Last week between 300-400 people gathered outside the Union building at Otago University to protest proposed cuts to the Humanities division. Up to 20 jobs are at risk across the History, Anthropology and Archaeology, English, Languages, and Music departments, and the TEU has been vocal in its campaign against the cuts. There was a prior protest of similar size in August, and a smaller one outside a lecture theatre where Bill English was speaking in September. The tree next to the Union building had been adorned with knitted and paper hearts, the latter of which bore messages of support for the humanities. Once the crowd has assembled we began marching to the steps opposite the clock tower, led by a bagpiper.
Upon reaching our destination we were met with more loud music, this time from a troupe of Japanese Taiko drummers. The drums and pipes gave a really good atmosphere to the demo, and people seemed to be enjoying themselves. Speeches were made by TEU President Sandra Grey and Brian Roper. Grey noted that the cuts were a consequence of the National governments focus on STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.) While also mentioning that it was in the interest of a neoliberal government to remove the “the conscience of society”. Brian Roper proclaimed that the cuts represented a “fundamental attack on the university” and said the campaign needed to get “louder, larger and more militant.” This last statement got a big cheer from the crowd and managed to get the headline in the ODT. After the speeches, we moved across the river to deliver a petition against the cuts to waiting council members. Overall it was a great protest and it was encouraging to see such a strong turnout. It was also impressive to see some acknowledgement that the cuts were not simply a result of poor university management but were a part of government policy and economics.
Photo credit: Tertiary Education Union