A doctoral student at the University of Cambridge has been suspended from the university for two and a half years for his role in a protest that forced the cancellation of an address last November by Britain’s universities minister, David Willetts. Mr. Willetts is widely viewed as a driving force behind controversial higher-education policies, including a tuition increase that will take effect at universities in England this fall.
The student, Owen Holland, a Ph.D. candidate in English, now has 28 days to appeal the sentence. He was found guilty of violating the minister’s freedom of speech for reading aloud a poem that was echoed by some 30 other protesters who chanted each line in response, drowning out Mr. Willetts. Mr. Holland said that the severity of the sentence came as a surprise, especially since the university advocate who pursued the case against him had said that she would have been happy with a suspension of a single term, The Independent reported.
According to Varsity, the Cambridge student newspaper, more than 60 academics signed a letter last month that was sent to the university’s vice chancellor, criticizing the university for singling out just one student for disciplinary action. A Cambridge representative said in a statement, however, that the university advocate “is an independent authority and, in deciding whether to bring charges against a member of the university, does not act under the direction of any officer or body of the university.”