University of Melbourne students gathered at a “read-in” protest against fee increases to higher education on Thursday May 28.
About 30 students sat and read at the university’s Raymond Priestly building from 1 pm. The building holds university senior management workplaces, including Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis’ office.
Students gathered on rugs and beanbags reading course materials. Some also used laptops to write assignments.
University store the Food Co-op sold soup to students at the event.
University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) Education (Public) Officer Ella Fabry organised the event after seeing Canberra’s Australian National University (ANU) do a read-in. She said the organiser of ANU’s event offered to come to Melbourne to join the protest later in the week.
She said it was intended to be a peaceful protest.
She said: “We’ve been getting a little bit of shit like, ‘go back to class’, so we brought class to the protest.”
However she said she did not want to compare the read-in to a street protest. She said the two have “different outcomes”.
“Something like this will get a lot of students out that may be intimidated by a rally,” she said, “whereas a big rally on the street is going to get media and is going to bring attention to the cause.”
The read-in protests began at ANU as a reaction to comments about recent rallies being disruptive.
Spandu Pillarisetty is a first year Bachelor of Arts student. She was reading a book of Chekhov plays at the protest.
She said the read-in was a more “creative” way of protesting than rallies on the street.
She said she hopes the read-in will change the media’s “violent image” of student activists recently.
A spokesperson from the university said students were free to protest. “The read-in provides a novel way for students to protest in a way that does not impact on the rights or freedoms of other students and staff, while still getting their messages across.”
The read-in will repeat today and on Friday from 1:00 pm.