Two students at the University of Sydney who took part in a protest held against former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull have been suspended by the University. 2022 SRC Education Officer Deaglan Godwin and 2023 SRC Environment Officer Maddie Clark have been suspended for a semester and a year respectively. Clark has been suspended for a year after already receiving a warning for protesting a pro-life stall before the SULS event.
In September last year, a Sydney University Law Society (SULS) event featuring Malcolm Turnbull was forced to move online after protestors interrupted the event. Godwin and Clark were among the group of protestors and denounced Turnbull’s presence at the university.
At the protest, Godwin said, “We will never let a former Liberal Prime Minister come here on campus and speak to students who he’s fucked over so much,” and told Turnbull to “Fuck off to Mosman, fuck back off to Wentworth!”
Following an internal investigation, the University had found that they had “violated Turnbull’s freedom of speech” and “made him and other students afraid.”
A University of Sydney spokesperson told Honi, “Protests may be rowdy and spirited, but they cannot interfere with the rights and freedoms of others.
“We consider attempts to shut down speakers who have been invited to our campuses to participate in an exchange of views and ideas as contrary to our Charter of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech, which defines the core values of our University in these matters.
“The safety and wellbeing of our community is our number one priority. We don’t take any disciplinary action lightly, knowing it has consequences for our students.
“Our Discipline Rule governs how we manage misconduct matters and clearly describes our rules, procedures, the impact of penalties and appeal rights. Findings and resulting penalties are determined accordingly, and in the context of our Charter of Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech. There is support available to any student who might need it.”
On the suspension itself, they said, “Due to our privacy responsibilities we can’t comment on the process or outcome for individual students.”
Godwin described the disciplinary process as “a kangaroo court.”
“There was no presumption of innocence, there was no place to refute evidence or counter evidence before a panel and I was gagged from speaking publicly about it,” Godwin said.
In the past, Honi has investigated the misconduct system and found flaws in its construction and operation. During USyd strikes last year, a student who participated in an online picket was faced with suspension on the basis that they “effectively prevented the tutors from continuing with the Classes.” The University retreated from their decision after the NTEU Sydney Uni Branch Committee passed a motion in support of the student, and a petition signed by 155 students and staff.
In 2018, NSW Labor MLC Greg Donnelly lobbied the University to suspend 2018 SRC Women’s Officer Madeline Ward for partaking in a pro-choice protest on campus. Ward was suspended for a semester, though it was eventually downgraded to a written warning.
Last year, Honi attempted to investigate the rates of students wrongly accused for misconduct but the GIPA was denied on the basis that it related to only one student.
Godwin and Clark will both appeal their suspensions.
This article has been amended to reflect an updated statement from the University of Sydney.