0.00175% of students get fired up. Government unmoved.

A very small crowd of student protestors gathered on the Union Lawn at noon on Monday September 26, as part of a co-coordinated national day of protest against VSM. Otago protestors, backed by OUSA and OPSA, were also protesting against future fee increases, and the cutting of courses and staff at the University and Polytechnic.

The protestors chanted slogans and burnt an effigy as part of the demonstration, but overall the tone of the protest was muted, with the tiny attendance meaning that the protest failed to engage, or draw in, passing students.
Organisers had previously told Critic that they hoped for between 200-300 students to attend, but Critic counted a peak crowd of just 35, meaning that a mere 0.00175% of the enrolled student body took part in the protest.
One of the organizers, Dan Benson-Guiu, told Critic that some of the organisers were disappointed with the turnout, but stated that he put the crowd at around 60 in number. He blamed poor publicity for the low turnout.
The highpoint of the protest was undoubtedly the effigy burning, although it took protestors several attempts to get the figure to catch fire. Critic suggests that in future, organisers delegate burning duties to a Libyan rebel; from what we’ve seen on the BBC, their flags always seem to go up nicely on the first attempt.
The disappointing turnout at the Otago event contrasted with the explosive protest at Auckland University, where one arrest was made after approximately 300 student protestors occupied the top floor of the Owen G Glenn building, which houses the University’s business school. Student sources claimed that a peak crowd of 500 protestors gathered in the student’s association quad, before a group of 300 marched to occupy the marquee University building.
The arrest of a protestor, Marcus Coverdale, for trespassing motivated some students to continue the protest outside the Auckland Central Police Station, although the New Zealand Herald reported that the crowd dispersed peacefully at around 7.30pm, with protestors heading to town “for refreshments”.
In a press release, Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) President Joe McCrory said, “What we are seeing is a student led movement against Government attacks on students – Heather Roy’s voluntary student membership bill, scheduled for third reading this week, and Steven Joyce’s crackdown on student services levies that will see students worse off”.
In spite of the success of the first AUSA event, a second protest at Auckland, organised to coincide with the third reading of the VSM bill on Wednesday September 28, failed to attract much student support. The Herald reported that a mere 20 students turned up to the second event, with an effigy going unlit as attendees milled around eating sausages.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce had no sympathy for protestors, pointing out that tertiary students paid only around a quarter of the true cost of their education, and telling the New Zealand Herald that students should “keep their heads down”.
Posted 2:55am Monday 3rd October 2011 by Gregor Whyte.