On Monday in the early afternoon, a collection of undergrad and postgrad students assembled outside the Bill Bryson Library to continue their campaign for accessible education.
Fronted by Durham Left Activists, the protest took place after Durham University’s continued refusal to fully address the concerns of escalating accommodation and international fees. Armed with banners and a trusty megaphone, the students made their voices heard through a series of chants, proceeding through the Palatine Centre to directly engage the attention of the university staff.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the action came not from the chorus of angry voices, however, but rather the power and passion of the isolated few. Delivered both outside the Bill Bryson and inside the Palatine Centre, members of the protest and the Student Union gave speeches which hammered home the true injustices of the university’s actions.
They touched on the university’s 20% rise in accommodation fees over the past three years – seeing the average college room rise over £7000, potentially barring students from lower income backgrounds – but also other effects and issues of equal importance. The soaring college prices go hand in hand with the private rent sector, meaning the local residents of Durham are increasingly pushed out of their own town centre and surrounding areas due to extortionately high housing prices. The university fails to pay all their staff a living wage, yet continually invests in artwork and fossil fuel companies. In many cases college rooms are simply just substandard, with infestations, collapsing ceilings and as many as twelve people to one shower.
As the protest drew to a close, it was clear that the students of Durham were not content to settle for the condescension and mediocrity of the university’s prior responses. They did not call for compromise, but instead would accept nothing less than their goal of a more equality-driven and fairer institution. Looking on to the Alternative Open Days, the protest served as a not-so-quiet reminder that students were not only still furious, but planned to do something about it.