On the University of Birmingham and Guild of Students student protest protocol

The University of Birmingham have openly lied not only to the occupation, but to the huge number of students present at the demonstration on Friday 22nd November. There, and throughout the occupation, they presented students with a “Protocol of Student Protest between The University of Birmingham and University of Birmingham Guild of Students”; a document that condemns occupational-style protests. This protocol was never signed off by the Guild of Students, as the University admitted in court on Monday 25th November.

We see this as using the Guild of Students as a pawn in a game to force the occupation to disassemble. A move particularly problematic in light of the Guild’s policy, passed by Guild Council, which prohibits the Guild of Students from condemning occupations, or other direct action, taken by students.

This is hugely insulting: the University have shown its utter contempt by issuing statements on the Guild’s behalf without consent. The Sabbatical Officers continually attempt, and students vocally support, cross-table negotiations between University and students. These negotiations require a relationship built on trust and respect. This case clearly illustrates that the University does not respect the Guild of Students an independent institution, but instead views it as a tool to manipulate students with. We consider all negotiations taking place between the Guild and the University undermined, reinforcing our belief in direct action as a central means to creating change.

Further, we consider this move to be morally reprehensible. There are a large number of students involved in this occupation who are putting themselves at risk by contravening the University’s code of conduct and defying a civil court injunction. The protocol contains the following:

The University and the Guild of Students will view the following as matters of serious concern:

1.         Any breach of health and safety regulations
2.         Intimidation of actions which cause distress to any person
3.         Any breach of the University’s Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech and Policy on Harassment and Bullying
4.         Damage to University or visitor’s property
5.         Illegal activity of any kind
6.         Forced or illegal occupation of an area, including any activity which prevents others from entering the area
7.         Upset to other students, staff or significant disruption to other’s ability to learn
8.         Material disruption to the University’s ability to conduct its normal business

No individual has the right to occupy campus and its buildings as its building as this is trespass.

This is an explicit condemnation of the actions currently taking place currently. The Guild of Students is often the first port of call for students wishing to defend themselves against University disciplinaries, but they are attempting to burn these bridges by presenting the Guild as a force in opposition to the occupation. Students inside are concerned over their futures, and should not be lied to. This is a clear attempt by the university to intimidate students into leaving the occupation by making them think that the Guild will abandon them and condemn them for their actions.

The occupation calls upon the Guild of Students to:

  • Issue a statement of condemnation of the University’s actions, declaring it counterproductive to the relationship between the Guild and the University.
  • Issue a statement of solidarity with the occupiers, offering its support to the students inside and outlining its position as one in support of direct action.

The occupation calls upon university management to:

  • Issue a statement of apology to the Guild of Students, and to the students in occupation, for spreading misinformation.
  • Meet the occupation in negotiations, in good faith, and engage with students in discussing the occupation’s demands.

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