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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University caught out lying to MPs

In a space of less than 24 hours the University have changed their minds. They were previously denying the suspended students all access to University premises, with no exemption for welfare services. This was in spite of information that they had sent round to a number of MPs (it is expected all MPs) claiming that they could access these services. When they were asked if they were going to send round correct information, they changed tack – and are now granting access. From this we can learn/confirm a few things:

- The University don’t actually care about student’s welfare. When the suspended student mentioned her depression, or that her doctor had advised her to seek these services, they remained steadfast in denying access to services. This sanction was being administered despite none of the allegations against her having been proved, or any investigation beginning in any meaningful sense.

- The University do care about political pressure. They have exploited privileged access to their many channels of communication and been in contact with a very large number of MPs, spreading misinformation in an attempt to undermine support for the suspendees. When they were called out on this they changed tack  in expectation of backlash from students, the public, and those same MPs.

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Sent 3rd March

Dear Dr Twine and Ms Anderson,

I am writing to request permission to enter University premises for two purposes:

- To enter the Guild of Students and seek representation and advice from my elected Sabbatical Officer team and other services.

- To use the services of 3 Elms Road – in particular, to attend counselling sessions.

I am willing to inform you when I am planning on entering and leaving premises, or to other arrangements that allow you to monitor my presence.

This is incredibly important that I can do this – I am currently suffering depression, stemming from my suspension and criminal investigation and am being recommended counselling by my doctor. Further to this,I am entitled to the services offered by my students’ union under the Education Act.

Yours sincerely,

Kelly Rogers

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Received 4th March

Dear Ms Rogers

I passed your request to the Director of Academic Services who has responsibility under Regulations Section 8 for temporary suspension of students.  Given the ongoing police and University investigations, the terms of your suspension  have not been altered and will be reviewed again at the end of March.

Your GP will have details of alternative sources of counselling available on the NHS, and it may be possible for you to access advice and support from Sabbatical Officers via telephone or email.

Yours sincerely

Dr Chris Twine

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Sent 5th March

Dear Dr Twine,

My local MP, Steve McCabe, as well as a number of other MPs, have been in contact with me, telling me that they have received a letter from the University signed by David Eastwood informing them that “the students will be offered support and advice from the welfare service regardless of the exclusion decision”. I have seen a photocopy the letter signed by Professor Eastwood, and I can forward you a scanned copy on request if you would like to see proof.

As you have, in the email below, informed me that I will not be able to access these services, can I assume that you will be writing to all MPs previously contacted with the correct information? This misinformation is leading to a lack of support from a number of MPs, which they are suggesting they would otherwise give. As such, it seems only just that they are given the correct information.

Best wishes,

Kelly

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Received 5th March

Dear Kelly

I am in receipt of this letter, and will confirm the following to you later today by post:

-You are granted access to campus solely for purposes of welfare support. This may include visiting your Welfare Tutor and/or accessing 3, Elms Road

-It is up to the Guild of Students which welfare services you are able to access

-Due to insurance liability, we cannot offer therapeutic one-to-one Counselling to any student who is suspended – we can offer you an individual broader wellbeing session that can signpost you to alternative support and access to our workshops programme

Kind regards

Chris

Protest against Student Suspensions at the University of Birmingham

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Come for help, get spied on. Worrying practice at the University of Birmingham counselling service

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 23.16.05The recent suspension of five students from the University of Birmingham after the demonstration on the 29th of january has bought to the attention of many of the other students and staff the unjust procedures in place at the University. When dissenting student and staff voices are heard, management are quick to repress them through various means – disciplinaries, suspensions, promotion freezes and department cuts. Despite this, the University management have other, less open and more insidious ways of silencing independent thought and action from their students.

Suffering from mild anxiety attacks after having been seriously intimidated by a member of security staff during the occupation at Horton Grange Conference Centre and having been kettled for four hours by police at the national demonstration on the 29th, I was advised by friends to go see the University Counselling Service. I had carefully read through the paperwork they had given me, noting that they could only disclose my information to any third party if I was at serious risk of hurting myself or another person – this had to be a direct harm, rather than an abstract risk of property damage from any direct action. This is not just this one counselling services’ policy – medical confidentiality is ingrained in law, as well as in all ethical practice.

Therefore, I was shocked when the counsellor informed me that due to my involvement in the protest, I did not have the right to speak in confidence to a figure  should have been able to trust and rely on to help me. For any person, the mathods of the police and security staff would have been stressful Furthermore, the five suspended sudents – all of who were in the kettle and then spent 28 hours in police custody – have been denied all right to counselling services.

The university claim that the suspensions are put in place so that the students who are under police investigation do not have to pay fees whilst it is being carried out, a somewhat unbelievable suggestion that the management are altruistically helping the suspendees. So the denial of welfare services (counselling as well as Guild Advice and Representation services) to these students, as well as any others with any level of involvement in the recent protests severely undermines any pretence of concern the university claims it has for its students.

Ultimately, when the university chooses to place student wellbeing services and student disciplinary procedures in the hands of the same man – Chris Twine – it demonstrates certain truths about the institution itself. Students are only eligible for confidential, adequate care from the university if they conform and do not dissent against the continuing privatisation of said institution. Those that do so are excluded not just from their studies, but from their right to basic psychological care, without the fear that anything they may say in those sessions may be used against them in the unfair disciplinary procedures run by the very same person that controls all of student welfare.

I could not talk about the issues most affecting me during my counselling, which could potentially compromise my ability to fight for the issues that mater most to me. For the suspended students and those under disciplinaries, this presents an even worse a problem – the undemocratic and unethical practices of the university extend into the places in which impartiality and understanding should be most present.

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Press Release: University Reinstate Students Under Threat of Judicial Review

PRESS RELEASE: University Reinstate Students Under Threat of Judicial Review

Contact: 07842765067, 07821842831

Following a demonstration on the 29th of January the University of Birmingham suspended five students. Today they withdrew the suspensions of three out of the five, under the threat of judicial review by solicitors representing the suspended students. The five have now been suspended for three weeks, and there is no change in the suspensions for the other two students. The suspensions are given out before students have been found guilty of any offence, and there is no right of appeal against them. All five of the students are going to be subject to disciplinaries from the university that could lead to expulsion. The suspensions have been condemned by a petition of over 5700 people, and in a letter to the Guardian whose signatories include Noam Chomsky, Ken Loach, and Claire Short.

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Deborah Hermanns, one of the three reinstated students, said:

“I am delighted to be re-instated but I am extremely upset to have missed three weeks of my degree as a result this suspension. This has been immensely stressful for me, particularly because the University refused to give me any opportunity to challenge their decision. We were accused of participating in a demonstration with over 400 other people, yet just five of us were suspended. The University is now singling out just two. We believe that certain students have been targettted in order to deter others from challenging the policies of the University.”

Simon Natas of ITN Solicitors, who represented the students, said:

“Universities are public bodies which are obliged to uphold and protect freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. It is very important that they do not use disciplinary proceedings in ways that threaten these fundamental rights. The suspension of a student who has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing is an extreme measure which could all too easily have this effect. Today’s developments are welcome but we encourage the University to lift all the suspensions”.

Notes

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/10/chomsky-loach-letter-student-protesters-birmingham

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/10/free-speech-threat-universities

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/03/battle-to-democratise-universities-student-protest

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jan/30/birmingham-university-student-protest-arrests

http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/police-accused-of-kettling-student-protesters-at-a-national-demonstration-in-birmingham-9095907.html

http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/news/local-news/noam-chomsky-ken-loach-oppose-6702632

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Arrested, suspended, then banned from elections: my student experience (by Deborah Hermanns)

On Wednesday 29th January I made a decision which has defined my short-term, if not long-term, future. It was a decision that I made after being kettled in the pouring rain by police for three hours. The decision I made was not to give the police my name. Maybe it was naive, maybe it was stupid, and it was probably mostly stubborn. But I did so for one simple reason: I felt I had been treated unjustly along with all of the other kettled protesters. I knew of my right not to give the police my name as a condition to be released from a kettle, and of my right to not be arrested for it. I knew that I had done nothing wrong. I had not committed any criminal damage or assault, and so I had nothing to fear. Having experienced similar situations in London, but in the position of the observer, I expected to be brought to the police station, to be interviewed immediately and to be released within a few hours without any charges. But that is not what happened.

Instead I got released without any charges, but only after spending 28 horrible hours in a cell – not counting the 4 hours between my actual arrest and my arrival in my temporary home.

I got released to find my bail conditions essentially banning me from doing anything – from going on campus, from seeing my friends, from going to any parties or even sport matches, to forcing me to sleep at my own house every single night.

I got released to find myself temporarily suspended from my University – meaning that instead of finishing my degree in a few months I might have to spend another whole year as a student finishing my degree.

And I got released to find myself banned from my own elections, leaving me with no opportunity to run for the position of Vice President Education, something which I had been looking forward to, had been preparing for, and into which I had invested a considerable time.

I believe, the University´s reaction to the 29th and the suspensions specifically have to be seen in the wider context of harassment used by university bosses against protesters. They constantly try to single out students who do not fit their agenda, put them through disciplinary procedures, threaten them with expulsion, and generally try to intimidate them as much as possible.

As sad as it is, the University does not care about the welfare of any of these students, nor does it care about me or any of the other suspended students. What it cares about is it’s image. Instead of letting an ambulance onto campus, instead of stopping the unlawful activities of the police, University management actively encouraged those activities by their collaboration with the police, their statements and emails sent to staff and students.

The suspension of “only” five of the 400 protesters shows that they are simply playing a game of odds. Without any evidence from neither the police nor the court – again the only “crime” the five of us committed was not to give our name -, the university has decided that it was, us five, who destroyed poor old Joe (the clocktower) and consequently suspended us. It just looks better politically, to blame five students rather than 50, doesn´t it?

Furthermore, it has been shown time and time again that the University does not come down as hard on students who are accused of breaking the same university regulations in a similar way when it is not in political opposition to the University. For example, students get regularly thrown out of Fab & Fresh for harassing security or sometimes worse. They then face disciplinaries and if proven guilty and worst comes to worst might be banned from going to Fab for two weeks as a punishment. I, on the other hand, despite not even having been proven guilty of a single offence or having given any opportunity to defend myself, have not only been banned from going to Fab, but also any other single event, academic or non-academic, taking place on our campus.

Those who have suspended us claim to only be following the rules, yet it is obvious to a casual observer that they are using these rules in an highly unusual and out of proportion way. An immediate suspension, prior to any conviction, is premature, highly problematic and in this case possibly unlawful. My lawyers are currently preparing to take legal action and sue the University. However, this process could take months. Months, which neither my degree nor my candidacy in the VPE election have time to wait for.

Therefore the Guild must finally step up now and recognize the clear political nature of the actions of the University and allow an election accessible to all candidates – including myself. As our Vice President Democracy and Resources stated yesterday, that could take different forms. If the Guild does not defend the most basic principles of union autonomy and democracy, then this risks the appearance that this Guild (and University) is an environment within which the expression of divergent and sometimes critical views are dealt with punitively. This is important not only internally, to current students and staff, but in terms of the Guild´s external image.

Looking back on the last 2 weeks, I can say that they have been by far some of the most stressful of my life and if it had not been for the support of my fellow Defend Education activists and friends, I probably would have not been able to cope with the situation. However, being treated like a criminal by my own University for simply opening my mouth quite loudly, has just reassured my wish to stand for the position of Vice President Education.

Our University does not care for mine or any of your welfare, but your Student Union, the Guild of Students, should do. It should be an autonomous institution which stands up to the University and be in constant political opposition to its damaging plans. One step which will bring us closer to such a Union is delaying these elections until the suspensions are overturned. You do not have to agree with the protest that took place, you do not have to like my politics. This however, is simply a matter of democracy, fair elections, right and wrong, of justice and injustice. So far, all the five of us have experienced over the last two weeks is injustice by the University and the Police, now it is time for students to change that.

Come to the weekly Wednesday demos. The next one is at 1pm by the clock tower this Wednesday.

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