Is there free speech at Sydney University?

Issue 

On March 15, I was banned for a period of 12 months from entering any premises or lands belonging to the University of Sydney. Another Socialist Alliance activist, Paul Benedek, was issued with an “indefinite” ban.On March 15, I was banned for a period of 12 months from entering any premises or lands belonging to the University of Sydney. Another Socialist Alliance activist, Paul Benedek, was issued with an "indefinite" ban.

Our crime was to help students hold a campus stall to build the inaugural general meeting of the Resistance Club for 2010. Resistance is a socialist youth organisation affiliated to the Socialist Alliance.

Resistance has had a club affiliated with the University of Sydney Union for many years but is currently in the process of renewing registration. USU Clubs and Societies had given Resistance the right to operate with "the permissions of a registered club". This, Resistance members were advised, included the right to have non-student supporters assist in holding stalls.

All this was explained to the two university security officers who closed down the Resistance stall on March 18, but they ignored it and without any reasonable justification issued us with the bans.

This is not the first time that University of Sydney security has banned left activists from campus — an affront to basic democratic rights that cannot be accepted.

I have been a political activist for 38 years and campaigned for socialist ideas onto numerous campuses around the country, but never before banned from a university.

Political activists from around the world, some of who have worked for years in situations of heavy repression under dictatorships, have been astounded when told of this ban in Australia's oldest and most well-known university.

On its website, Sydney University declares: "We value open minds, avid curiosity and a readiness to take on the big questions. We encourage vigorous debate, and we believe that differing perspectives can make good ideas even better …

"We believe that when our minds have the freedom to explore, the results benefit us all. We continually probe for new insights, and are undaunted by setbacks …

"We engage in vigorous debate, internally and with our local, national and international communities. Great ideas have many owners."

It is hard to see how these "core values" — as the university's website describes them — are served by these bans.

When a Resistance Club member made a verbal protest to the security office, he was told that the purpose of the 109 year-old law used to issue these on-the-spot bans was to protect the safety of students and staff and their property. By this measure, the bans were a misuse of power.

The Resistance Club at Sydney University has written to the managers of University of Sydney Security Services requesting that the bans be immediately revoked.

All people concerned with democratic rights, should speak up against bans like these.

Send a message of support for our call for these bans to be revoked
. If these bans are not revoked, a democratic rights campaign will be organised. To join or support the Resistance Club at Sydney University contact .