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University of Leeds mistrusts students

November 22, 2010

On the one hand, members of staff at Leeds are being encouraged to support and respect student protest, at least that is the public response. On the other hand, the University has clear private views on student protest and how it should be handled, as evidenced by the letter circulated today, presented in full below.

In some Schools, students have already been told they will not be marked absent for walking out, so we can already see that, contrary to University policy, some students are to be penalised on grounds of ideological expression, and others not, despite participating in the same expression.

Today’s letter read:

To heads of schools (cc deans, pro-deans, heads of services & VCEG)

As many of you will be aware, student groups are planning a day of action this Wednesday, 24 November, to protest against the cuts in higher education and the proposed rise in fees.

At Leeds, the students’ union (LUU) is arranging a demonstration, which will march from the Parkinson steps (gathering at 12.30 pm) to Victoria Gardens on the Headrow for a joint rally.

In addition, some student groups are calling on students to walk out of their lectures and classes at 11.15 am on Wednesday, and there is always the risk of other, wildcat, action which might include the occupation of part or all of a University building.

It is difficult to gauge the impact of action planned for Wednesday, but some practical advice is summarised below. Any specific questions or concerns should be raised with Steven Exley, Head of Security (( 35490; :s.exley@leeds.ac.uk), or David Wardle, Head of Corporate Affairs (( 34452; :d.wardle@adm.leeds.ac.uk).

1. Students who walk out of lectures and classes (or who fail to show up) should be marked as absent in the usual way. So far as is practicable, lectures and classes should continue as normal after any walk-out. It will be the responsibility of the students themselves to make up for any lost teaching.

2. We are not aware centrally of any assessment scheduled for Wednesday morning, but students who do absent themselves from any assessment should also be recorded as absent in the usual way. If your school does have any assessments scheduled for Wednesday, please inform David Wardle (details above).

3. There are a number of open days (technically ‘post-applicant days’) planned for Wednesday; these should proceed as normal.

4. Staff are expected to work normally on Wednesday.

5. If your department is disrupted by an occupation, sit-in or other demonstration, you should contact Security immediately on (0113 343 2222; staff themselves should not confront protestors. Security will advise on the steps to be taken in the event of an occupation, but the rules of thumb are as follows.

· In the event of an occupation which is sizeable, or which significantly disrupts the work of a department, or which creates a threatening and intimidating atmosphere for staff, the general advice is to leave the building concerned. If it is safe to do so, staff should lock filing-cabinets, desks, offices etc – and turn off PCs and other equipment – before leaving.

· It is not normally necessary to evacuate a building in the case of a small or ‘token’ sit-in, particularly if it is self-contained.

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