ACT News

Students plan to disrupt deputy vice-chancellor's opening address at ANU Open Day

Student activists from the ANU's Education Action Group plan to disrupt deputy vice-chancellor Marnie Hughes-Warrington's opening address at the university's open day on Saturday and move a motion for prospective students and parents to oppose deregulation of fees.

Protest organiser Geraldine Fela said prospective students would be hit hardest by the government's proposed changes and protesters felt no qualms about disrupting the university's showcase day.

"The deputy vice-chancellor will be giving her perspective of what the university is and we'll be giving our own, which is that the university is becoming a debt leader rather than a thought leader," she said.

An ANU spokeswoman said the university did not expect any major disruption from students and protests had "long been a part of the student culture at ANU".

"Many of the students involved in the protest this year also staged a protest last year at open day, and proved themselves to be respectful of our visitors and in no way prevented future students and their parents from exploring the full range of options available to them at ANU," she said.

Ms Fela said the student activists would also hold giant balls and chains representing the debt prospective students will carry once they complete their tertiary studies.

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The protesters will specifically call for ANU vice-chancellor Ian Young to "stand up and defend students from the government's attacks".

"If [Ian] Young won't listen to his staff and students who are overwhelmingly opposed to these changes, he should resign in disgrace," Ms Fela said.

The planned protest comes after ANU student leaders accused the vice-chancellor of deliberately keeping an August 18 debate over deregulation low-profile after only 40 of the students near 22,000 students turned up.

The ANU spokeswoman said the protesters were likely to make up around 25 of the 800 university students who would welcome prospective students to the campus on Saturday.

Protests have been a regular occurrence at the university since the government announced plans to deregulate university fees in early March, with protests ranging from a barricade of the Vice-Chancellor's office to a read-in and choral ensemble.

The Education Action Group claim more than 300 students attended a protest held on campus on August 20 as part of the nation-wide protest against deregulation organised by the National Union of Students.

Ms Fela said it was difficult to say how many people would protest on Saturday given the clash with exam timetables but admitted it would be "less than 50".