I have been angry with Austrian students since half a year ago, when I’ve witnessed a class in which the students were asked to prepare 3min presentations with the topic “What moves me/touches me”. 27 out of 30 students started their presentation by saying “It was extremely hard finding something that moves/touches me”. I was mad!!! At the times of a major financial crisis, ongoing destruction of our environment, movements in Iran, two unjust wars, those young people who should be the intellectual elite of Austria were not able to find something that moved them?! Shouldn’t the students be the ones kicking-off changes in a society? At the same class, many students were protesting against the freedom and spontaneity so untypical for the lectures at the Vienna University. The professor tried to teach through opening her students’ minds, and making them experience the lessons, not learn them by heart. Quite few people in the class didn’t like this.
But surprise, surprise! The past few days, we learned that there is something that moves them, after all. And – now they are fighting for more freedom!
Since five days, the University of Vienna is under siege by its students. The dissatisfaction began with the transition form the old system (Mag.) to BA and MA system. Apparently, the new system is more restrictive and unfair. Yesterday’s demonstration in Vienna was attended by somewhere between 10.000-50.000 people. The demonstrations expanded to Graz, Salzburg, Linz. And hey, they are loud and determined. And they know what they want. They want more freedom in their curricula, they want a free entry (which I do not agree with. I think one should prove they really want and are able to study. By letting everyone study everything, you crowd the universities and thus decrease the quality of education). They want to be freed from fees. They want 50% of women employed at the university (YES!). They want no discrimination. They want better, transparent financing of the academic system (true, if we have billions to rescue banks, why are we stingy with our most strategic area – education?). And a more transparent, democratic system. For a complete list please go to: http://unibrennt.at/?cat=8&lang=en (Have patience with the site, it is currently very slow.)
Yes, we have been bitching long enough about this new generation being too passive, completely apolitical and unwilling to demonstrate. I am happy and proud (hey, this is the second time in a week that I am proud to be also-Austrian!!!) that Austrian students showed that this is not necessarily true. I hope they will make a change (since Obama didn’t really) and inspire the older generation to openly and loudly articulate their dissatisfaction. Because this world is what we make of it.
I am off to the demonstration.