Sydney University management is prosecuting a student for supporting staff strikes in 2013. The student received a letter earlier this month warning of a possible one semester suspension if they did not respond
to accusations of misconduct.
Management alleges that during the 48-hour strike in March last year, the student made chalk markings on a wall (contrary to the university’s advertising policy), pushed and stole the cap of a NSW police officer, was arrested on campus and then returned the following day after being issued with a ban.
It will set a dangerous precedent should the student be disciplined. There are a number of reasons the charges should be rejected.
First, the notion that students could face a semester long suspension for chalking on a wall is ridiculous. Hundreds of students every year advertise in this way on campus without receiving any form of punishment, which suggests there are alternative political motives driving this allegation.
Second, the allegations referring to misconduct relating to the police are also a political power play. Cops have no place on campus, and were used during the strikes to break picket lines and allow scabs to enter the campus. The police were actually the instigators of violence throughout seven strike days last year.
Finally, the student is being prosecuted for contravening a notice issued for the university at which they are studying. These notices were used repeatedly by management to weaken the picket lines and undermine the strike. The notices are arbitrary – there was no formal warning or any opportunity to challenge the notice.
By prosecuting one student for supporting the staff in their demand for better wages and conditions, the administration hopes to deter others from offering similar solidarity in the future.
The NTEU is currently taking industrial action on a number of campuses across the country as part of EBA negotiations. We support student solidarity actions with the staff and reject the presence of police on campus during this process.
The Education Department of the SRC stands in full solidarity with all students facing disciplinary actions as a result of the 2013 staff strikes, whether it be legal cases, prosecution by management or the continuing campus bans.
Ridah Hassan and Eleanor Morley