Sleepy rioters not up to much

March 23, 2001

A dawn raid has ended a two-day student occupation of several faculties at Rome's La Sapienza University, Europe's largest campus.

Leftwing students were protesting against a 70 per cent increase in fees and the recent reform of Italy's higher education system, which introduces the practice of "programmed" or "selective" access to degree courses.

In 1969, on the wave of political upheavals in Italy's universities, parliament passed a law granting any secondary school graduate the right to enrol in any degree course in any state university.

That right has been whittled away by successive reforms of higher education. After their expulsion, leaders of the occupation vowed that unless La Sapienza rector Giuseppe D'Ascenzo cut down fees, they would occupy the university once more.

Professor D'Ascenzo instead proposed a meeting with the students in the days following the terminated occupation.

Everyone involved -police, academics and students -agreed that so far this new wave of protest is a pale shadow of more energetic protests in seasons past.

The Corriere della Sera commented: "Twenty years ago, there would have been the smell of teargas, today there was not even the smell of hashish."

When hundreds of armed police burst into the occupied lecture rooms, the sleeping students quietly rolled up sleeping bags and blankets and filed out. "We have to give them credit," said a slightly bemused director of the Digos political police, "they offered no resistance and did no damage."

The most extreme protest, after the eviction, came from a student who decided to take all his clothes off` while inciting his colleagues to revolt through a loud-hailer. But nobody seemed to notice.

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