Why I am taking my university to court.
First year biological science student Sam Weaver is taking the university of Birmingham to court over its widely publicised “ban” on protests, he explains here in his own words what has lead him to take this extraordinary step.
Since starting university last Autumn one thing has really shocked me and that is the draconian measures taken by the University of Birmingham, in response to any form of student protest, with heavy handed security staff following every movement students make, taping every moment on handheld video cameras and reacting with hostility to the slightest action, especially when it comes to occupations on campus.
For this reason it came as no surprise to me that as a group of students from the Defend Education group occupied the north gate house on the night of the 22nd of November, security staff, under orders from the heads of the university, closed off access to the building and restricted supplies of food, only allowing the Guild of Students president to have direct access to the occupation. When other members of the group did manage to gain entry to the occupation on the night of the 23rd, security reacted to the occupiers with aggression and anger, punching one particular occupier in the face repeatedly.
However, I think that everyone was shocked and appalled when, on the evening of the 24th, the university released news that they had obtained a High Court injunction, which not only shut down the occupation immediately, but also effectively illegalised all further “occupational protest action” on the campus. Criticism quickly spread, from the friends and members of the Defend Education campaign, to the whole student body and even on to a national level when the Guardian online published an article heavily criticising the university’s injunction.
Despite this high level of negative press and a general consensus among the students that the injunction is wrong, the university still shows no signs of backing out and in fact stand firmly behind the injunction. For this reason I have taken the only route I feel the university will listen to, (as they seem to show little consideration for the wishes and demands of the student body), and have signed up to legal aid with Public Interest Lawyers, to officially challenge the university over its injunction, with the aim to have it removed entirely. This injunction is an attack on the rights of students to protest on campus, not only because a major part of university life is to express ourselves and to freely speak our minds, but more fundamentally by breaching human rights, a matter which was brought to the attention of the university, soon after the injunction was put in place, by Amnesty International and Liberty.
I feel that this injunction is a matter of great importance and if the university are allowed to hold it in place without being challenged, then it sends the message that this is a perfectly justified means of squashing student actions, given that annoyance is hardly a just reason to oppress students in this way, and is not acceptable. The actions of the university constantly receive criticism from across the country, as well as from the students at Birmingham, and the message this time should not be one of obedience and acceptance that the VC and management wish for, but one of disgust and defiance, over this new extreme that the university has gone to.