#hellomanagementploy: Marketisation at UoB and beyond

A Level students receiving their results this year had a very different experience to what students before the increase in fees experienced. Universities bent over backwards to promote their unique ‘student experience’ and did everything they could to make students, who are paying up to £9000/year to study there, feel that they were truly ‘valued’ as more than just cash-cows. In Birmingham, all prospective students received a bizarre personalised video telling them how thrilled everyone was that they were coming to study here, and the University’s PR team made heavy use of the #hellobrum hashtag on twitter.

Former Guild President David Franklin takes the credit for creating the #hellobrum “viral marketing campaign” [1], where “applicants, staff and alumni” use the hashtag to say why they chose the University of Birmingham in particular [2]. The University even went as far as to provide a speech-bubble template which could be printed out and posed with in pictures. This virtual campaign was matched by a more usual physical presence, with posters displaying the words ‘#hellobrum’ appearing around the country, at no doubt a considerable cost, although the University refuses to declare how much of our money it spends on advertising each year.

#hellobrum was a trending topic in the UK on twitter [3], and thus successful in one sense, but what does this actually mean or achieve? Only that people are talking about the University. It is possible, on one level, to compare the publicity-hungry University to the celebrities for whom publicity is the means by which they earn their living. This comparison might seem ridiculous at first, but there is a truth in it – the changes to the way our universities are funded means that they now compete with each other for students; the (rather tired) idea being that competition breeds improvement and innovation. In the eyes of management, more publicity means more students, which means more secure funding.

The intense competition for students reached its zenith this year when a writer for a satirical website wrote a joke tweet about his A Level results and quickly attracted the pathetic, desperate attention of two universities who rushed to offer him a place [4].

Indeed, although Birmingham’s cringe-worthy attempts to make prospective students feel valued as more than just cash-cows attracted the praise of self-proclaimed ‘social media guru’ types [5][6], other universities also got in on the act, including Essex University’s Essex Manifesto, reportedly “full of big statements, purpose and vision, encouraging the ‘bold’ and the ‘brave’, the ‘rebels with a cause’, to sit up and take notice,” among other trite corporate clichés [7].

The fact that this trend is visible nationwide, and not just the result of our own University’s corporate management, suggests that it is only one symptom of a much wider issue causing problems across the entire national higher education system – the marketisation of our universities.

Marketisation forces universities to put financial profit above their traditional focus – what they do best – which is creating and spreading knowledge through research and teaching, and providing a space for students to learn to examine the world critically. None of the things discussed above further this goal, but individual universities have little choice but to do them if they want to survive in a corporate environment, created and pushed by the government, where competition and profit rule.

The need to compete leads to universities not only failing to do what they do best, but also leads to massive wastes of money on advertising, as seen above, which could be much better spent elsewhere. At Birmingham, it could be used to provide extra funding to help disadvantaged groups in their studies; increase staff wages, which has been a particularly big issue at Birmingham; and keep open world-renowned centres of excellent research like the Centre for Cultural Studies, associated with Stuart Hall, or the IAA, both of which, despite very strong protests, were axed by the University due to its focus on maximisation of profitability and employment prospects.

The solution to this national problem, then, is straightforward – we need a national response, through continued political organisation on our campuses, building links with staff and students across the country, to force the government and complicit members of management to return control of our universities to the people who work and learn in them.

[1] http://uk.linkedin.com/pub/david-franklin/40/182/370

[2] https://storify.com/unibirmingham/hellobrum

[3] https://twitter.com/trendinaliaGB/status/499867570925629441

[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/08/14/man-tweets-fake-a-level-results-offered-places-unis_n_5677712.html?1408014283%27s

[5] http://twitter.com/CreativeArrow/status/482912464724819968

[6] https://twitter.com/IamAbdulShakur/status/455652257804345344

[7] http://thefutureindex.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/7-he-marketing-trends-clearing-up-on-results-day/

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OCCUPATION VIOLENTLY EVICTED

This morning (30th July) at 7.50am the occupation of the Strathcona building on the University of Birmingham campus was violently evicted. Two vans full of police, over twenty five bailiffs and the full force of security arrived to cut through bike locks and destroy the make-shift barricade with no regard for the safety of any occupiers involved.

security breaking into strathcona

This comes as a result of a possession order that the university took out against occupiers during the last occupation of Horton Grange, early this year. The possession order gives the university the right to evict anyone on the Edgbaston campus, including halls of residence, at any time and lasts for an entire year (since it was issued). This ridiculous measure gives the university the power to throw anyone off campus that they chose, and violates the rights of all students and staff members to reside peacefully on their own campus.

The occupation began on Monday (28th July), when occupiers entered peacefully and barricaded themselves in to the building. This was in reaction to the recent 9 month suspensions of Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse, and the draconian restrictions placed upon Hattie Craig as a result of her disciplinary.

John Holland, a student inside the occupation said:

‘This was an entirely legitimate response to the disproportionate reactions of the university against the peaceful direct action. The police followed occupiers for over half an hour around Selly Oak after they left the occupation peacefully and intimidated them despite their compliance. The break-in to the occupation was frightening for the occupiers, who even resorted to jumping out of windows in fear and having to leave behind their possessions. The police also seized people’s property despite there being no criminal investigation underway. The university clearly had no qualms about taking the harshest of measures against these activists.’

Defend Education are calling for people to sign a petition against the university’s unprecedented crackdown on the right to protest, including lifting the possession order, the suspensions and reforming their disciplinary procedures.

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Why our page now has a donate button (and why you should click on it)

Two days ago, we made the decision to start doing something we have never done before: asking people outside of Defend Education Birmingham to donate money to us. In many ways, this has been long overdue. We have been flooded at various points by messages of solidarity from people all over the country, particularly during occupations and at times of severe repression. Many of these have asked “what can I do to help your campaign when I’m nowhere near Birmingham?” and until this point we have never said, “give us money”.

We have thus far run the campaign on a shoe–string. We have no official list of members who pay membership dues, understanding the danger of this when the university and the police seem willing to victimise people simply for being part of the group and appreciating that many students are already living on the breadline, unable to donate yet giving us what they do have: time. We would never want an inability to pay shutting anyone out of our activities and so we have been reliant on a few people within the group who do have the means to spare some cash paying for all our outgoings.

Our spending has not been great. Despite being faced with an opponent whose annual revenue is around £500 million, we have been able to effectively fight back with our only main costs including printing, paying for monthly credit for our Defend Education phone and buying resources needed for actions. However, this still totals hundreds of pounds every year and our reliance on a few activists is not fair or sustainable.

On Monday, two of our activists were suspended for 9 months, the longest suspensions since at least 2010, with a third having a de-facto ban from protesting under threat of suspension. In the face of this unprecedented repression we must mount a campaign so strong that neither Birmingham nor any other university will be tempted to go down this route again. We want this campaign to be as effective as it can and we want Defend Education Birmingham to have the longevity to continue for years to come but unless we diversify our means of obtaining money for the campaign this could all be in jeopardy.

We know that there are people all over the country (and even further afield) who support our campaign for free and democratic education and understand the importance in our resistance against the university management and their neo-liberalising, marketising agenda. We are asking you to keep student protest alive at Birmingham and donate to us so we can keep defending the right to dissent, supporting workers on campus and fighting for a fairer education system for all.

 

Every penny you can spare will help. You can donate via our button to the right of the screen or email contact@defendeducationbrum.org to find out other ways to donate.

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Lacking Hierarchies: horizontal organisation in Defend Education

It has become clear, particularly in recent months, that there is a serious lack of understanding on the part of the university (and perhaps more widely) about the organisational structures of Defend Education. The university have lashed out, giving disciplinaries to the few people they view as the ‘leaders’ of the group; Simon Furse and Kelly Rogers for their long-term involvement and Hattie Craig for her high-profile Guild officer status. By targeting these particular students it is clear they expect some kind of collapse in the structures of the group itself, or to undermine us in some way. This blog post will underline why this is not an effective strategy by the university, and how and why we use these particular structures.

In Defend Education we organise horizontally; this means that there are no particular people in charge of the group, and every group member has an equal say in the decision-making process. Decisions are made democratically within the format of meetings, and are made via consensus.

Essentially within each meeting a chair is decided upon (anyone in the group may volunteer themselves as chair) and this person facilitates the meeting. If someone wishes to speak they must raise their hand and wait for the chair to select them to speak, usually in chronological order. There are various hand signals to connote different points: one hand for a standard point, two hands for a direct point/response, a ‘p’ sign for a proposal. Other hand signals connote approval and disapproval of people’s points: two hands raised high and shaking (jazz hands) for approval, and two hands low down and shaking for disapproval (indifference might be shown through a mid-level hand gesture). When a decision needs to be made people are asked to indicate their approval or disapproval – this is called a ‘temperature check’ and indicates the mood of the room. If a decision is overwhelmingly approved of then it is carried forward but if there does not seem to be consensus then the decision is discussed further until consensus is reached. Sometimes a straight raising of hands, one person one vote, method is applied when time is of the essence and in this case the numerical majority stance is carried forward.

In this way Defend Education practices direct democracy, involving the entire group in its decision making processes. Dividing up tasks is also done on a voluntary basis with equal opportunities for all to participate. By organising in this way the group ensures that it does not replicate oppressive hierarchical structures, like that of the university management, which have proven ineffective and privileged the few over the interests of many. A more democratic infrastructure for the university is something that Defend Education has been calling for in their ten demands, and throughout their existence as a group.

Due to this mode of organising Defend Education were easily able to stage another occupation without the involvement of Kelly, Simon or Hattie as none of them had any particular leadership position within the group and everyone was equally capable of planning and carrying out actions. In this way the university’s strategy is fundamentally flawed as it does not recognise the organisational capabilities of actual horizontal democracy. Perhaps it hopes to frighten students with the threat of being singled out for their part in peaceful occupations. However, as a group we are a strong unit and will always be in solidarity with one another. They cannot discipline the entire group. We will always campaign for any individuals that are singled out, and provide support to them. We are able to do this because of our lack of hierarchy but also because of the strong bonds we are able to form when nobody is intimidated by ‘the leadership’ or ‘managers’ of the group, and feel able to equally participate and contribute to the group.

There are societal hierarchies within any group, of course, and Defend Education is no exception. Certain individuals are more privileged within our society than others; the cis-gendered, heterosexual, white, upper to middle class, physically able, neuro-typical male will always be at the tantamount of that privilege. As Defend Education contains a large variance of privilege, with all liberation groups represented in some way, it is inevitable that, at least in part, these structures will be re-created. However, rather than ignore this or take tokenistic, shallow, neo-liberal measures like the university does, Defend Education remains aware and active upon these issues. It is worth noting that even the university has identified that some of our most prolific activists are women.

As the university continues to attempt to crush all who question them, Defend Education battles on through these injustices, in the face of (security) violence and repression. The current occupation is the third successful occupation of the year, taking place at a time when most students are away on their holidays – a deliberate attempt by the university to avoid reactionary actions. Yet, here we are. Back in occupation again, to fight for the re-instatement of Kelly and Simon, and to lift the ridiculous sanctions on Hattie Craig.

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Update from the Occupation: University threatens to illegally force entry

The University Legal Services have sent a letter to the occupation, in which they threatened to break into the occupation this morning at 11.30. In the letter they are claiming, that the previous injunctions, on which the University has spent approximately £60 000 in the last academic year, have been broken. The injunctions are a consequence of the University refusing to negotiate over the demands such as paying all staff a living wage, retracting the plans of raising the tuition fees to £16 000 and stopping cuts to the nursing course.

 

The claims that the injunctions are being broken are wrong, there are no people in the occupation that have been in the previous occupations and the threatened actions by the University are not in accordance with the legal rights to occupy. Thereby the only way the University could enter the occupation is by using illegal force.

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PRESS RELEASE: STUDENTS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM ARE IN OCCUPATION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: STUDENT ACTIVISTS OCCUPY BUILDING AT THE UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM

For more information, call Defend Education on +44 7842 765067

The students have issued the following demands:

1 – That Kelly Rogers and Simon Furse are reinstated with immediate effect, with no further sanctions applied.

– That Hattie Craig has the onerous and inhibitive restrictions on her activity at the University of Birmingham lifted, with no further sanctions applied.

3 – That the University of Birmingham recognises occupations as a legitimate form of protest, with a long and lustrous history, that should be accommodated by its Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech.

4 – That the University of Birmingham reforms its disciplinary procedures to include: the right for students to receive legal representation, criteria of proven beyond reasonable doubt instead of the balance of probabilities, and sentencing guidelines. Additionally they should remove the following unacceptably ambiguous disciplinary violations: (g) misuse or unauthorised use of university premises, (q) bringing the university into disrepute, and (m) leafleting.

5 – That the University enters into negotiations in good faith with Defend Education Birmingham over its continuing demands.

 

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

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

One of the occupiers commented: “Universities have historically been radical places where learning and dissent went hand in hand. Our higher education system is so far removed from this that universities have become nothing more than paper-pushing, draconian institutions that care nothing for the welfare of their students.”

Another said, “Simon, Kelly and Hattie are being persecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech; we have to act before this becomes the norm not just in Birmingham, but nationwide.”

Twitter: @DefendEdBrum, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/defendeducationbrum

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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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