Student Suspended for nine months because of this video.

This video is taken from a student occupation at the University of Birmingham in November 2013. Simon Furse (the student in the suit) was taken to court by the university the morning of the video, facing a cost order of up to £25,000. The university subsequently took disciplinary action against him, and this video was given as evidence in his hearing.

The university found Simon guilty of three counts of misconduct based on this video: Misuse of university premises, Action likely to impair safety, and interfernce with the duties of staff. As a result he was suspended from the university for 9 months.

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PRESS RELEASE: UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM STUDENTS GIVEN 9 MONTH SUSPENSION FOR PEACEFUL PROTEST BY “KANGAROO COURT”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT NUMBER: 07821842831, 07821731481

 

Two students have been suspended from University of Birmingham for their involvement in an occupation in the autumn term. Simon Furse (22) and Kelly Rogers (22) have been suspended from their course until March 2015. Hattie Craig (21) was given a formal reprimand and a de facto ‘suspended sentence’ warning her of immediate suspension should she breach any university regulation. All were put through a panel which ended on 23rd June, but have had their outcomes withheld until today.

 

In an unprecedented move, University management intervened during the hearing and issued a recommendation to the disciplinary panel that one of the students, Simon Furse, be expelled. This would have been the first protest-related expulsion from a British university since 1974. The University recommended that Kelly Rogers be suspended for a full year, while Hattie Craig had a recommendation of 6 months.

 

The occupation was in relation to a set of ten demands, including that staff should be paid a living wage and the university should stop lobbying for fees to be increased. Since the occupation two of the demands have been achieved: the university have agreed to pay Living Wage for the next two years and have stopped fee waivers. The students were found guilty of a number of minor charges which in the past have warranted only a reprimand.

 

Simon Furse said “I have been suspended from the university despite the fact that the only evidence against me is a twenty second video of me telling other protesters that they can go into a peaceful occupation. 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.”

 

Kelly 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 3-day hearing followed a 7 month disciplinary process, which we consider to have been politically motivated and lacking in impartiality. The disciplinary hearings themselves were marred by a failure to observe basic principles of procedural fairness. For example:

 

  • The students were denied the right to legal representation, despite the legal and factual complexity of the proceedings, the length of the hearings and the fact that our right to education is at stake

  • The University of Birmingham admitted to having identified the students from an internal ‘blacklist’ of around 30 student activists

  • Students were denied access to minutes of the disciplinary. When they requested them, they were told that they could only acquire them via a Subject Access Request “if they still existed” at the time. No verbatim minutes were taken at all, with the University citing “data protection” reasons.

  • Students were not given proper access to all of the allegations against them, with many of the allegations being raised in the course of narrative commentary and conjecture by University management.

The students have noted each instance of unfairness and failure of due process. They are actively considering all avenues of appeal, including a challenge in the High Court.

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Simon Furse at a protest

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The occupied Senate chambers in December 2013

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Students at a demonstration against recent suspensions (March 2014)

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Hattie Craig (Vice President Education 2013/14, Guild of Students)

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Simon Furse (Vice President Education 2012/13, Guild of Students)

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Kelly Rogers (Women’s officer 2011/12, Guild of Students)

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Kelly Rogers at a protest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM STUDENTS FACE EXPULSION FOR PEACEFUL PROTEST

On Friday the 20th of June, a three day disciplinary against students at the University of Birmingham begins for their involvement in the Senate Chamber Occupation which occurred earlier this year.  Despite this being a peaceful protest where no staff were hurt and no part of the occupied building damaged, the three students (Hattie Craig, Simon Furse and Kelly Rogers) remain under the threat of expulsion, as they have been since the disciplinary action was announced against them in December.  The occupation, which called for better wages for staff, bursaries for students and lower halls fees amongst other demands, lasted for over a week and involved upwards of 100 students throughout the period, only ending after the University spent thousands of pounds to obtain an injunction and have the students forcibly removed by police and bailiffs.

The charges against all three of these students are those that almost every student at Birmingham would be guilty of doing at some point during their years there.  For example, “the unauthorised use of university property” includes sleeping and eating on campus.  Kelly Rogers’ disciplinary papers specifically accuse her of using a kettle in the occupation.  So it can be seen that the university is exclusively choosing political targets to punish through long and stressful disciplinaries.  In addition, all three have another disciplinary to follow.

It is typical for the University of Birmingham to have singled out a few individuals to punish for an act of peaceful dissent.  Just last month Simon Furse was found innocent of assaulting a security guard during the occupation of the Senate Chambers, as well as having charges of violent disorder dropped against him in March after being targeted by police during the national demonstration on January 29th.  The magistrate overseeing the case described the University’s witness in the assault case as “manifestly unreliable “due to the level of inconsistency of their account of events.   Furthermore, another intimidation tactic used by the university management was to name specific protesters on an injunction that mean they were liable for damages of up to £25,000, a method used to suppress dissent by effectively threatening to bankrupt individual activists.

The University of Birmingham has a long history of victimising activists who have taken part in peaceful protests on campus.  The lack of representative for the students involved, the drawn out and stressful process only serve to attempt to quash any dissent towards the continued privatisation of universities.  It is a threat to democracy when a university can impose punishments on their students for simply sleeping and eating on campus, let alone operating outside the system of law that has already all of these students from any wrong doing.

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Five Students Facing Trumped Up Disciplinaries

The University of Birmingham has sunk to new lows this year in attacking the right to protest. 14 students were arrested because of information given to the police by the university, however all of these criminal investigations were dropped or collapsed due to a lack of evidence. Despite the incalculable harm they have caused to protesters this year through their repressive tactics, they are continuing to pursue five students, Chames Zaimeche, Alice Swift, Kelly Rogers, Simon Furse, and Hattie Craig, through the university’s own internal disciplinary proceedings. The evidence presented to the hearings is shaky, speculative, or irrelevant, and some key evidence is even based on overt racism and ableism.

These hearings can decide to expel students from the university, but the university acts as judge jury and prosecution in the procedure, conviction is done on the balance of probabilities rather than beyond reasonable doubt, and the standards of evidence collection and presentation would be illegal in a real trial. The offences under the university’s disciplinary code are so wide that all students break them from time to time, and it allows the university to politically target those they don’t like. Students are not allowed to have any representation in the hearings, and are only allowed to bring a ‘friend’, who is not allowed to speak but only to advise.

The disciplinaries all relate to an occupation that took place in November 2013, around a set of ten demands. The university chose to respond to the occupation by preventing any access in or out, they then applied for an injunction and an application of costs against two students for up to £25,000. An almost identical injunction that was taken out two years earlier, was condemned by Amnesty International as showing contempt for human rights. The university then used their injunction to break up the occupation using police and bailiffs in an early morning raid. Hundreds of students took part in the occupation and yet just three are being disciplined for direct involvement in it, while two more a being disciplined for events that allegedly took place outside the occupation.

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A photo from the occupation

The rest of the article talks individually about each of the students being disciplined, the incredible amounts of punitive repression they have already received from the university and the severe problems with the cases against them. All quotes are from the investigating officer’s report into the students unless otherwise indicated.

Chames Zaimeche

Chames is being disciplined for: “8.2.1 (c) violent, indecent, disorderly, threatening, intimidating or offensive behaviour or language”. This is an offence that is so wide that almost any student is guilty of it at some point in their time at university. It allows the university to politically discipline anyone they like, on the basis of their conduct. This is particularly the case with protests which can always be said to be disorderly, intimidating, or offensive.

Brendan casey

Chames’ offence is broken down as behaving in an intimidating and disorderly manner towards Brendan Casey (left), a senior manager of the university and the person who filed the papers for the injunction to evict the occupation. Chames accused by Mr Casey of asking him questions at a volume that “was ‘not loud’, but was ‘sneering in approach’”, circling “him in a way that was disorientating”, and sniggering. The university is effectively disciplining him because senior managers don’t like being questioned, a clear violation of his right to free speech.

When Mr Casey was asked for further clarification about the allegations he stated that Chames’ behaviour was disorderly “in that it was loud, persistent, lacking in spatial awareness and took place in a wholly inappropriate environment”. This is not only contradictory but is also extremely problematic given the fact that Chames is dyspraxic.

Chames is half Algerian and has lived in the UK all his life. Mr Casey describes him as “taller than himself, slimmer, with a sallow complexion and dark hair, but no discernible accent”, another witness describes him as “‘goth-looking’ with dark hair, pale skin”. Both witnesses have identified him on the basis of racial characteristics, and Mr Casey even repeats the racist trope of expecting Chames to have an accent despite the fact he is from the UK. The university clearly thinks that asking questions of a senior manager is a disciplinary offence, but that racism and ableism from a senior manager is so little of a problem that they can base a disciplinary hearing on it.

Alice Swift

Alice is also being disciplined for violent, indecent, disorderly, threatening, intimidating or offensive behaviour or language. This is broken down as two counts of behaving in a “disorderly manner” and one of behaving in an “intimidating manner”.  The first disorderly allegation is based on the fact that Alice was at a demonstration and was described by a security guard as “the most vocal and possibly the ring leader of that group of protesters at that time”. The other two are based on the testimony of a staff member who describes that Alice was “shouting and smugly laughing”. This is the whole of the allegations against Alice.

The university are always very keen to explain that they support the right to protest and free speech, however they believe that shouting is unacceptable and must be subject to punishment. The reason Alice was shouting in the first place was because she saw other student protesters being violently attacked by members of security. The university clearly does not discipline everyone who shouts or ‘smugly’ laughs and so Alice’s disciplinary is clearly political. She is being singled out because she has been identified as a “ring leader” and in order to scare others.  Alice is a final year student and has to deal with enough stress without being put through trumped up disciplinary charges. The university sent her a report immediately before the exam period and told her to reply the night before her first exam.

Hattie Craig

Hattie is the Vice President Education for the Birmingham Guild of Students, elected via a cross campus ballot. She was elected on a manifesto of direct action in support of education issues. She openly took part in the occupation, and the right to occupy is supported by the guild (number 51, action). Despite the fact that Hattie has a democratic mandate to take the action she was doing, and the fact that she is not currently a student, the university are still taking disciplinary action against her.

Hattie is charged with unauthorised use of university property, interference with the duties of staff, and action likely to impair safety. Her investigating officer’s report argues that because she was present in the occupation she therefore bears full responsibility for everything that happened in it. The allegations against her are what the university believes are broken by every single student who occupies. Allegations against the occupation include: using a kettle, sleeping, eating, climbing and locking doors. The university don’t see it as necessary to prove that Hattie was personally involved in any of these things, but the fact that they happened and she was there is seen as proof that she is guilty. This logic means that everyone who took part in the occupation is guilty of everything that the university said happened at it, however only three people are being disciplined for it out of hundreds who were involved.

Kelly Rogers

On the 29th of January the police arrested Kelly, along with thirteen other students, for not giving her name to the police. She was held in a police cell for 30 hours before being let out with unbelievably stringent bail conditions. The arrests were called for by the university but the case was dropped against all of the students due to lack of evidence. Refusing to give your name is a legal right and the police are currently facing a judicial review and civil action because they are believed to have acted unlawfully. As a result of the arrest (that the university had called for) Kelly was suspended  by the university for two months. She is a final year student and must now work incredibly hard through the summer to make up the work she has missed.

police and security Kettling students - the kettled last four hours. Kettling has been condemed by the UN see http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=12945&LangID=E

Kelly has already been punished by the university far more than any university should have the authority to do, and out all proportion with what anyone could say is warranted for an occupation. Despite this the university are continuing to pursue disciplinary action against her that will prevent her from doing her work and cause her even more stress. The university’s investigating officer’s report is over 170 pages, and includes five dvds of accompanying picture and video evidence. The university are preventing any defence being submitted unless Kelly puts in time that she doesn’t have, because she has to do the work that she couldn’t do while she was suspended.

Simon Furse

Following the occupation in November a university security guard, called David Turner, made an allegation of assault against Simon. This meant that he was subjected to the extreme stress of criminal proceedings and having to prepare for a trial, that took place on April 10th. The trial was thrown out at the halfway stage because Mr Turner’s evidence was, in the words of the magistrate, ‘manifestly unreliable’ . During the trial the security guard admitted that he was encouraged and helped to submit his allegations by his managers.

Simon was also arrested on the 29th because the police were told by the university’s head of security that he had committed criminal damage. He was then held for 48 hours in the cells, and suspended from the university for two months. Like Kelly he has already been subjected to more punishment by the university than they should ever be allowed to impose, and the fact that they are continuing to discipline him is outrageous in light of his need to catch up on lost work. One of the primary allegations against Simon is that he was seen encouraging students to enter the occupation. This is not a disciplinary offence, and is a clear violation of the right to free speech.

Conclusion

The university has chosen five people to discipline on spurious grounds out of the hundreds who took part in the occupation. Some of the allegations against them are overtly racist and ableist, and all of them could not stand up in an actual court. These protestors and others have been subject to arrests, prolonged detentions, and criminal procedures that were caused by allegations from the university, and all turned out to be completely false. They have been suspended from the university, and then reinstated after their suspensions were widely attacked. The psychological impact of these forms of repression are incalculable, and students are likely to be left with the impact of the university’s attacks for the rest of their lives. The university of Birmingham does not have the moral authority to discipline anyone it has continually shown itself to be willing to lie, and to repress its students in order to try and shield itself from dissent. If anyone should be put on trial it is senior management.

 

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PRESS RELEASE: University’s evidence described by magistrates as “manifestly unreliable” as case against student protester dropped.

Simon case

Today the case against Simon Furse, a member of Defend Education Birmingham, was dismissed after accusations from a member of University of Birmingham security were shown to be spurious. The security guard claimed that Simon had caused ‘transient pain’ by brushing against him as he opened a door in the occupied Senate Chambers at the University of Birmingham in November last year. The occupation, which called for better wages for staff, bursaries for students and lower halls fees amongst other demands, lasted for over a week and involved upwards of 100 students throughout the period, only ending after the University spent thousands of pounds to obtain an injunction and have the students forcibly removed by police and bailiffs.

The case was thrown out of court by magistrates after the prosecution presented its evidence. The defence did not have to call any witnesses or make its case. The magistrates said that “no sound tribunal could convict” Simon due to the sheer level of inconsistency and unreliability in the evidence of security guard, David Turner who was described as “discredited”.

Simon was also charged with violent disorder in January after taking part in a national demonstration at the University of Birmingham. He was arrested after being selected from a crowd by University management, based only on his reputation as a regular protestor and campaigner and was subsequently suspended along with 4 other students. These charges were dropped on March 25th after no evidence in support of the allegations was found and Simon was reinstated.

Simon Furse said “I am extremely happy that nothing has come out of the case, but this verdict – and the dropping of the charge of violent disorder – show that the university, the CPS, and the police are working together to attack student dissent. I am not the only student to have false allegations of assault against them. The University of Birmingham made a false allegation of assault two years ago, a student at Sussex had allegations of assault thrown out by the court and Alastair Robinson is going to trial on the 30th of May for nonsense allegations that he assaulted one of his university’s security guards. The Police and CPS need to stop taking universities’ words so seriously when they have been shown to be so willing to have their own students arrested.”

Simon’s arrest is not the first relating to the University of Birmingham campus. In 2014 12 other students were arrested whilst taking part in the same January demonstration. All charges against them were dropped.  They were arrested after refusing to give their names as a condition of release from a kettle. Lawyers representing students who were contained for hours without access to food, water and toilets are now seeking a judicial review, believing these tactics were illegal.

Since 2010 there have been 20 arrests relating to peaceful protests challenging the marketisation of higher education at the University. Only one student has ever been convicted. “The arrests, suspensions, injunctions and disciplinaries following these protests are politically motivated and intended to intimidate students and staff into silence and to stop them criticising and challenging the decisions and actions of the University management,” said Roz Burgin, Community Action Officer at the University of Birmingham Guild of Students.

Birmingham is not the only university making politically motivated charges against protesters. Alastair Robinson was arrested for allegedly assaulting a security guard at Leicester university. He was told by the CPS that the case would be dropped because of a total lack of evidence but then was confused when it continued after three first hearings. Students at Leicester university later learned that the complainant, head security guard Colin Monks, was the ex-chief of the Leicestershire police federation. There will be a demonstration outside his trial at 8.30am on the 30th of May.

 

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David Eastwood and the repression of the ‘wrong’ kind of academic politics: authoritarian neoliberalism at the University of Birmingham

Written by an academic from another University for the campaign against the suspensions. It was written in advance of the suspensions being lifted but due to its continued relevance and interest, we have posted it despite all students being reinstated.

Under the leadership of Vice-Chancellor David Eastwood, the University of Birmingham has gained increasing attention for the range of neoliberal disciplining measures it has introduced.

These include the decision in 2009 to propose the closure of the Department of Sociology. The initial proposal was for a reduction in the number of academic staff to 3 and the abandoning of a BA in Media, Culture and Society. Although a vibrant opposition campaign ultimately forced the University to opt instead to move Sociology into the neighbouring Department of Political Science and International Studies – and retain 6 members of staff – it nevertheless later made one of its few ethnic minority members of staff redundant in the process.

This has been part of a wider, and deeply unpopular, move within the University to use a new College structure as a means to impose a much more stringent focus on disciplining staff, most obviously under the guise of ‘performance management’. When the College system was introduced the local UCU branch presciently warned that this represented a possible move in the direction of ‘unfettered managerialism’, with “a danger that academic staff, rather than being treated as self-motivated creative professionals who are experts in their areas, will become work-units to be managed, ‘performance-managed’ and even ‘micro-managed’”. Indeed, in early 2013 this almost prompted a series of threatened strike days over redundancies and aggressive management practices, which were only called off at the last minute when the local UCU branch was able to agree a deal that would seek to impose limits on the management’s behaviour.

David Eastwood has played a major role in promoting these initiatives, while at the same time becoming currently the highest paid Vice-Chancellor in the country. He has also been one of the leading advocates of tuition fees (sitting on the Browne Review that initially advocated the lifting of a cap on fees in 2010), one of the leading advocates in the public debate that surrounded that initiative, and more recently proposing a further increase in fees.

Given his controversial position, Eastwood has also faced considerable and ongoing student dissent throughout his time as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham. This has included calls for him to resign, repeated occupations of University premises, and national demonstrations. It appears that Eastwood has decided that the way to end this opposition is to come down hard on all forms of dissent. Indeed, there had in recent years already been a gradual move in the direction of repression – for instance, every elected student union officer for education (Guild of Students Vice President, Education) for the last three years has at some point also faced a University disciplinary hearing. This year, however, has seen exceptional levels of repression. 9 students have been put through a disciplinary procedure for protest-related activities, and 5 students have been suspended. 2 students remain suspended indefinitely, with no right of appeal, no access to the welfare provisions that students are normally entitled to, and with the very real possibility that they will have to repeat one year of their studies. In the case of the suspended students, therefore, this is clearly a punishment; but it is a punishment for a crime or act of misconduct that no students have yet to be found guilty of. Even if the students were reinstated tomorrow (which, sadly, is highly unlikely) the impact on their final year studies is such that they would already have been punished.

This approach should come as no surprise to anyone who knows of Eastwood’s intellectual trajectory prior to his entrance into management positions. Here it is useful to remind ourselves of the continued relevance of E.P. Thompson’s Warwick University Ltd, published in 1970 (and republished with new material in 2014) and highly critical of what he saw as the rise of the Business University. For instance, he concluded by asking:

Is it inevitable that the university will be reduced to the function of providing, with increasingly authoritarian efficiency, pre-packed intellectual commodities which meet the requirements of management? Or can we by our efforts transform it into a centre of free discussion and action, tolerating and even encouraging “subversive” thought and activity, for a dynamic renewal of the whole society in which it operates? (166)

Writing in 2000, Eastwood dismissed Thompson on the grounds that he suffered from ‘an acute case of that notable academic syndrome of conflating academic politics with global politics.’ (639). This mistake, in Eastwood’s eyes, led Thompson to, after resigning from Warwick, discard history research for peace campaigning. Eastwood ignores the fact that Thompson continued to combine academia and activism during the 1970s and 1980s. But the reasons for his critique lie elsewhere: the university should not be a place for politics as commonly conceived, for the university has a different role to play. Inevitably, this leads him to see universities in terms of intellectual prestige, and whose broader societal roles lie in how they ‘engage’ with the private sector.

Therefore, ‘academic politics’ revolves around how best to achieve the goals set by management, but not to consider the goals themselves or the undemocratic manner in which these goals are pursued (which would be the ‘wrong’ kind of politics). Ironically, though, Birmingham University embodies very clearly the continued need to connect ‘academic’ and ‘global’ politics, for the approach taken by Eastwood mirrors wider developments over the last several years. Political elites across the world have, in response to the post-2008 period of economic crisis, shifted to increasingly authoritarian ways of operating. This has led to many instances of the denial of political freedom in the name of ‘democracy’ and ‘prosperity’, ranging from: constitutional amendments in Eurozone countries mandating balanced budgets and therefore the continued degradation of public services; brutal police attacks on peaceful demonstrators in Turkey and Egypt; the Edward Snowden revelations about the huge expansion of government surveillance of our lives; and, in the UK, destructive ‘reforms’ of public services which were not mentioned prior to the 2010 election and the increasingly coercive policing of demonstrations and protests against them and wider political developments as well (including current proposals to introduce water cannon).

Therefore, the broader rise of increasingly authoritarian forms of neoliberalism are clearly expressed at the University of Birmingham. And herein lies the irony: as someone who has spent his whole career denying the relevance of ‘global politics’ for how universities operate, David Eastwood now finds his ‘academic politics’ to be demonstrably linked to the wider political context. The problem is that his responses to growing staff and student discontent, which are based upon the denial of this connection, are leading him into responses which leave his authority more fragile and more open to challenge.

Third Eye

University of Biracialmingham students

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ALL CHARGES DROPPED AND ALL STUDENTS REINSTATED!

Today the CPS has dropped all charges against the three students arrested and charged on the 29th January. All 13 students that were arrested that day have had their criminal investigations discontinued, following no evidence being found in support of the allegations of criminal damage and assault.

This follows them having been subjected to between 30 and 40 hours in police cells, strip-searches, extraordinarily harsh bail conditions – and all when the arrests were made under unlawful circumstances.

Simon and Kelly, the remaining two suspended students, have now both been reinstated as students at the University of Birmingham, after having been banned from campus, from their studies, and from seeing their tutors for 8 weeks.

This decision to overturn the suspensions comes just after students and staff from the University delivered a letter, signed by 225 members of academic staff, to university management yesterday condemning the suspensions and its implications for freedom of speech and protest. Yesterday Unison too came out in support, voting to back the suspended students and join the campaign. This decision also comes in advance of the demonstration called by the Guild of Students and Birmingham UCU tomorrow – the first action called by the Guild since the suspensions began. Over the past 8 weeks we have seen condemnations from MPs, from academics and activists around the world, from students’ unions across the country, and from thousands of members of the public.

This is a case of the University recognising that their position is untenable, and it is a salute to students and staff working together in the name of justice. 225 members of staff came out and publicly put themselves on the line for a cause that has no immediate benefit for them, simply because freedom of speech and protest is worth fighting for. We are infinitely grateful for the work put in by UCU and the staff that have been involved in the campaign.

The reinstatement of Kelly and Simon shows how politically motivated the suspensions were in the first place. There was no evidence that any of the 5 suspended students had committed any crimes or wrongdoing – they were just five out of hundreds of people present on the 29th January, guilty only of refusing to give their details to the police and choosing to uphold their legal rights. Their suspensions were motivated, evidently, by a desire to repress dissent and to intimidate students and staff.

For Kelly, her circumstances never really changed in any meaningful way over the weeks following January 29th. She was never charged in the first place and yet was suspended whilst in her police cell. When her suspension was reviewed they used the fact that “there are already outstanding University disciplinary matters relating to a similar unlawful occupation of University premises in November 2013” to justify her continued suspension when Deborah Hermanns, Pat Grady and Emily Farmer were all reinstated. Now she has been reinstated, following 8 weeks of her life being put on hold, despite those investigations continuing.

For Simon, this case illustrates the vital importance of the principle of innocent until proven guilty and fair trial. A disappointing number of people came out and condemned Simon and the other arrested students – despite it being widely known that the CPS is notorious for hauling out trumped up charges against protestors, and violent disorder being a typical choice. The allegations by the University, justifying his suspensions, were plucked out of thin air to bolster a political agenda. He was selected from a crowd by University management, based only on his reputation as a regular protestor and campaigner. His case being dropped is a relief, but something we all knew was coming eventually.

Ultimately what we should take from this is that we are witnessing a brutal level of authoritarianism and repression from the University of Birmingham and universities around the country – University of London, University of Sussex being just two particularly illustrative examples. The reinstatement and proven innocence of all the students at Birmingham, alongside the victories seen at the University of Sussex, will make in considerably more difficult for these types of transgressions of justice happening again – but we know that university managements will continue to try and force an agenda of marketisation, austerity, inequality and repression on their students and staff. We must continue to resist it.

We have been touched by the solidarity from students around the country. This year we truly have created the beginning of a grassroots national network, where in moments of crisis students will travel all around the country to do what they can – and it has been invaluable to achieving the victory today.

Tomorrow we will be demonstrating at the University of Birmingham. We will be celebrating the reinstatement of Simon and Kelly, and reiterating the value of protest and dissent by students and staff together. Meet 1pm, at the Guild of Students.

In solidarity.

Great Hall

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Press release: Birmingham Staff write to Vice Chancellor

For immediate release 24/03/2014
Contact number: 07749263622 or 07821731481

 

Today staff and students are delivering a letter, signed by 225 members of academic staff at the University of Birmingham, to the Vice-Chancellor David Eastwood, condemning the suspension of Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse. The letter can be read here:.

The letter condemns Eastwood and the University of Birmingham for inhibiting freedom of speech and freedom of protest; a criticism that has been levied at the University a number of times in past, including by groups such as Amnesty International. It goes on to challenge the draconian disciplinary procedures which deny the two students any right to appeal. Kelly Rogers, 21, and Simon Furse, 22, are both final year students, and the staff have expressed their deep concern at the students’ suspension from studying and their ban from campus, at such a crucial time in their studies.

Vice President Education Hattie Craig and BUCU chair David Bailey with the letter outside the office

Vice President Education Hattie Craig and Birmingham UCU President Dr David Bailey with the letter outside the office of the Vice Chancellor David Eastwood

Kelly Rogers, one of the suspended students, says “these suspensions undoubtedly constitute an attack on our right to protest, and are an attempt to use Simon and myself as examples to intimidate other students from protesting in future. The suspension is having a severe impact on my life, studies and health – I have been banned from campus and have no idea when or whether I will be able to continue my studies, despite not having even been charged, let alone found guilty. It’s a disgrace, and utterly ludicrous”.

David Bailey, President of Birmingham UCU, says “Our members deplore these suspensions, which contravene the presumption of innocence and principles of natural justice, and call for them to be lifted immediately. Staff members are increasingly anxious about working at a University where dissent is so heavily repressed in this way, and we are equally worried about the impact this will have upon the education and wellbeing of the students affected.”

Thomas Wragg, Vice-President Democracy and Resources at the Guild of Students, says “Both the Guild of Students and UCU have taken the joint step of calling this demo because the university have crossed a line in punishing students without finding them guilty, giving them any due process or right of appeal. If these suspensions continue we will be looking to take further action.”

Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse have been suspended since January 30th, following a demonstration at the University of Birmingham on the 29th. Hundreds of students were kettled by police, and were only allowed to leave four hours later on the condition that they gave their full details to the police. 13 refused and were arrested, including 5 University of Birmingham students who were all suspended over the next two days.

While three of the suspended students have been reinstated, Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse remain suspended despite neither of them having been found guilty and no meaningful disciplinary investigation having been started in either of them, almost 8 weeks on.

A protest against the suspensions is planned to take place this Wednesday, 1pm, 26th March, organised by the Guild of Students and Birmingham UCU.

Staff and Students against the Suspensions

Staff and Students against the Suspensions outside the Aston Webb.

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228 members of Birmingham staff sign letter to condemn ongoing Suspensions

Dear Professor Eastwood,

It has come to our attention that the University has suspended five students, following a demonstration that took place on campus on 29th January. Three of the suspensions have been lifted, but two students remain indefinitely suspended.

We are writing to express our deep concern at the practice of suspending students for exercising their right to free speech and their right to protest on campus. We are aware that there are allegations against the students but we understand that none of the suspended students have been found guilty of any crime. Suspension of students without any proof of their wrongdoing, and – crucially – without any right of appeal, is a breach of natural justice. The suspensions are premature, and risk the University appearing to be an environment where divergent, critical views are repressed and dealt with punitively, in contravention of basic notions of the presumption of innocence, fair trial, freedom of speech, freedom of protest, and openness to plurality of political opinion in a democracy.

All five students are in their final year and we can only imagine what dramatic effects the suspensions have had and will continue to have on their ability to perform to their best academic standard. Not reinstating the two remaining students will undoubtedly have negative effects not only short term, but also on their long term prospects.

In light of this, we, the undersigned, call on you, Professor Eastwood and the University of Birmingham, to reinstate the two remaining students with immediate effect.

Regards,

Yuki Akita                         Languages for All
Dr Daniele Albertazzi College of Arts and Law
Fran Amery Department of Political Science and International Studies
Professor Allan Anderson School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion
Professor Ian Apperly School of Psychology
Barbara Armstrong Birmingham Business School
Terry Ashton School of Physics and Astronomy
Dr Esther Asprey English Language and Applied Linguistics
Dr Jean Assender Clinical Oncology
Dr Derek Averre Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr David Bailey Department of Political Science and International Studies
Joshua Baker    POLSIS
Kim Baker Birmingham Law School
Dr Serafim Bakalis Chemical Engineering
Eamonn Baldwin Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Dr Stephen Bates Department of Political Science and International Studies
Paula Anne Beasley Library Services
Dr Francesca Berry Art History, Film and Visual Studies
Delphine Billon French Studies
Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn School of Physics and Astronomy
Dr Jackie Blissett School of Psychology
Professor David A. Booth School of Psychology
Dr Edward Boothroyd French Studies
Clelia Boscolo Italian Studies
Dr Julie Bower Birmingham Business School
Dr Vincent Boyer Physics and Astronomy
Dr Roland Brandstaetter School of Biosciences
Steve Brown School of Cancer Sciences
Professor Leslie Brubaker Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Dr Anke Buettner School of Psychology
Dr A. Luis Cabrera III Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Chris Callow Department of History
Fátima Candé Hispanic Studies
Professor Doug Carroll School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
Dr Jon Catling School of Psychology
Camille Causse               French Studies 
Professor Carl Chinn History
Dr Harriet Clarke Senior Lecturer in Social Research and Social Policy
Dr Alison Coates Nursing
Dr Chris Collins School of Physics and Astronomy
Dr Kieran Connell            Department of History
Dr Stuart Connor Institute of Applied Social Studies
Dr Laurence Cooley International Development Department
Rhys Crilley Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Justin Cruickshank Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Carole Cummins School of Health and Population Sciences
Professor Richard Cust Department of History
Dr Béatrice Damamme-Gilbert French Studies
Dr Anissa Daoudi Languages for All
Dr Ian Davison Centre for Research in Medical and Dental Education
Dr Clara Dawson Department of English
Dr Paolo De Ventura Italian Studies
Nieves Diaz Guevea                   Languages for All
Dr Malcom Dick Department of History
Dr Zara Dinnen                     Department of English
Professor Bill Dodd   Language Department
Dr Catherine Durose Institute of Local Government Studies
Professor R. J. (Dick) Ellis Department of American and Canadian Studies
Dr Steven Emery School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Dr Marco G. Ercolani Economics
Robert Evans                              German Studies
Iván Farías Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Marius Felderhof Department of Theology and Religion
Dr Rex Ferguson Department of English
Dr Sarah Fishwick French Studies
Prof. E.M. (Ted) Forgan School of Physics & Astronomy
Dr Emma Foster                         Department of Political Science and International Studies
Francesca Frascina Administrator, Civil Engineering
Dr Danielle Fuller American and Canadian Studies
Els Van Geyte English for International Students Unit
Flor González Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Dave Gunning School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies
Dr Felix Heiduk Department of Political Science and International Studies
Siân Herbert GSDRC, University of Birmingham
Dom Hickey Estates
Dr Suzanne Higgs School of Psychology
Greg Howard College of Engineering and Physical Sciences
Dr Elaine Howell School of Biosciences
Dr John Fagg American and Candian Studies
Kathryn Farrow Applied Social Studies
Dr Joy Fillingham Applied Social Studies
Dr Christopher Finlay Department of Political Science and International Studies
Laura Freeman Admissions
Dr Kay Fuller Lecturer in Education
Meurig Gallagher School of Mathematics
Dr David Garcia Hispanic Studies
Sophie Gavrois Languages for All
Richard Gidwaney English for International Students Unit
Emilie Grinan Languages for All
Dr. A. Gruenbacher Department of History
Dr. Dirk Hermans School of Mathematics
Dr. Steve Hewitt American and Canadian Studies
Dr Tom Hewitt International Development Department
Clare Hill Institute of Applied Social Studies
Dr Steve Hillier School of Physics and Astronomy
Robert Holland Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics
Dr. Alexander T. Holmes School of Physics and Astronomy
Professor Andrew Howes School of Computer Science
Dr Vickie Hudson Department of Political Science and International Studies
George Ingles Department of Modern Languages
Steve Issitt English for International Students Unit
Dr. S. Jabbari School of Mathematics
Carolyn Jones CEM Hub
Sarah-Louise Johnson Philosophy
Professor John Jowett The Shakespeare Institute
Nil Turan Jurdzinski Medical School
Dr Deema Kaneff Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Manfred Kerber School of Computer Science
Dr Peter Kerr Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Finola Kerrigan Birmingham Business School
Elaine Kidney Primary Care Clinical Sciences
Dr Almut Koester Department of English Language and Linguistics
Dr Biza Stenfert Kroese School of Psychology
Dr Vidya Kumar Birmingham Law School
Dr Michael Larkin School of Psychology
Dr Iain Law Department of Philosophy
Dr Tony Leahy Classics, Ancient History, and Archaeology
Valérie Leick Languages for All
Dr. Elizabeth L’Estrange Art History, Film and Visual Studies
Dr Paul Lewis Birmingham Business School
Tanya Lipatova Modern Languages
Dr Ian Litchfield              Occupational and Environmental Medicines
Dr Alasdair Livingstone Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Dr N.R. Livingstone Department of Classics, Ancient History & Archaeology
Dr Tom Lockwood School of English, Drama and ACS
Dr Daniel Loghin School of Mathematics
Emma Loghin School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion
Anne McDermott Department of English
Angus McCabe Institute of Applied Social Studies
David McIntyre School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences
Dr Ita Mac Carthy                        Language Department
Dr Huw Macartney                      Political Sciences
Dr Kay Magaard School of Mathematics
Luca Malici Department of Modern Languages
Dr Vivien Mautner School of Cancer Sciences
Dr. C A Mayhew Molecular Physics
Cassandre Morel                        French Studies
Claudia Merz                              German Studies
Dr Yolanda Martinez Hispanic Studies
Gorka Mercero Hispanic Studies
Kengo Miyazono School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion
Dr Jeremy Morris Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music
Dr Miriam Müller History
Phil Murgatroyd VISTA
Dr Vlad Mykhnenko Geography
Luke Neal Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Gideon Nisbet Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Dr Mark Nixon Web Services Team
Eloise Nolan Nursing
Linda Norbury Library Services
Dr Richard North POLSIS
Dr Fiona Nunan International Development Department
Giovanni Occhiali Department of Economics
Dr Margaret O’Hara School of Physics and Astronomy
Dr Andrew Olson School of Psychology
Dr Kevork Oskanian School of Government and Society
Chris Packham Arts and Law
Dr Robert Page Institute of Applied Social Studies
Professor David Parker School of Physics and Astronomy
Professor Stephen Pattison School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion
Sam Paul Classics, Ancient History, and Archaeology
Dr Claire Peters French Studies
Pia Rotshtein School of Psychology
Margaux Pujol French Studies
Dr N.M. Queen  School of Mathematics
Professor Uday Reddy School of Computer Science
Pete Redford Institute of Applied Social Sciences
Dr Edward Arfon Rees Department of History
Alexandros Rigos Department of Economics
Dawn River School of Social Policy
Dr Roberta Roberts School of Psychology
Dr Charlotte Ross Department of Modern Languages
Professor Karen Rowlingson Institute of Applied Social Studies
Omar Saeed Centre for low carbon futures
Dr Gabriela Saldanha English Language and Applied Linguistics
Rosa Sanchez Hispanic Studies
Dr Joanne Sayner Department of Modern Languages
Dr Alison Sealey Department of English
Ken Searle Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Phillipa Semper Department of English
Saori Shibata Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Grigori Sisoev School of Mathematics
Carole Sparke   IT Services
Professor Naomi Standen School of History and Cultures
Dr Jill Steans Department of Political Science and International Studies
Ema Sullivan – Bissett School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion
Dr Janet Smith School of Biosciences
Richard Staley School of Physics and Astronomy
Liam Stanley Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Brandon Stewart School of Psychology
David Stops School of Physics and Astronomy
Dr Lynda Tait School of Health & Population Sciences
Dr Will Tattersdill School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies
Dr Caroline Tagg Department of English Language and Linguistics
Professor Colin Thain Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Elena Theodorakopoulos Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Professor C.R. Thomas School of Chemical Engineering
Gareth Thomas School of Social Policy
Dr Paul Thompson Department of English Language and Applied Linguistics
Dr Elizabeth Tomlin Drama and Theatre Arts
Professor Miles Tight School of Civil Engineering
Philip Treece English for International Students Unit
Dr. Gemma L. Unwin School of Psychology
Dominik Vajn Centre for Corpus Research
Dr Sevasti-Eleni Vezirgiannidou Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Marco Vieira Department of Political Science and International Studies
Chris Wagstaff Nursing
Dr Aengus Ward Dept of Modern Languages
Dr Ken Wardle Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Dr Paul Warmington School of Education
Tamsin Waterhouse Applied Social Studies
Dr Alan Watson School of Physics and Astronomy
Dr Nigel Watson School of Physics and Astronomy
Dr Robert Watt                           Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Linda Wheeldon School of Psychology
Dr David White Department of Political Science and International Studies
Dr Ruth Whittle Department of Modern Languages
DR. M. Williams School of Mathematics
Dr Herman Wheeler Nursing
Dr. PJR Whicker Language Department
Dr Alastair Wilson Philosophy
Dr Kate Woodcock School of Psychology
Dr Sara Wood American and Canadian Studies
Andrew Woodhall Philosophy
Professor Jeremy Wyatt School of Computer Science
Dr Simon Yarrow School of History and Cultures
Dr Shirley Ye Department of History
Dr Jarad Zimbler Department of English
Felicia Ziparo School of Physics and Astronomy

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Guild of Students and Birmingham UCU organize joint demonstration against the Suspensions

Birmingham Guild of Students has announced that it is holding a demonstration on Wednesday, the 26th of March. This follows the ongoing suspension of two students and the general repression of protest on campus in the past months. The demonstration is also supported by the local UCU branch.

The call-out states:

“On 29th January, five students were suspended by the University of Birmingham in relation to their involvement with a protest. Two of those students are still suspended, without hearing or right to appeal, despite not having been found guilty of any crime. They are banned from campus, not allowed to submit work, and until very recently, were not allowed to access welfare services. We feel this violates the principle of “innocent until proven guilty”, threatens the right to protest and sets a dangerous precedent for students in Birmingham and across the country.

We call on the University to lift the suspensions with immediate effect and reinstate these two students. Come and demonstrate against the suspensions and for your right to protest! Meet at 1pm outside the Guild of Students. Students and staff welcome.”

The demonstration will start at 1pm outside the Guild of Students. More detailed information, including a list of the speakers, will follow soon.

Click here fore the Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/538094466311972/

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