I haven’t been posting in a while which is mostly due to my very personal fight against that freakin’ never-ending economic crisis. One is for sure: By the time my children will learn about what happened this year in school I’ll have quite a lot to tell them about it. Still, I’d rather have spared myself and so many others the experience.
However my mom suggested I go back to blogging about “other people’s problems”, even though I feel I have no brain capacity left out of brooding over my very own set. “Sometimes,” she claimed, “writing about other people’s issues will get your mind off the ever-same set of problems!”. I’ll give it a try today, so you guys just go ahead and send your thanks to a woman who has not always been easy to get along with but still is and always was a wonderful and inspiring woman full of strength.
For twelve days now auditoriums at Austrian universities have been occupied by students. On October 24th it started with Viennese Art students but has meanwhile spread to most other major Austrian universities. It’s a grassroots movement, triggered not by the official student union – the ÖH – but by individual students. Their message is very simple and very clear.
“Der Hahn gehört gerupft”
The cock has to be plucked. Referring, of course, to Austrian Minister of Science, Johannes Hahn, who’s last name in German mean’s cock.
Whilst international hardly any non-socialist newspapers or homepages have covered the protests – even here in Germany, where many of the students at Austrian universities come from there’s hardly a word about it – the Austrian media has reported surprisingly extensive on the happenings. And though it is most likely due to little else to report on the coincident is the best that could have possibly happened to the students. As one journalist put it: Though they will eventually leave the auditoriums without having achieved their goals but “every day they stay will put more emphasis on their problems.” And problems there are a lot.
I came to Vienna University after my Tel Aviv stay in fall 2007 and was soon completely disillusioned by what I found. It hat little to nothing to do with how one would imagine life at a University the size of the one in Vienna. Basically student life was centered in getting one of the little places in over-filled classes. No dreaming about actually choosing what classes somebody wanted to take. No dreaming about choosing your own path or your own career: You had to take what was there. And that was little. And money was missing everywhere. As one student put it at a Vienna University toilet:
“Tuition fees and they can not even provide toilet paper!”
It didn’t take long until everything I wanted was to graduate as fast as possible so I could get out in a “real life” I hoped would be better. There just is no space for humanist education in a place like Vienna.
In short: I fully support the protests as do – as a recent survey showed – some 60 % of the Austrian population. Including such as Georg Winckler, rector of Vienna University himself, who, only some months ago has sent an email to every of his students stating that he opposed the budget decisions of the government for he didn’t know how to guarantee for a reasonable university routine with the funds available.
However, as I stated the media is full of reports on the protests – as the Swine Flu just isn’t panicking Austrians as much as Germans – and I am following it quite interested. One thing that seems to be reappearing is a sentence that sent me thinking:
This is a Generation that tried to do everything right, that tried to fit in, and got no reward for it.
And thinking about that friend of mine who went from her M.A. direct was to social welfare and of that other friend, an MBA student, who is still making his living on daddy’s money for all he can find are little-paid internships, and all the other fates I have encountered I have to see it’s true. We have done what we were told: We have made our way to University. We have stayed in school, even if it sucked. And now that we’re there is no reward. Neither at university, where one third of Austrian students life beyond the line of poverty, nor afterward, where there are little jobs even for lawyers and MBA graduatees. And now, finally, it’s been enough even for the generation that tried so desperately to fit in.
Yet being hundreds of kilometers away from home all I can do is support the students with some lines. I hope the protests will move something. Make some people think. It really is about time!