By Jared Katz
When I was an undergrad at the University of Southern California, the greatest confrontation between students and administration came when the university decided to stop beer sales at football games. How did the student population react? Write letters? Sign petitions? Organize? Protest? Well, we mostly whined to one another, drank even more before the games, and left at half time feeling bad - and not because of the score - soon forgetting the luxury of ever having been able to drink in the stadium.
In my few weeks as a student in Italy, however, I've been exposed to a whole new world of student activism.
These photos capture images from a thousands-strong student protest march through the streets of Bologna last Tuesday. They are part of a larger movement in Italy, where students are protesting education reforms that will amount to cuts of 1.5 billion Euros in the university sector and decrease the number of degree courses offered.
That might seem much more significant than cutting beer sales at a football game, but I think the protest turn-out would have been even larger had the Italian Education Ministry interfered with Italian futbol.
The demonstrators occupied the train station, making everyone leaving or entering Bologna even more late than their already delayed trains would have made them (Italian transportation delays deserve a study and article of their own, and perhaps they're even more deserving of reforms). Riot police were deployed further down the tracks and were forced to helmet up when flying paint grenades were launched anonymously from the mass of students. After flexing their collective muscle and bringing the Bologna train station to a halt, the demonstrators moved back to the streets and finally to their makeshift protester headquarters in Piazza Verdi before dispersing back into the narrow Italian streets from which they came.
The students certainly got some attention: the Italian education minister called an emergency meeting with students associations on October 23rd, and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi declared that any further student protests would be broken up by force. In response, the students have upped the ante by calling for a mass demonstration on October 30th in Rome.
In search of excitement in an otherwise in-the-books focused life, I've self-declared myself a protest-chaser and plan to join the fun in Rome ... Stay tuned.
Jared Katz is a graduate student in the IR/Conflict Management program at the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Bologna Center in Italy.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Johns Hopkins University.