'Defamatory' remarks on YouTube lead to suspension of student

April 3, 2008

A masters student who posted a video on the web criticising Anglia Ruskin University has been suspended for "defamatory" remarks about the vice-chancellor.

Naomi Sugai posted an 84-second video on YouTube setting out a series of criticisms. "I'm having lots of problems with the course that I am on," she says on the video, which has been viewed more than 1,500 times.

She was invited to meet with a dean to discuss the issues, but when she did not remove the video she was contacted by Steve Bennett, the university's secretary and clerk, who said she was bringing Anglia Ruskin into disrepute and would face disciplinary action.

He also said that remarks posted alongside the video constituted a "very public and very serious, indeed defamatory, allegation" against Michael Thorne, the vice-chancellor.

The university told Ms Sugai that it would seek legal advice and warned her that if the remarks were not removed within 48 hours she would be suspended, which she subsequently was. She has since deleted the comments, but in a recent post she says: "I guess there is no such thing as freedom of speech anymore."

A spokeswoman for Anglia Ruskin insisted that the remarks in question were of a serious nature and denied that the suspension had been triggered by the criticisms made in the video.

In a letter advising Ms Sugai of her indefinite suspension, Mr Bennett said: "Should you attend the campus during your suspension, security staff have been instructed to remove you and, if necessary, to seek assistance from the police. Given the seriously defamatory nature of your comments, this matter has also been referred to our solicitors."

Miss Sugai, who pays £4,750 a year in fees, told the Cambridge Evening News that she was now seeking her own legal advice. She added: "I am really annoyed about this and I'm not going to take it lying down. The university is only making this worse."

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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