UPDATE: CUSU and CDE are planning a demonstration in central Cambridge today to protest the University’s sentence.
UPDATE 16 March 10am
Plans have been finalised for a mass demonstration at 1pm today outside the Senate House.
A press release from Cambridge Defend Education said that “staff and lecturers will protest outside the University of Cambridge Old Schools building against the decision to rusticate a student protester, Owen Holland, for seven terms for his part in a peaceful protest in November.
“The mood is expected to be angry.”
Meanwhile, CUSU’s petition continues to gather support, with 2,000 signatures already – including dozens of academics.
CUSU President Gerard Tully last night encouraged all signatories to attend the protest, saying “We can make the University back down on this, but only if enough students, academics and staff take a stand against this absurd judgement.”
UPDATE 15 March 1.50pm
CUSU’s petition has amassed almost 1,000 signatures in just over twelve hours.
UPDATE 15th March 2am
CUSU has begun a petition, entitled “This Is Not Justice”, which calls on the uni to repeal the punishment.
The petition slams the “exemplary and punitive” sentence and calls for the reinstatement of Holland. The uni has been accused of undermining its “professed commitment to freedom of speech and the right to protest” for the sentence.
Cambridge has sent down a protester who shut down MP David Willetts’ speech last term. He cannot return to for over 2 years.
Owen Holland, an English PhD student, was sent down today until October 2014 and banned him from using any Cambridge premises. He was charged with “recklessly or intentionally impeding free speech within the Precincts of the University”.
The decision was made by the Court of Discipline after a six-hour hearing.
CDE’s protest caught on camera.
During the protest, Holland hijacked Willetts’ speech by reading a poem attacking him for the rise in Uni fees. He labelled the minister as “a man who believes in the market and in the power of competition”. Activists then began an occupation of the hall in which Willetts spoke, which lasted a week.
Students and fellows alike have spoken out immediately to condemn the action which they see as harsher than expected.
CUSU President Gerard Tully released a statement in which he said he was “dismayed by the University Court’s bizarre decision to hand down to a single student a punishment seven times stronger than what the University’s own prosecutors had asked for”.
The decision comes despite a “Spartacus letter” from over 60 dons and students protesting the university’s decision to single out one student for punishment.
A CDE spokesman told The Tab that the sentence was “completely outrageous” and revealed that Holland was “rather shocked” at the outcome. The organisation later posted an aggressive message on Twitter:
Meanwhile, Corpus student Rees Arnott-Davies, said that “the idea that you can protect freedom of speech by silencing protest is the height of hypocrisy.”
Holland now has 28 days to appeal his case.