Public Interest Lawyers, representing students at the University of Birmingham, have today sent an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor seeking the immediate discharge of an injunction dated 25 November 2011. The injunction, which is to last for twelve months, prohibits students from entering or remaining on any part of the University campus for the purposes of occupational protest unless prior written consent from the University is obtained.
The University obtained the injunction following a small and peaceful protest on 23 November 2011 in which an unused residential gatehouse on campus was occupied for 48 hours. The occupational protest sought to raise awareness of the Higher Education White Paper and voice concerns over the privatisation of the Higher Education System.
Rather than engaging and negotiating with the protesters, the University made an urgent without notice court application which proceeded even though the occupation had ended. In further confirmation of the University’s disproportionately aggressive approach, disciplinary proceedings were brought against one student protester forced to reveal his identity on making a formal complaint to the police after allegedly being punched three times by a University Security Guard.
The letter sent today argues that the injunction represents an unacceptable restriction on the students’ legitimate right to protest and should be immediately discharged.
A full copy of the letter is attached.
Tessa Gregory, solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers said:
“We hope that the University will now urgently review its position and agree to discharge the injunction: it criminalises legitimate protest and is completely at odds with the University’s duty to respect and protect students’ right to freedom of expression and association.”
Sean Farmelo, a Second Year student stated:
"This is an affront to all students of the University of Birmingham. The fact that David Eastwood’s legal team pursued such an injunction is indicative of how little he and the rest of the management team value free speech on campus. I'm glad that it is being challenged, as it sets a dangerous precedent. I believe that unless the injunction is defeated the use of the law in an oppressive manner will become more common throughout the marketised university system, where students are viewed as consumers rather than thinkers and doers."