But the logo is the superficial expression of deeper problems. It signifies ongoing marketisation, but it is not the most harmful result of marketisation. We should not get hung up on Warwick aubergine triangles.
Instead, we should be focusing on arguing about things which actually make a large and immediate difference to the lives of students and staff at the university. In particular, the TeachHigher program needs to be fought. Students should be standing alongside staff against the internal outsourcing of teaching and the abolition of employment contracts. Certainly in my time at Warwick there has never been a more important chance for student and staff solidarity to force a victory against management. The English department has just been the first of many departments to unanimously pass policy opposing TeachHigher, and there are rumours of a national demo in the air.
Let’s fight together on the issues that matter, rather than being distracted by the symbolic expression of marketisation. Let’s deal with the neoliberal university as it damages members of our community, rather than as it expresses itself in corporate bullshit.