The tweets are coming in hard and fast as the Stop the Fees protest rolls through town. RTÉ is requesting photos from students out on the streets and the competition for the best banner is already underway.
But what about the students who aren’t there? What about those of us who are sitting in the half empty lecture halls or deserted libraries? What’s keeping us in while so many are out and about?
Emer Sugrue is in her final year of college. “I wouldn’t really have a problem with skipping lectures” she says. “What I can’t skip is the library. I have a lot of work due at the end of this week and I just don’t have the time and energy to go. I’d imagine a lot of final years feel the same.”
Ms Sugrue supports the campaign but she disagrees with the timing of the march. “Coming up to exams is the wrong time for it. The USI and various students’ unions have known about the fees for a month, and suspected it for much longer. They would get a much better turn out if they organised the march for earlier in the term.”
Killian McCarthy has a simple reason for staying in college today. “I’m not opposed to fees. I think it would make sense for there to be a graduated means-tested system under which those who can afford to pay make a contribution ranging from minimal, to partial, to substantial and in some cases, total. I’m not alone in that view and the key words in the above are ‘those who can afford to pay’.The simple fact is that the USI’s stance does not represent my views.”
Mr McCarthy is also critical of a statement made by USI President Gary Redmond on Monday night’s Frontline. “The numbers being circulated as likely increases in registration fees are entirely baseless. On Frontline Gary Redmond used the phrase ‘we’re hearing these numbers…’ We’re hearing them because his Union is circulating them.”
Stephen Long says he would support the USI if the organisation “actually worked with the Dept of Education on some sort of compromise such as a graduate tax”. He thinks that the “no to all fees agenda is unrealistic and doesn’t do the student image any favours”.
Amy Bracken thinks that it’s time for change, but not the kind of change that the march champions. “I am not marching because in my opinion, our system needs reform and the only way to do that is by student contribution. Why should a doctor pay the same for their child to go to college as a tradesman? Fees should be re-introduced on a means-test basis. Why don’t we scrap the grants scheme and have a loan scheme for students like in the UK?”
Barry O’Donohoe will be directly affected if any changes come into effect but he isn’t on the streets today. He has two essays and an important assignment due this week so he simply can’t afford to skip college. “I don’t agree with the reasons for protesting, I think the people who can pay should pay for college” he adds.
Mr O’Donohoe relies on the grant to go to college himself, but he still believes that it’s just not fiscally possible to fund free education for everyone. “There is an increase in the number of people going to college, our birth rate is skyrocketing and we are in a recession.”
Are you at home today? Why aren’t you out on the march? Do you disagree with our stay at home students?
(Studenty.me November 2011)