On July 21st, two students were suspended for 9 months from the University of Birmingham for their involvement in the Defend Education campaign and subsequent occupation of the Senate building. The campaign and associated occupation were calling for, among other things, the introduction of the Living Wage across their campus and the reduction of accommodation costs.
Defend Education Birmingham entered into occupation of University buildings once again on the 28th of July as a tactic to remove the suspensions placed on students, reform disciplinary procedures and enter into negotiation with the University over the initial demands of their campaign. Two days later, protesters were evicted from the building.
The Union of UEA Students stands in solidarity with those students who entered the occupation and are campaigning around this issue. We believe that the disciplinary action taken by the University of Birmingham is unjust and shows a disregard for the right to freedom of speech, protest and expression. University should be an environment which develops students as active citizens equipping them to criticise and challenge the world around them. We believe occupation and legal direct action are legitimate forms of protest and that students engaging in activism should not be penalised.
The trend towards harsher treatment of student activists by Universities across the country should be resisted, and the decision to suspend students at the University of Birmingham sets a worrying precedent for the Higher Education sector. We condemn the suspensions and support the demands of the occupation to have them revoked.
A petition has been set up by students calling for the University of Birmingham to lift the suspensions that have been handed out and reform the disciplinary procedures of the institution. Please add your name in support here.