This week marks the first week back of the new semester at university. It also marks the first week of my final semester of my Law degree, quite the surreal prospect.
Whilst there is a part of me which is excited to see what the post-graduate future may hold, the other part feels apprehensive, perhaps because I consider QUB almost a second home. Every time I walk across the campus, I feel at peace. I have wonderful memories of this place, have made great friends and been involved in fantastic societies, campaigns and volunteer work. To think that soon I shall have to leave this lively hub is rather upsetting to be sure. But rest assured I shall endeavour to make these final few months rewarding and worthwhile – starting with this week, and the return of Campaign SU.
You may recall me writing about Campaign SU last semester. I was excited to participate, because it promised to serve as a platform for student activism and empowerment. Activism to me simply means taking action to promote change via a collective effort. It is about the involvement of those with similar thoughts and aims, working together to achieve those aims in the hopes of a positive change. It is so vital and indeed necessary to become involved and inspire change; I firmly believe that we all, each and every one of us, have a voice which deserves to be heard.
This is undoubtedly true with students. I feel that student activism receives a bad press. You know the sort of coverage I mean: ‘do they not have anything better to do other than protest?’ / ‘good to see where the taxpayers’ money goes to: protesting students’. I witnessed this most especially during the Occupy QUB protest movement, carried out by the wonderful Fossil Free QUB team last year in their campaign to secure fossil fuel divestment. (You can read my piece on the Fossil Free QUB movement here.)
But here is the thing. Student activism, such as the Fossil Free QUB movement, is not something to be feared, or mocked. It it is something to celebrate. Young people working together to bring about social change that benefits all members of society – surely this should be encouraged, and not ridiculed. So I am delighted to see my university’s SU directly provide a platform to encourage student activism, and to provide training in same for all interested students via the Campaign SU programme.
Now, when I attended my first Campaign SU meeting last semester I wasn’t entirely too sure what to expect. I was excited, yes, but curious as to what would unfold, and whether I would find students who felt the same way I did. But I left the SU feeling utterly energised, with an urge to simply get out, and do something. This feeling was stirred after listening to Eamonn McCann speak so passionately and share his own experiences of activism. I found it most inspiring when he noted that issues such as welfare reform and tuition fees ‘are not just issues to complain about. They are issues to campaign about, and to campaign for change.’ It was an inspiring moment from a memorable night. I found myself surrounded with like-minded fellow students who like myself, desired positive change. I felt energised, and at home.
I realised then that my SU was providing me with a platform to work alongside my fellow students who care deeply about issues and have a desire to implement real change. It is a platform of student activism and empowerment, the result being that your voice is actually heard. Moreover, it is welcomed – the comradery is simply incredible. Student activism is essentially student empowerment in my eyes, as we campaign to change society for the better, and to benefit subsequent generations. We may be students, but we still have a voice, and the desire to use it.
I cannot wait to get involved in the planning, meetings and campaigning in this new semester. It is my final semester at QUB, and I want to graduate knowing I worked on something worthwhile under the direction of such a fabulous team. I want to say that my final semester was truly worthwhile, that I witnessed change occurring, and I played a role in it, irrespective of how tiny that role may be.
First up: student cuts. It is time that we students take a firm, united stand against the increase in tuition fees and education cuts. Tertiary education should not be deemed to belong only to the privileged. Educational entitlement is for all, and we students are not merely blank chequebooks. So let my final semester be a campaign to ensure the university education and experience I, a working class girl, have gained is available for all in the future. Bring it on.