Hallam University accused of trying to shut down protests with disciplinary action against students
Sheffield Hallam University has been accused of trying to shut down protests by taking disciplinary action against students involved the occupation of a building in May.
Two students are facing disciplinary proceedings over the occupation of the Cantor Building Arundel Street, in a student protest over the university’s response to student rent strikes and the treatment of staff and students during the pandemic.
Students at several universities held simultaneous protests, following up on rent strikes in January in which students withheld thousands of pounds in rent as part of what they claimed was the largest rent strike in the UK in 40 years, amid anger at being made to pay for rooms in halls they were not allowed to return to because of lockdown restrictions.
Two of the Hallam protesters are facing action, with one saying he understood he could face a year’s expulsion.
One of the rent strike organisers facing disciplinary action, Zac Larkham, said: “This is an obvious attempt by the university to silence those who speak out against the university management and encourage students to fall in line. We are being used to set an example to other students and tell them ‘this is what happens when you dare to disobey us’.
“If the university are successful, it will set a dangerous precedent that will deter students and staff speaking out against the university in the future.”
Protesters say the Universities of Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield, which also had occupations, had chosen not to pursue sanctions against students, respecting their right to freedom of speech and protest.
A Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson said: “Disciplinary proceedings are ongoing regarding two students who took part in the occupation of a Sheffield Hallam University building in relation to damage and misuse of university property and alleged breaches of health and safety which potentially put themselves and staff at risk.”
During the Cantor building protest, students unfurled a banner reading ‘Students B4 Profit’.
Video footage of the protesters being pinned down by security staff was condemned online after the incident
Students from the University of Sheffield occupied the Arts Tower at the same time.
A University of Sheffield spokesperson said at the time it supported students’ rights to protest peacefully but did not condone the occupation of a building which caused disruption for other students.