On Saturday evening, a student hung up the banner in a doorway upon discovering that Willetts was in the college. Willetts was forced to take the banner down before being able to leave.
The student told Cherwell, “It was something of an ‘emergency protest’ as no students knew he was going to be there. Willetts himself told me that £9k tuition fees are “progressive and productive”! He had to take the banner down to get through the doorway in the picture, and he got quite angry!”
The reason as to why Willetts was present in the college is unclear, but it appears he was invited to a formal dinner along with several other eminent guests including Michael Portillo and a delegation from the Spanish government.
However, Balliol students were not happy at having the Universities Minister in their college and decided to protest due to his unpopular decision to raise tuition fees to £9,000 per annum.
The protesting student explained, “I think David Willetts is a despicable ideologue who, as Universities Minister, trebled tuition fees and is determined to marketise education, making it increasingly a privilege rather than a public good.
“For me, it raises broader questions about who colleges (and the university) belong to – students and workers, or a bureaucratic elite. As far as I know, the JCR and MCR were not informed that this event was taking place and so had no opportunity to shun and condemn individuals like Willetts who are responsible for the decline and marketisation of education nationally.”
A second student who was present at the protest said, “The whole thing was pretty funny, but also depressing. He tried to avoid walking through the banner but when he realised he couldn’t got angry. I don’t really appreciate an out of touch, angry old man telling me that I won’t actually have to pay my fees as long as I’m a ‘decent graduate’. At least I think that’s what he said.”
She added, “Also I’m seriously confused by his definition of progressive. It might seem like it wasn’t worthwhile with so few of us there but he needs to know that he’s going to be held to account wherever he goes. Despite there being a larger crowd at the Union, this seemed to phase him far more. He wasn’t in a crowd of likeminded people.”
Willetts has already been shown that he is not popular in the university. While participating in a debate on higher education earlier this term, protestors unfurled a ‘Fuck you Willetts’ banner from the balcony of the debating chamber. The two students responsible also shouted, “David Willetts, get out, we know what you’re all about” and “Cuts, job losses, money for the bosses”.
The student who tied this banner over the doorway asked to remain anonymous due to the recent decision by Cambridge University to suspend a student for seven terms for a similar anti-Willetts protest. The Cambridge student in question read out a poetic protest to Willetts while the latter was giving a speech at the university.