“This is Not Justice: Stop the Sentence” – Owen Holland petition delivered to Vice-Chancellor

Judith Welikala , Co-Editor 20 March 2012

Vice-Chancellor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz today accepted in person the Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU) petition “This Is Not Justice: Stop the Sentence”, regarding the seven-term suspension of student Owen Holland.

The petition was presented to him at the Senate House this afternoon by CUSU President Gerard Tully.

Last week, Holland, who is reading for a PhD in English, was suspended from the University for a period of two and a half years for his part in the protest staged against David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, at Lady Mitchell Hall last term.

CUSU’s petition, launched last Wednesday, has amassed over 2600 signatures, including those of 300 academics. It calls on the Septemviri (the University’s appeal court) to quash the “extreme sentence”.

The petition states, “We believe, irrespective of individual opinions on the action itself, that this exemplary and punitive sentence undermines the University’s professed commitment to freedom of speech and the right to protest”, adding: “We call for the suspended student to be reinstated”.

Tully was keen to stress that CUSU is still collecting signatures for the petition, and that this submission happened today as a “prelude to the Chancellor’s installation tomorrow”. Lord Sainsbury is being officially installed as University Chancellor tomorrow at Senate House, following his victory in last term’s election. Students and academics will be taking part in a silent protest outside Senate House tomorrow morning in support of Holland to coincide with the installation ceremony which starts at 11am .

Also in attendance at the Senate House today were CUSU Education Officer Morgan Wild, Graduate Union President Liv Watson and Tom Parry Jones, a graduate student member of the University Council, as well as Matthew Moss, private secretary to the Vice Chancellor, and Tim Holt, the University’s Head of Communications.

Last Thursday, University Advocate Dr Rosy Thornton sent response letters to each of the 60 students and academics who signed a ‘Spartacus letter’ which had challenged the singling out of one student, and asked for the same charge leveled against Holland to be brought against them.

Thornton stated that she “cannot act” upon the complaint made in the letter, as she “can only consider proper complaints, signed by the complainant, and supported by appropriate evidence, sufficient to enable such a determination to be made”.

The University Advocate has responsibility for and conducts prosecutions before the University Courts for breaches of discipline by members of the University.

Judith Welikala , Co-Editor