ANU Philosophy Honours student Louis Klee began his “read-in” this morning outside the Chancelry. The “read in” will last until Friday as Klee, accompanied by comrades, protests against the deregulation of universities and publicly and peacefully demonstrates the discontent that has been observed at numerous Australian universities over the past two weeks.

Klee told Woroni that his decision to start a “read-in” outside the Vice Chancellery was driven by “Ian Young publicly endorsing deregulation which is an issue to crystallise our concerns in a public sphere”.  Drawing from his experiences in Quebec during the 2012 student protests against their respective fee hike, Klee said he saw what “a functional student movement was like”. Klee stated that the mass movement  “was built by real people – just like us”.

“As a performative enactment of exactly what these cuts put into jeopardy and the place in which critical thinking in itself is nurtured, I endeavour to make the simple act of reading a book something subversive” writes Klee on the Facebook “read-in” page. Today, the “read-in” Facebook page has 356 people attending, however most people show their support by casually dropping in, some for hours and others just to provide food and say their greetings. Whilst sitting in at the protest ANUSA President Cam Wilson dropped off two blocks of Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate. Other students also kindly dropped off food and goodies in support of the readers. Deputy Vice Chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington also approached the readers to kindly ask if there were any questions the readers would like to ask the Department of Education about specific details concerning the deregulation of universities. She herself admitted that they were not yet privy to the finer details of the proposed policy changes that are yet to pass through the Senate.

Klee has already caused waves in the media on 666 ABC Radio and the Canberra Times. Klee publicly organised the “read in” on Facebook prior to Annabel Crabb’s controversial Sydney Morning Herald article “Student’s Soviet Era anti-budget Protests outdated in our era of communication”.[1] Crabb’s article undermined student’s efforts in opposing the liberal government’s decision to deregulate university fees. The hypothetical question  “And how can it be, as even our phones gets smarter, that protesters are somehow getting dumber?” highlights Crabb’s disdain for the actions and protests of university students. However, Crabb was signaled to Klee’s protest and tweeted that “it’s imaginative and obviously it’s captured attention.”

Klee described to Woroni how the rhetoric utilised by Vice Chancellor Ian Young focuses on the fact that higher fees will not directly affect a great proportion of the students protesting, alluding to the idea that all students who are protesting are motivated by selfish fears. The readers want to make it clear that their objections lay with deeper societal concerns of equitability, accessibility and the general purpose of the university.

Feel free to join the readers in their peaceful protest (and get some study done) outside the Chancelry over the next few days.

[1] Annabel Crabb, “Students’ Soviet-era anti-budget protests outdated in our era of communication”, The Sydney Morning Herald, (26 May 2014) <http://www.smh.com.au/comment/students-sovietera-antibudget-protests-outdated-in-our-era-of-communication-20140523-zrlu6.html>.

Photography: Jennifer Edmunds, ANU Student’s Association