04/02/2015 06:09 GMT | Updated 04/04/2015 06:59 BST

Whose University?: The Campaign of Small Things (And Big Things Too)


The little things matter.

Like wearing those socks that make you smile. Like having the perfect cup of tea in the morning. Like remembering to make a birthday card for your mum.

And they matter in activism too.

The Everyday Sexism campaign is a wonderful testament to this. It shows how a big thing - the patriarchy - can be present in all the little things that people experience all the time. That's not to say that the campaign doesn't deal with really serious issues too; it does and it should. But part of what makes it amazing is that it makes space to talk about the little things too.

It talks about all of the things. And we should too.

Since our Whose University? campaign started publishing student testimonies about their experiences at Cambridge, I have found myself in numerous conversations with people who say things along the lines of: 'I support the campaign, but I don't think you should have published this testimony. It's not a very important issue.'


And I get their point, to a certain extent. But these people are really missing the point. They seem to think that to talk about one thing - to post one testimony - is to focus exclusively on it at the expense of the other 'more important' things. It's the tactical equivalent of your mum telling you not to complain about not liking your food because 'there are children starving in Africa'. And it's really not useful.

I believe that people's experiences matter. I also believe that they are often connected.

The reasons that staff working in our university aren't being paid a living wage and the reasons that students (and academics for that matter) are being sidelined for conferences and corporate interests have much in common. They are both linked to the running of our university as a business pursuing financial interests over those of its community of students, staff and academics.

The reasons that one international student - who, granted, is privileged in many ways - had to pay double to stay in their own room at the end of term and the reasons that another student was made temporarily homeless are, again, very similar. Of course, being made homeless is 'worse' than having to pay extra money. But together these testimonies point to the endemic nature of this particular problem: the prioritisation of conferences over students.

They show that this problem doesn't just have consequences in extreme circumstances. It has everyday consequences.


Maybe we should call our campaign 'everyday neoliberalism', or 'everyday marketization of education'. But for now, it's 'Whose University?' and we're going to talk about all of the ways in which these trends are damaging our university.

Because the little things matter too.