We’ve received a huge number of messages from individuals and organisations across the country expressing solidarity with Owen for his appeal on Friday. We’ve published a few of them below. Please feel free to add your support in the comments below, and thank you for your continued support!
“What has happened to Owen Holland is an outrage. It is a long fought for right of citizens to protest, and it is a key element of vigorous debate and a condition for a vibrant democracy, particularly in a university setting, for members of communities to be able to voice their opposition to policy, both Governmental and institutional. That is what is under attack here in the interests of representing and repackaging the University as a site passive in the face of, and thereby complicit in, Government education policy.”
– Tom Hickey, Chair, UCU Coordinating Committee, University of Brighton, National Executive Committee, UCU
“As an alumnus of the University (Emmanuel, 1988), I am shocked by the decision of the Court of Discipline in the case of Mr Owen Holland. He appears to have been singled out for victimisation after his part in a civilised protest against the visit of the current Minister of Education. The punishment imposed upon him is out of all proportion to the offence. The Cambridge I remember and respect did not engage in exemplary punishment of individuals and in the name of natural justice I would most strongly urge the Appeals Court to overturn this appalling decision.”
“I am registering my support for Owen Holland, who does not deserve to be singled out in this way, nor should anyone be punished for a civilised, peaceful protest with others against a government minister who appears to have a limited view of what higher education is. Surely the purpose of education is to question the world in which we live?”
“From myself, and from all of the academic staff at Fircroft College of Adult Education in Birmingham, we fully support your action, and fully support your right to take action.”
“This is outrageous! Whatever happened to speaking truth to power? And peacefully as well! I hope the University see the error of their ways.”
“I have followed this case with incredulity and disgust… The disciplinary action for a peaceful expression of opposition was inappropriate in the first place… This is unworthy of an institution that should recognise that students are entitled to hold their own views and indeed to be angered by the betrayal of a generation of students.”
“Support from the Chair of Warwickshire College. Good luck.”
“I wish you every luck with your appeal. Justice, I trust, will out.”
“Like hundreds of academics throughout the country we were shocked by the severity of the suspension handed out to you by the Cambridge authorities and offer our wholehearted support for you during tomorrow’s hearing”
– Jill and Peter Seddon, Faculty of Arts, University of Brighton
On Monday (14th May) CUSU Council – the decision-making body of Cambridge University Students’ Union – passed a motion condemning Owen’s sentencing. Council noted that he was singled out for a collective action that many other students and academics have also taken responsibility for. It was also noted that the verdict would deter future acts of legitimate protest. The motion drew attention to the dubiousness of the legal process; the lack of transparency over appointments for the Court of Discipline and the refusal to allow a student union representative to accompany Owen to the proceedings.
CUSU has therefore resolved not only to campaign for the sentence to be overturned and to support a solidarity demonstration outside Owen’s appeal, but also to push for a change in the University’s disciplinary procedures.
Anger at the University’s actions has not subsided; over the past few weeks, the Cambridge branch of the UCU, the Cambridge Graduate Union, the NUS, and now CUSU have condemned the University’s decision to single out one of its own members, to subject him to an unfair trial, and to punish him with a vindictive seven term suspension. As documents leaked from the court have shown, the process was explicitly intended to deter future protest and to ‘rehabilitate’ the student. This ‘rehabilitation’ (given how doctoral degrees are funded) means effectively ending his career. This cannot stand – join the campaign!
At the NUS Postgraduate Conference that took place last week (10th and 11th of May) Owen Holland’s case – and the broader issue of victimisation of activists and student officers – was discussed. Following this, members voted:
- To express solidarity with Owen Holland and issue a statement of support.
- To express support for Birmingham students facing disciplinary action (or the threat of disciplinary action).
- To actively support the right of all students to engage in peaceful protest without impediment from university authorities.
Those present voted overwhelmingly for the NUS to support Owen’s appeal, many taking the opportunity to voice concern at the growing trend of aggressive and disproportionate punishment being meted out to student protestors by University administrations.
The support of postgraduate representatives from across the country and the backing of the NUS further demonstrates widespread anger over Owen’s sentencing.