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If you are thinking about going to Birmingham University (just down the road from the duckrabbit Brum office) you may want to watch this video and then think again.

Freedom of speech and protest is central to a democracy.  There are genuine concerns about the way that Birmingham University is being run; particularly the victimisation of students involved in peaceful protest. Lecturers have been on strike and students suspended, without process, for showing solidarity.

In this video a number of students stand up to make a short protest speech before the Chancellor of the University, David Eastwood, was due to give a lecture. One by one they are physically removed from the lecture theatre. It is scandalous and a sign of great weakness that they were not at least allowed to deliver their short message before being physically thrown out. Shame on those attending the lecture for not insisting the students were allowed to complete their short protest and then leave.

David Eastwood (the highest paid Vice Chancellor in the country) has lost the plot if he thinks treating students (his clients) this way is good for business. Whatever the situation at the University, whether the students and staff have a good case or not, Eastwood is badly in need of some PR advice. This is a terrible look.

Petition to re-instate the students here.

The text of the speech:

Transcript of the read out speech:

On Wednesday the 29th of January 400 students from around the country came to protest and show their contempt against you and the way this university is run. They did so because you are the highest paid chancellor in the UK and a symbol of the increasing marketisation of the higher education system. They were exercising their legal right to protest, yet under your leadership 150 of those students were held in an unlawful kettle in the freezing rain without the right to water or food, and as a result a student was hospitalised. 13 people were arrested for withholding their names from the police – which they are legally allowed to do. 10 were released without charge, and yet you suspended every one of the Birmingham students. This was an unfair victimisation of students who were protesting your management.

It is a clear attempt to suppress student dissent by making an example of people who already had to endure over 24 hours in a police cell. The suspensions have been called with no process and no right to appeal, clearly violating the principle that people are innocent until proven guilty.

You have repeatedly shown that your only interest in running this university is to make a profit whilst suppressing anyone that questions the obvious injustices towards students, academics and staff. The unfair suspensions of these students shows your contempt for anyone exercising their right to speak out against the way this university is managed, and reveals your utter detachment from its students. The university is supposed to be a place of learning and you have turned it into a factory run solely for the interests of a small elite.

A large number of departments have been closed by the University of Birmingham since you arrived here. You sat on the Browne review that recommended putting fees up to £9,000. In the last ten years the University have massively disinvested from staff in favour of pointless campus prettification and advertising. This is one of the worst universities in the country for management bullying and performance management. Last year a judge described your attacks on a senior neuroscientist as both cock up and conspiracy.

How many of your students have you spoken to? How many of their stories have you heard? I’ve met students who are living in mouldy houses, with water streaming down the walls and mice running around the floor. I know students who are working part -time to supplement their maintenance loans, trying to save up money to survive through the summer. I know students who can’t afford to live because of extortionate rent levels. I know international students who have had to wait for weeks for the university to get its act together while they internalise their stress for fear of worrying their parents. I know staff who have to choose between heating their houses and feeding their children.

Publicly you say that this is because we live in a climate of austerity and cuts and financial threats to higher education. You say this after stocking up your wage by £28,000 to £400,000 a year. You earn more than a grand a day. You say that whilst you get driven around in your new jaguar by your chauffeur. You say that whilst living in a free mansion with a University provided gardener. You say this whilst more than 100 managers get paid more than £120,000 a year. How many more times do you feel you have to echo these hollow phrases around a campus full of disenfranchised students. The real financial threat to Higher Education is YOU.

You are not just involved in the destruction of higher education as we know it, you are also actively involving yourself in the privatisation of school education. You chaired a panel at the Tory party conference talking about how universities should be running free schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White. We specialize in digital storytelling.

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  • http://www.tonyhayesimages.com tonemeister

    Yes Duck, this, to me, seems to fit a pattern where those in positions of wealth and power are becoming ever more authoritarian (think ConDems and their backers/mates etc). I lived through the industrial unrest of the seventies, and while that brought its own problems, at least ordinary folk seemed to have a fighting spirit then. I often wonder where that spirit has gone.

  • John Jones

    You don’t have a right to disrupt someone else’s event. So long as those attempting to do so were removed using the minimum force necessary, that’s perfectly reasonable. There is not and should not be any obligation, as the writer here seems to think, for those running an event to allow those disrupting it to continue doing so for as long as they like.

    What I don’t get with left-wingers is they seem to think stopping other people carrying on their lawful business is a “right” and that any attempt to prevent those engaged in such interference is “immoral”, even evidence of “tyranny”. It is no such thing.

    There are plenty of ways people with opinions can make a point in a free society without deliberately preventing other people exercising their legal rights.

    • http://www.duckrabbit.info/members/duckrabbit/ duckrabbit

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your comment.

      What you also don’t seem to get is the right to protest is not prerogative of the left. I am not left wing, but I do think the University made a fool of themselves.