A first year student stood up and asked the following question: "I have a pen pal from Russia. Am I allowed to correspond with him from here?"
I can't remember what was the answer to that fairly odd question, because it happened way back in 1998, when I was a first year student as well. This question was asked during our long and tiresome orientation week where we learned the university song (laughed at it too, of course), and where people droned on about the rules and regulations and explained the many different ways you could get yourself expelled. That was also the time when we all found out about AUKU (University and University Colleges Act)
Being 18 and politically ignorant then, my friends and I never did find the act get in the way of our daily lives. Many things have happened since then, and thirteen years later university students are actually rising against the act. For some reason, they believe that political freedom and participation is a must in order for them to grow up and be forward thinking people. After all, if you are fully responsible for your well being at 18 (you are legally allowed to be fully employed, get your driver's license and even get married and have your own kids at 18), why can't you be involved in politics?
This opposition towards the act got much more interesting in the recent days because of a particular student activist who was suspended for 18 months for lowering a banner for 5 minutes. The banner apparently depicted the image of the Prime Minister. They say the suspension is to uphold the name of the university as their job is to train future educators, and who would want a teacher who is against authority?
Last week, the radio station I listen to ran a set of interviews, the first with a professor from the university which suspended the student activist, and on the second day, an interview with the student activist himself! I found it most refreshing as the radio station had decided to present us with both sides of the story, instead of only the story of the side which was more powerful. An institution of higher education versus a single student sure sounds like David versus Goliath. It was interesting to note that the student had some degree of maturity in the way he spoke and he knew what he was doing. He thinks that if students don't fight against oppressive laws against students, who will? Who wants teachers who can't think for themselves?
A very interesting other side of the coin indeed. Kudos to the radio station.