“Education is on fire” – Hundreds demonstrated against university law

In Vienna, at the rally around 4 p.m., several hundred people had gathered on Minoritenplatz in front of the Ministry of Education. On posters and banners there were modified classics of the “uni brennt” movement (“Education for everyone – otherwise riots”) as well as an ironic homage to the dissertation of ex-Labor Minister Christine Aschbacher (“The UG novella are the barnacles at universities “). The background music was provided by marches by a delegation from the Vienna University of Music.

Right from the start, the demo organizers had distanced themselves from “conspiracy mystics” who had also called for participation in the protest events on the Internet. As requested by the initiators, the demonstrators wore mouth and nose protection almost all of the time, and stewards provided additional masks if necessary.

In Graz a few hundred people had gathered in the afternoon for the rally on the main square. Among other things, they posted “Strengthening education instead of building bureaucracy” and “More education in politics, not the other way around”. In Innsbruck around 150 people took to the streets against the UG amendment. According to the police, only five people in Dornbirn followed the call for a demo.

At lunchtime in Linz around 200 participants demonstrated against negative effects on students, teachers and the democratic structures at universities. In the course of the afternoon the train was supposed to move over the main square and the Nibelungen Bridge to the Ars Electronica Center in Urfahr. In heavy snowstorms, they mainly drew attention to themselves acoustically by hitting each other with pots, lids and wooden spoons.

The review period for the criticized draft law ends on January 15th. In addition to the Austria-wide day of action, the initiative carried out by students and teachers under the motto “Education must not be further precarious” started a petition against the planned amendment to the UG, which had almost 23,000 signatures by Tuesday afternoon. The undersigned see it as particularly problematic that in the future first-year students must prove a minimum performance in the first two years of study, that the senates (sent by professors, junior staff, students and general staff) lose influence and at the same time the rectorates should have more say in the curricula .

The chairwoman of the Austrian Students’ Union (ÖH), Sabine Hanger, distanced herself from the protests. In the middle of the lockdown, students should be role models, according to the representative of the VP-related Action Community. “Instead, this day of action reinforces the prejudice that we students are ‘irresponsible superspreaders'”. Local student unions support the protest.

“It is significant that once again those parliamentary groups are calling for the demonstration that stole their responsibility in the negotiations on the UG amendment,” said Hanger. “Instead of drawing signs and learning protest slogans by heart, the former left-wing executive should have done real representation work for the students from the start.”

Hanger has been at the helm of a minority executive in the federal union for a few months. The left-wing parliamentary majority in the ÖH federal representation had not been able to agree on a joint candidacy for the ÖH chair after various resignations.

Many local student unions, especially the ÖH at the University of Vienna, took a completely different position than hangers. They called for participation in the day of action. “As GRAS, we are fighting for free and open university access – but the amendment has the opposite effect,” criticized the ÖH chairwoman Hannah Lea Weingartner from the Greens and Alternative Students (GRAS). She expects a thorough revision of the amendment from the Ministry of Education.

For their part, the demo organizers are already planning further actions, as a spokesman told the APA. “We are preparing for a spring protest.”

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