La Trobe students face disciplinary action over protests

December 13, 2012

The statement below was released by students charged over protests against cuts at Melbourne's La Trobe University.

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Three La Trobe students are under threat of expulsion from the university for their participation in a campaign to stop major cuts in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUSS) department.

Midway through 2012, Latrobe University announced that they were cutting around 600 humanities subjects and sacking dozens of staff. A peaceful student campaign of civil disobedience ensued. Throughout the campaign, students themselves were the victims of assault and violence at the hands of university hired security guards.

At the time, the Vice Chancellor of La Trobe Professor Dewar said of the protests: "I think it adds colour and movement to life on campus, I think it's fantastic."

But now a number of students have been charged with serious offenses. One female student is accused of "breaking the ribs" of one security guard. The students unequivocally reject the charges. Danica Cheesley, the accused student, saif: "These accusations are pure inventions of the university designed to silence dissent. Students have every right to engage in peaceful civil disobedience against outrageous attacks on our education.

"As far as I can see, I have been charged with organising and encouraging students to protest in support of their education."

The "misconduct" hearings are closed, not subject to natural justice and the students are denied any right to legal representation. Disabilities officer in the La Trobe Student Union Emma Dook said: "This is a kangaroo court. If the university seriously wants to accuse students of assault let them take it to an actual court of justice. At least there you could rely on a serious investigation and some level of public scrutiny."

Students are launching a La Trobe Free Speech Defense campaign against these outrageous charges. There will be a meeting on Tuesday 18th December at 6pm at Trades Hall.

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