We, students from the student organisation Iskra from Slovenia, express our full support and solidarity with our colleagues in the New University movement, which is gaining momentum in universities all over The Netherlands. We believe that students and staff from universities around Europe and the world can fully relate to their demands and sincerely identify with their struggle for the preservation of university as a space of research, the pursuit of knowledge and of criticizing the institutions of power and exploitation that dominate today’s society. The fight for democratisation of universities and for education accessible to all is universal. Such demands are incompatible with a society governed by market forces and authoritarian financial institutions. For this reason we believe that the fight for a free and democratically governed education system is a fight against the existing social order. One of the greatest challenges against this social order, where relations among people are thoroughly dominated by the market and the dynamics of the financial sphere, is the demand for a truly free university, serving humanity at large.
What started as opposing the infamous austerity-oriented “Profiel 2016” turned into an 11-day occupation of the Bungehuis, one of the University of Amsterdam’s Humanities Faculty’s buildings and is now transforming into a nation-wide movement. By protesting Profiel 2016 – a proposal that would jeopardize many jobs and merge different subjects and disciplines for the sake of saving money – students, professors and staff condemned the financialization of academic life. In doing so, they are defying the looming transformation of the university into a corporation, where decisions are taken by managerial appointees, ignoring or bypassing the democratic institutions of the academic community.
We strongly condemn the actions of the University Board of Directors, which responded to the demands of the movement by criminalizing and penalizing the movement and eventually using police intervention to end the occupation, one of the traditional tools of student struggle. At the same time, the actions of the Board have proved the point that the University is no longer a place for open discussion, but is becoming a bureaucratised machine subservient to the demands of the market and capital.
The demands for democratisation and decentralisation of university governance, increased government financing of education, an end to the precarisation of higher education staff and a shift in the focus of policy making towards the production and reproduction of knowledge rather than profit, are radical demands.. Although they may seem modest and fairly limited, they cannot be achieved if the problems of today’s higher education are not set in a wider context. Financialization, privatization of public goods and the introduction of market principles into more and more areas of everyday life is the defining feature of today’s age. In a world where everything is perceived through the lense of profit, there is no place for “non-productive” studies like Humanities. In this sense it would be naive to expect that universities or knowledge production as such can be exempt from these processes. This is a pressing example of the way today’s society functions. Of course, the students are aware that there can be no unproductive knowledge, no truly unproductive academic discipline, only disciplines that do not generate enough profit for private investors.
By resisting today’s aggressive neoliberal trends, students and staff are fighting for a better society at large. In this fight we are standing shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in the New University movement and are expressing our full solidarity and support.
One world, one struggle!
Ljubljana, 4. 3. 2015