Uni of Sydney cracks down on campus activism after Palestine student encampment

July 5, 2024
The University of Sydney student encampment in April. Photo: Isaac Nellist

In a cynical attempt to quash free speech and pro-Palestinian activism by staff and students, management at the University of Sydney announced a new Campus Access Policy on July 3.

Adopted without consultation with staff, students or representatives of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), it is a serious curtailment of freedom of speech and the right to protest.

Although it does not explicitly ban all demonstrations, its effect will be to limit and silence protest and dissent.

This is because it requires students and staff to give management 72 hours’ notice of a demonstration.

It also forces activists to seek approval — which may be denied — for standard demonstration equipment, such as megaphones and other forms of amplification.

Indoor demonstrations — read occupations — are prohibited. Lighting up and projecting onto buildings is banned.

It also empowers the University Protective Services staff to detain alleged “offenders” before handing them over to NSW Police.

It is no coincidence that the new euphemistically-named “Campus Access Policy” comes just weeks after management forced the popular student Gaza solidarity encampment to close.


Projecting images, such as this, which was done to support the encampment, is now banned. Photo: City of Sydney for Palestine/Facebook

Student activists had put up a strong fight for 55 days, despite management’s repression and intimidation, and fear-mongering and Islamophobia from the establishment media.

Students managed to force the university to accede to some of their demands, however it shamefully fell short of any real commitment to divestment.

Student groups have vowed to continue their struggle for divestment in Semester 2 and for the university to cut ties with Israel.

The new policy is a response to the historic Palestine encampment, and aims to clamp down on future activism.

It explicitly prohibits camping on university grounds and occupations.

Management wants to silence pro-Palestine students and staff who have made, and continue to make, clear demands on the university to end its complicity in genocide.

But the new policy will also curtail any ordinary forms of protest or political expression — even union activity.

It requires students and staff to seek prior approval, 72 hours in advance, for putting up a poster, flying a banner or setting up a stall. 

This means that management is trying to stop students and staff from responding to global or local politics on the campus.

In his letter to all staff about the policy, Vice Chancellor Mark Scott claimed to support the “right to peaceful, orderly protest”.

However the policy is authoritarian and cowardly and that shows the university is disinterested in freedom of speech or academic freedom.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.