The Pro-Palestine encampment at the University of Sydney
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi says student activism has a rich history of helping change the world. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS
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Greens slam ‘despicable’ student protest restrictions

July 5, 2024

Tough new student protest restrictions at the University of Sydney have been branded a “despicable” attempt to shut down political expression.

The policy requires students at Australia’s oldest university to give at least three days’ notice for protests that include the use of booths or stalls, megaphones or amplifiers and affixing banners or posters to buildings.

Setting up tents or temporary shelters has also been banned after an encampment at the 175-year-old sandstone campus protesting Israel’s war in Gaza stood for almost two months before staff ordered demonstrators to vacate in June.

Pro-Paletine encampment
 The University of Sydney has banned students from setting up tents or temporary shelters on campus. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

The new measures were agreed by the university on June 27 but only came to the attention of its Student’s Representative Council on Wednesday night.

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi slammed the move on Friday, claiming permission should not be a pre-requisite to exercising the right to protest on campus and pointing out that student activism has a rich history of helping change the world for the better.

“What we are seeing here is a despicable attempt by neoliberal, corporate university management to stifle student activism and shut down political expression,” she said.

“Sydney University must dump these shameful anti-protest rules, which disturbingly seem to have been introduced without consultation or notice.”

Rule breaches allow the university to remove property, shut down protests and direct students and staff to leave parts of the campus.

A university spokesperson said the policy was in line with those at other universities.

The Pro-Palestine encampment at the University of Sydney
 A pro-Palestine student encampment at the University of Sydney was broken up in June. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

Vice-Chancellor Mark Scott assured students via email that the rules were introduced for the safety of everyone on campus. 

“While I am pleased we have experienced the peaceful end of the encampment on campus in recent weeks, I understand that its presence challenged us in many ways,” he said.

“The policy supports this by setting out the university’s expectations for all users of our lands … at its core, it upholds our commitment to free speech – while recognising we need to be able to manage our environment for the safety and security of all.”

Student council member Shovan Bhattarai said the university was hampering the same initiative it celebrated.

“Sydney University has always been a hotbed of political activity and contestation,” she said in a statement.

“Great movements that have sought to change our country, from the Freedom Rides to the anti-Vietnam War Moratorium marches, have emanated from this campus.

“Yet while the university celebrates the movements of the past, they meet with the utmost hostility the great social movements of today.”