A student at the University of Sydney who took part in protest action during the recent staff strikes is facing potential disciplinary action, including suspension, from the University.
The student, who will remain anonymous, participated in the pickets during staff strikes earlier this year. In a letter to the student, the University told them it is “alleged that your conduct is in breach of one or more University policies and constitutes misconduct”.
Under University policy, what constitutes misconduct is concerningly subjective — notably, behaviour that acts “in a way that is harmful to the good order and government of the University”, “prejudices the good name or academic standing of the University” or “impairs other people’s freedom to pursue their studies or research, or participate in University life”. The policy leaves unclear the ability of students to meaningfully express scrutiny over the functioning of the University without a breach.
The letter identified actions taken “while on the picket line for the NTEU’s enterprise bargaining campaign protests”, including interrupting classes and gaining access to classes taking place via Zoom.
In the leadup to the strikes, the University encouraged staff and students wanting to evade the industrial actions to operate classes as normal via Zoom, sending emails to educators ensuring them that classes would be able to run online ‘as normal’ alongside the physical picket.
Although the online classes may not have constituted the crossing of a physical picket, the purpose of a strike is not to physically stop people from entering a workplace; it’s to shut down its operations entirely. Thus, picketing extended beyond the realm of just campus entryways, and also saw protestors attempting to dissuade online participation by entering Zoom classes and sharing information on why they were striking.
The University’s letter to the student alleges that by participating in online protest actions for the strike, they “effectively prevented the tutors from continuing with the Classes”.
If found to have engaged in misconduct, the student faces suspension or reprimand.