I promised myself that I wouldn’t do this. The winter vacation period is supposed to be a much needed break after what is a very long, and at least for myself, very stressful, term. I wanted to clear my head of all thoughts of university and the Guild, yet the university have been seemingly determined to ensure that this cannot be the case. After spending a considerable amount of time dwelling on the subject, I have decided that I can no longer stay silent.
Earlier this term I made what was a difficult decision to stand up to our university and join students occupying the Senate Chamber in Aston Webb. (You can read more about my reasons for doing so in my last blog post).
As a result, the University already attempted to hit me and another student, Simon Furse, with costs of up £25k in legal fees. These were only dropped on the condition that the court proceedings were swift and concluded in one day. The judge felt we had had insufficient time to prepare a case and was willing to adjourn proceedings for a day in order for us to seek more legal advice, but we could not take up his offer for fear of the exorbitant personal costs we would face. Thus this was a tactic which prevented us form putting the best case forward in opposition to the injunction and possession order.
Not satisfied with forcefully evicting the occupation with university security, bailiffs and police, threatening those inside with arrest, now once again, the University are employing tactics which are designed to prevent students from standing up to them. They are currently attempting disciplinary action against me and a number of other students that could lead to our expulsion. They tried to make students attend interviews out of term time, and thus away from the eyes of students and staff and at a time when they would feel most isolated.
In addition, senior management have written to the Guild about my conduct. Some of the points of issue included such ridiculousness as the fact that the occupation continued after I had left and that I did not try to stop it. It is also alleged that I have breached the Officer Code of Conduct as a result of having broken the law, despite the fact that I have not been arrested or charged, let alone convicted. The last time I checked, it required a court of law to prove this, not university senior managers, however much they would like this privilege.
I want to make it clear that I would like these proceedings to be as open as possible. I have nothing to hide and I wish to convince the wider university that my actions were reasonable. The university have not yet given me proper details of their case against me so I cannot yet publicly write my defence case. I think all staff and students have the right to know what is going on and I hope in time I will be able to update you all.
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and the other students facing disciplinaries during this difficult time. I would encourage everyone to read UCU’s statement where they offer their solidarity, for which I must thank them wholeheartedly.
I want to finish by saying that I believe that we have a cause that is worth fighting for and no amount of university threats or intimidation will stop students and university workers from working together in closer unity to achieve what have become widely accepted as reasonable demands.
Next term will see students from up and down the country converge on Birmingham to discuss where the student movement goes next and to protest against the regressive actions currently taking place. You can read the call out here and see the facebook event here. I genuinely believe that we are witnessing the biggest resurgence that the student movement has seen since 2010 and am very proud to have played even a very small part in this, despite the additional personal pressure the last term has placed on me and the uncertain future I now face.