The Interhall Committee’s boycott wasn’t the only embarrassment to the ANU administration at this year’s Open Day – students from the Education Action Group (EAG) interrupted the Welcome to ANU address, hosted by acting Vice-Chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington.
The action comes following a protest held on campus 20 August, attended by hundreds of students who voted to oppose fee deregulation and denounce the Vice-Chancellor for supporting the Government’s plans. Students voted for an action to be held on Open Day if the Vice-Chancellor would not publicly back down on his support for deregulation. EAG members delivered the message that students at ANU are overwhelmingly against fee deregulation at the welcome address.
The group entered Manning Clark One prior to the start of the address, and made themselves visible in the audience wearing “Stop the Cuts” t ‑shirts. Hughes-Warrington attempted to introduce the student protest group to the audience prior to commencing, at which point one of the students stood up and stated, “I think we can introduce ourselves”.
The students then went to the front of the theatre and held a banner stating, “An education should not be a debt sentence” and handed out fliers to the audience. The pamphlets included information on the ANU administration’s role in championing fee deregulation as well as the current student and staff opposition to the proposed changes. The group talked the audience through several of these points, garnering applause from the crowd when one student stated that “we are not just fighting for ourselves, we are fighting for future students”.
Hughes-Warrington informed the audience that everyone in the group was part of the Socialist Alternative, which was flatly refuted by all EAG members present. After 10 minutes or so of the student presentation, Hughes-Warrington urged the students to “wrap it up” and encouraged the crowd to ask students to leave.
One of the students reiterated the main message of the interruption, that Vice Chancellor Ian Young is a “debt leader” not a “thought leader”, that his actions were a disgrace and that he should resign if he will not start representing the concerns of the community on this issue. The students then asked the audience to vote to oppose fee deregulation – almost all prospective students and their parents put up their hand. The group swiftly left, stating that anyone could come and discuss the issues with them in the foyer afterwards.
While waiting in the foyer the EAG handed out over 600 fliers, with future students and their parents, who appeared desperate for information relating to the issue of fee deregulation.
Photography by Hannah McCann.