Students at the University of Birmingham are in occupation

Category: Students
Published on Monday, 28 July 2014
Written by Defend Ed Brum
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STUDENT ACTIVISTS OCCUPY BUILDING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

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The students have issued the following demands:

  1. That Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse are reinstated with immediate effect, with no further sanctions applied.
  2. That Hattie Craig has the onerous and inhibitive restrictions on her activity at the University of Birmingham lifted, with no further sanctions applied.
  3. That the University of Birmingham recognises occupations as a legitimate form of protest, with a long and lustrous history, that should be accommodated by its Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech.
  4. That the University of Birmingham reforms its disciplinary procedures to include: the right for students to receive legal representation, criteria of proven beyond reasonable doubt instead of the balance of probabilities, and sentencing guidelines. Additionally they should remove the following unacceptably ambiguous disciplinary violations: (g) misuse or unauthorised use of university premises, (q) bringing the university into disrepute, and (m) leafleting.
  5. That the University enters into negotiations in good faith with Defend Education Birmingham over its continuing demands.

 

This protest follows the crackdown on student dissent seen not just in Birmingham but nationwide.  Two Birmingham students, Simon Furse and Kelly Rogers, were suspended last week for their alleged roles in an occupation of the Senate Chamber.  The same nine month long disciplinary process imposed a sixth month suspended sentence to former Guild Vice President Education Hattie Craig. This effectively bans her from exercising her democratic right to dissent on campus. This year at the University of Birmingham, there have been two occupations with similar demands, centring around the Living Wage for cleaners – which has now been won – and the privatisation of the university.

Cracking down on students is nothing new at Birmingham: at a demonstration on January 29, hundreds of protesters from across the country were kettled by police and university security for a several hours in freezing conditions. A number were arrested and held for more than 24 hours in custody and then placed on bail conditions which prevented them from attending university or associating with fellow student activists. The University then suspended six of the arrested protesters with no process or right of appeal, though they were later reinstated.

One of the occupiers commented: “Universities have historically been radical places where learning and dissent went hand in hand. Our higher education system is so far removed from this that universities have become nothing more than paper-pushing, draconian institutions that care nothing for the welfare of their students.” Another said, “Simon, Kelly and Hattie are being persecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech; we have to act before this becomes the norm not just in Birmingham, but nationwide.”

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