Uncovered: Occupation Who’s Who

“They’ve got a legitimate reason to not do work; they’ve got the moral high ground; they’ve even got bloody Scottish dancing.” MATILDA WNEK wonders why you were not at the occupation.

browne review Cambridge live blog matilda wnek occupation Old Schools protest Senate House


And so, the occupation has finally ended. And, we’ll soon find out whether it made any difference at all. But, I can’t help but wonder: why wasn’t it busier? The occupiers had a legitimate reason to not do work; they got the moral high ground; they even got bloody Scottish dancing. What possible reason could you have had not to go down to the Old Schools and join in the fun? Who are the 18,000 students whose conspicuous absence has allegedly sapped it of legitimacy?


1. The Ignorant

Presumably, there must be some people out there who don’t read The Tab, don’t watch Newsnight, have a lecture route that avoids passing Old Schools, don’t have a lecture with a vocal occupation-goer, and have no friends who know anything about it. To be fair, these people probably have more immediate problems than tuition fee rises and spending cuts, and so they can be forgiven.

2. The Busy Bees

They’re otherwise occupied. End of.

3. The Socially Unwelcome

Let’s face it: the occupation failed to grasp mainstream interest and free itself of its ‘alternative’ associations. There are some people who have never attended a protest before; whose experience of collective suffering for a cause extends to queuing for entry to Cindies; and who think ‘direct action’ is a tactical, on-pitch manoeuvre. These people were never enfranchised, and, to them, the occupation might as well have been a party they weren’t invited to. On second thoughts, I’m sure a couple of Blues did wander in to have a look a few days ago, but possibly on a kind of Capulet-browse…

4. The Anti-Rule Breakers:

“I just don’t think it’s the most effective way to make your point,” they claim. These people are too busy writing letters to the University Council.

5. The ‘Realists’

Those who “would love to be able to support the occupation,” but are just too darn economically literate to subscribe to far-flung ideals like free education. “Have they even read the Browne review?” is a common catchphrase amongst this type of ‘realist’, as well as treating the fact that we’re in a recession as a trump card.

6. The Self-Confessed Apathetics

These people are often subsets of 2 and 3, or wearied breakaways of 4 and 5; they don’t think it’s an important problem, or at the very least not one of theirs. According to our poll, these made up 4.48% of Tab readers, as of Tuesday.

7. The Problem Blind

You know, those who don’t think there is a problem with raising fees and narrowing access. “Education is a service, why shouldn’t you pay for it?”/”Competition will ensure cheap universities appear to serve people who can’t afford Cambridge’s services,” are regularly uttered phrases amongst these people. In fairness, it’s probably true that they wouldn’t lose out personally from the exclusion of those people the raised fees will affect, since they aren’t ever likely to appear at the Pitt Club anyway…

8. The Government Supporters

Where are these people? Why do they disguise themselves to blend in so easily with the general dickhead milieu? How do they get people to stop listening before they even have to say anything substantial? All important questions. But, the one thing we do know is that these make up the ‘significant proportion of the student body who feel unrepresented’ by the occupation, and who are frequently alluded to as undermining its legitimacy.



Some people were there from beginning to end, some wandered in and out to show support, others popped in for an hour at 1am before heading back to Kambar: clearly there was a huge disparity of commitment inside the Old Schools. So, just who are these varied and infamous bunch, and is there anything that links them all?

1. The Shepherds

These are the brains behind the whole operation. They were the ones for whom the prospect of the University’s acceptance of the Coalition’s funding reforms were so abhorrent that they actually seized the opportunity (or more literally the Old Schools building) to make a statement of discontent. They: make decisions in the form of an action group, relay information back to the general occupiers, organise rotas, write press releases, get legal advice, wake people up in the morning, maintain morale by sourcing biscuits etc. These people’s dedication and experience gave them automatic authority.

2. The Idealists

Education important? Yep. Everyone should be able to have it? Yep. This simple ambition is being allowed to be threatened just because we’re in a recession. Somebody needs to represent it, and there’s this whole host of people willing to do so once a venue’s been provided.

3. The Rational

Have specific and qualified bones to pick with Browne review, and have a clear alternative way of funding education, which might be the NUS’ graduate tax proposal, or an alternative way of reducing government debt than cutting University funding. Occupation is expression of frustration at University’s disagreement.

4. The Radicals

These people were always going to join; nothing could have kept them away from a large protest against the inactivity of the University council, although many also qualify for categories 2 and 3. Anarchist/ Marxist monologues largely sidelined by mainstream occupiers, since it tends to undermine the more moderate, focussed message.

5. The Second-Wavers

Late-starters join as occupation gains attention or guilt starts kicking in. A worthy cause, but once I’ve finished my last supervision essay.

6. The Socially Motivated

It’s really fun down there, and it’s a great place to share something with likeminded people if you’re of the right kind of mind. They have focaccia, they have large speakers, they have a morning yoga class. There’s no doubt that amidst the genuinely dedicated there’s a contingent that are having just a little too much fun at the common room. I mean, occupation.

And there you have it. To catch up on all the occupation news, check out The Tab‘s live blog.