The C-1 Autogestita is a student-run political group at the University of Urbino. They take action on a variety of problems, from national, local and University issues.
URBINO, Italy – On a warm Sunday afternoon pedestrians crowded into the Piazza Repubblica scattered as a small car screeched across the cobblestones, its horn blaring while scruffy students hung from the windows waving flags and screaming slogans.
They were the cheering section for one side of a controversial national election that had citizens across the country deciding three volatile propositions: privatizing the water supply, approving nuclear power, and ending the immunity of politicians like Prime Minister Silvio Burlesconi from prosecution while in office. The issues generated a huge turnout, with the water and power ideas failing miserably, and the politicians being held accountable.
But while it was a big weekend for Italy it was just another day on campus for the screaming students. They were all members of C-1 Autogestita, a student-run political activist group at the University of Urbino. A close-knit band of 50 young men and women from across the country, they manage to squeeze in studies and parties between what seems to be their main interest: The political issues of the day.
“This lifestyle makes you crazy,” laughed Mattia Trusso, a 26-year-old sociology major, “I think it’s harder than a job sometimes.”
C1 began in 2006, members said, when about 15 politically-minded students boldly invaded the university’s Magistrar Building and squatted in classroom ‘C1’, claiming it as their headquarters. After a brief eviction, they squatted again, eventually gaining official recognition from the university.
Since then C-1 has grown to about 50 students who make the room their second home. Its walls are covered with posters and banners that tell the group’s history of activism, as well as its current events such as a recent trip to Rome to protest financial cuts to universities. Amenities are utilitarian; in one corner students can rest on couches or take a study break, while in another a coat rack and shelves store belongings.
Andrea Grassia, a 22-year-old Italian language and literature student, said he “did everything” in the C1 room.
“I had fun, I (smoked), I had discussions for hours and hours about politics, I reorganized lessons and every kind of art and showings of pictures and films,” Grassia said. “I also remember sometimes we spent all our nights drinking.”
But the C-1 members have never forgotten their mission. Urbino’s student body hails from across the nation and represents a variety of political opinions, so the room serves as a community space, a headquarters to plan events and a resource for local residents as well as students.
“Lots of people refer to this room to get information, to be informed,” Trusso said. “When that (began to happen) it was the symbol that this room started to be like a house for us.”
The growth in membership is important, Trusso said, because it has allowed C-1 to expand their involvement from just university issues to local and national topics.
A few weeks after the national referendum – a resounding victory for the C-1 positions – the group hosted a Palestinian rap group to publicize the story of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni, who was raped and killed in the Gaza Strip by Palestinians in April 2011.
“It was the first time a Palestinian people or organization has raped a person that was well known there to work and to help them,” Trusso said.
C1 members set up a stage for artists then manned stands to hand out information and to sell sausage and eggplant sandwiches to raise funds. But Trusso said the most important part of the evening was to create debate.
“If someone says ‘these crazy guys are bringing a group of terrorist singers,’ I will be happy, because it got them to listen for five minutes,” Trusso said.
And while the group doesn’t represent all opinions on the campus, as 24-year-old sociology student Mattia “Junior” Maurizi pointed out, they can unite the campus on one burning issue issues: a voice for the students in the community’s decision-making.
“The city … they don’t look at us as citizens, to have rights,” Maurizi said. “It’s a general trend of C1 — to try to let people understand that we are not a wallet to empty.”
One of C-1’s dreams, he said, is to convince Urbino’s city government to allow one student on the communal council.
“That way, this huge community of inhabitants and students starts to be connected,” Trusso said. “One of the effects of this no dialogue is the patrolling of (weekly) Thursday night with lots of police … because we’ve got five to six kinds of police.”
To the tourists that flock to this beautiful Renaissance city in the central Italian mountains, each day rolls by like a mirror image of the previous one, filled with beauty and art. But Trusso said those visitors don’t see the problems just beneath the surface, which is why these politically-minded students will continue to take a stand on the controversial issues and to inform the campus and community.
“If you don’t work with the society and talk with the people every day, you can be ruled in an easy way like every king has done in the past,” Trusso said. “You don’t have to be ruled, you have to rule.”