Students protest for freedom of speech at Lord Sainsbury’s installation as Chancellor

This morning hundreds of students and staff silently protested outside Lord Sainsbury’s installation as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. Dressed in gowns and academic dress, the students and staff stood with banners outside the Senate House with duct tape over their mouths in protest at the two and a half year suspension of PhD student Owen Holland. Holland was suspended for seven terms for reading a poem in protest at a speech by David Willets, Minister for Universities and Science. The protest was called by CUSU (Cambridge University Student Union) President Gerard Tully. [1]

Lord Sainsbury was elected Chancellor of the University last October. His installation was attended by many of the senior members of the University. A representative of HRH the Queen attended to confirm the installation. The ceremony featured a procession at the university’s Senate House. The students held banners saying “Lord Sainsbury – freedom of speech is the basics!” and ‘Freedom of Expression? University Repression.” [1]

Over fifty prominent academics, authors and lawyers have signed a letter to the University of Cambridge asking that the suspended student be immediately reinstated. Signatories include Professor Terry Eagleton, the novelist Philip Hensher and the journalist Johann Hari, as well as lecturers from 30 Higher Education institutions across the UK. Over 7000 people have signed a general petition condemning Cambridge’s decision, including Michael Mansfield QC, a former contender for the position of Chancellor of the University. [3]

Cambridge student Amy Gilligan said: “Everybody is so angry about this decision. In the last few days the university has shown itself completely out of touch with its students and staff. Nobody in their right mind thinks a student should be punished for exercising his right to peacefully protest. I can’t imagine why they have gone after one student when over sixty people signed the Spartacus letter.”

Cambridge Alumni Richard Braude said “I used to be proud of having gone to Cambridge. Now I’m just embarrassed. I’ve spoken to a lot of friends and none of us intend to give a penny to the university until they change this terrible decision. I hope Lord Sainsbury knows how repressive the university is.”

[1] http://www.facebook.com/events/368493679849914/

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cambridgeshire-15326277

[3] http://www.defendeducation.co.uk/over-50-academics-sign-letter-condemning-student-conviction

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