COLIN CHANNON: Why our university students don’t kick up a big fuss

C130482-4 Chi Colin phot kate
C130482-4 Chi Colin phot kate

A couple of weeks ago, Christopher Joyce wrote about the ‘secretive students’ at the university of Chichester, who didn’t seem to campaign or make as much noise as in his day.

That prompted Kai Eaves – ‘one of those secretive students’, studying creative writing (but don’t tell anyone) and history – to get in touch.

He writes: Christopher Joyce questioned why students in Chichester don’t seem to fight for anything, or make any ‘noise’. Actually I think part of the charm of Chichester, compared with some university towns, is that it is fairly quiet, and when it does get noisy it (usually) remains fairly civilised (relatively speaking). It is really quite pleasant, albeit dull. But clearly I’m quite a dull person, as students go, as I’m not going to complain about that.

Having said that, it is unusual that students in Chichester are particularly quiet – you could say it is disquieting. Not that students elsewhere are as outspoken as they could be – anyone who knows anything about the history of the past 50 years or so, regardless of how old they are, ought to know people are ‘quieter’ now than they were in the 60s and 70s.

That is to say, fewer people stand up for themselves or the society they think ought to exist. We have been reliably informed society does not exist, though not everyone is convinced.

Whenever there is a public protest anywhere, it usually goes unnoticed, or it goes wrong, and everybody forgets what the protest was originally about.

I took part in the student demonstration in London in December 2010. If you recall, that consisted of a lunatic horde mounting traffic lights, smashing windows and chucking fire extinguishers from tall buildings. Except they were only the minority, but they are still chiefly remembered.

The mass media automatically led the national flock, shaking its head at the demonstration as a whole. It did so again in the protest-turned-riot of 2011, and it will do so again in future.

Public demonstrations, national or local, often seem too futile to bother with, and are all too easily turned against the demonstrators. So it has been for the entire lifetime of most students.

Yet students are rather less vocal in the city of Chichester than elsewhere. For instance, I’ve been to Southampton only a couple of times, but each time I recall seeing students in the city centre collecting money or signatures for some cause or another. You don’t see much of that in Chichester.

But is Chichester really a city? It has a long history, a cathedral and it is an administrative centre, but it has the air of a quaint little town. Not really the place where you would expect outspoken students to gather to ‘shout’, university or no university.

Most politically-active students in Chichester probably take their placards and petitions elsewhere.

And as for where they are during the summer? Most of them have gone home! They aren’t here to stay.