Suspended Birmingham students vent anger

Two students suspended by a university for their involvement in a protest occupation have reacted angrily to the “disproportionate” punishment

July 25, 2014

Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, University of Birmingham

Following a disciplinary hearing, Simon Furse and Kelly Rogers, both 22, have been suspended from their studies by the University of Birmingham until March 2015, according to the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.

A third student, Hattie Craig, 21, was meanwhile given a formal reprimand and told she also could be suspended if she broke further university regulations, the group said.

The students were disciplined over an occupation of the institution’s senate chamber last autumn that ended with an eviction by police and bailiffs. As part of the action, students presented a set of ten demands including that staff should be paid a living wage and that the university should stop lobbying for fees to be increased.

Following his suspension, Mr Furse said the university’s management had “decided to victimise us”.

“The protest was peaceful and lawful, but the university can just set up its own kangaroo court and do what it wants.

“University management have clearly decided that they don’t want any more protests against their policies, and have decided to victimise us to try and deter others from voicing dissent,” he said.

Ms Rogers said: “We protested peacefully to call for a better education for ourselves and future students, and for better working conditions for staff at the university.

“As a result, we have been punished for expressing our right to freedom of protest and freedom of speech. These rulings are vastly disproportionate and came as a massive shock.”

The NCAFC also claimed university management “intervened” during the hearing to issue a recommendation to the disciplinary panel that one of the students, Mr Furse, be expelled. “This would have been the first protest-related expulsion from a British university since 1974,” it said in a statement.

Birmingham said it did not comment on individual disciplinary cases but defended its “robust action”.

“Participation in a protest is not a disciplinary offence and the university does not invoke disciplinary procedures lightly,” it said in a statement.

“However, following the events that occurred in November 2013, significant disruption was caused to students and staff: nearly 900 students had their teaching and learning disrupted or displaced, members of staff were prevented from attending their place of work for a week, and disabled and fire access routes were blocked.

“The university has a duty of care to its staff and student community and will not tolerate behaviour that causes harm to individuals, damage to property or significant disruption to our university community.”

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Reader's comments (1)

A ridiculous response by the university, one obviously intended to have a "chilling effect" on even the most moderate demands by students or staff.

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