UPDATE: 30 Month Suspension For Willetts Protester

, News Editor

UPDATE: CUSU and CDE are planning a demonstration in central Cambridge today to protest the University's sentence.

UPDATE 16 March 10am

Plans have been finalised for a mass demonstration at 1pm today outside the Senate House.

A press release from Cambridge Defend Education said that “staff and lecturers will protest outside the University of Cambridge Old Schools building against the decision to rusticate a student protester, Owen Holland, for seven terms for his part in a peaceful protest in November.

The mood is expected to be angry.”

Meanwhile, CUSU’s petition continues to gather support, with 2,000 signatures already – including dozens of academics.

CUSU President Gerard Tully last night encouraged all signatories to attend the protest, saying “We can make the University back down on this, but only if enough students, academics and staff take a stand against this absurd judgement.”


UPDATE 15 March 1.50pm

CUSU’s petition has amassed almost 1,000 signatures in just over twelve hours.


 UPDATE 15th March 2am

CUSU has begun a petition, entitled “This Is Not Justice”, which calls on the uni to repeal the punishment.

The petition slams the “exemplary and punitive” sentence and calls for the reinstatement of Holland. The uni has been accused of undermining its “professed commitment to freedom of speech and the right to protest” for the sentence.

Over 100 people, including University Challenge superstar Alex Guttenplan, have signed the petition, which can be found here.


Cambridge has sent down a protester who shut down MP David Willetts’ speech last term. He cannot return to for over 2 years.

Owen Holland, an English PhD student, was sent down today until October 2014 and banned him from using any Cambridge premises. He was charged with “recklessly or intentionally impeding free speech within the Precincts of the University”.

The decision was made by the Court of Discipline after a six-hour hearing.


CDE’s protest caught on camera. 

During the protest, Holland hijacked Willetts’ speech by reading a poem attacking him for the rise in Uni fees. He labelled the minister as “a man who believes in the market and in the power of competition”. Activists then began an occupation of the hall in which Willetts spoke, which lasted a week.

Students and fellows alike have spoken out immediately to condemn the action which they see as harsher than expected.

CUSU President Gerard Tully released a statement in which he said he was “dismayed by the University Court’s bizarre decision to hand down to a single student a punishment seven times stronger than what the University’s own prosecutors had asked for”.

The decision comes despite a “Spartacus letter” from over 60 dons and students protesting the university’s decision to single out one student for punishment.

A CDE spokesman told The Tab that the sentence was “completely outrageous” and revealed that Holland was “rather shocked” at the outcome. The organisation later posted an aggressive message on Twitter:

Meanwhile, Corpus student Rees Arnott-Davies, said that “the idea that you can protect freedom of speech by silencing protest is the height of hypocrisy.”

Holland now has 28 days to appeal his case.

  • Appropriate

    Act like a dick, get treated like a dick

    • Same logic

      you should have rusticated years ago then

      • ?_?

        you should have rusticated

    • Tad Harsh?

      Compared to Charlie Gilmour who gets absolutely no punishment from Cambridge, who massively brought the name of the University (and Girton college into disrepute).

      Yes Owen Holland is a complete dickhead, anybody who refuses access to free speech, and access to a forum to discuss ideas deserves to get some form of punishment, it just seems very harsh relative to other protesters. They are basically saying a nonviolent protest is significantly worse than violent, mindless aggressive protests.

      I don't mind cambridge taking a hard stance on people refusing others free speech, but there seems to be a distinct lack of consistency here.

      • ggg

        I agree. Charlie Gilmour shouldn't have been allowed back at all.

  • ….


  • Cambridge Zoonion

    I disagree with this guy about pretty much everything politically, and protests must be done in such a way as not to deny one's opponents their right to free speech. But the punishment is grossly disproportionate – a one term rustication would have been more appropriate.

  • Nice post…

    Classic CDE member- doesn't even understand basic capitalisation rules…

    • Grammar Nazi

      I appreciated the fact that he correctly included the 'that' to form the indirect statement though.

  • well..

    CDE are a bunch of pricks

  • ISpeakForTheStudents

    GUYS you know what this means. OCCUPY THE UNIVERSITY COURT. We've got 2 days to do this, because on Saturday I've got to catch a flight to Berlin for my disposable camera vacation. Really need to be on top form for Berghain so can we all please just do this as we always do? Let's occupy this shit fervently for two days and then piss off and do our usual social media campaigning.

    • fan

      You're doing fine work, ISpeakForTheStudents.

    • Agrrewithmeorelse

      Shame, I was looking forward to his promised "debates on the nature of free speech"

      Which is apparently is only permitted if you agree unreservedly with certain factions of the CUSU women's campaign?

    • Jokes..

      you're a massive idiot

    • Irony

      They actually are marching on the old schools now.

  • Genuinely

    This is outrageous!

  • :-)

    Bet hes gutted. Shoulda read a better poem.

  • Cantab

    "Rusticated", not sent down, "rusticated".

  • Personally…

    if i disrupted a talk by a high ranking politician, occupied a lecture theatre for a week (disrupting other students learning), and i nationally embarrassed and disgraced my university, i'd expect some form of a punishment… The university court is an independent body overseen by a high court judge… it is inherently designed to be fair and just…
    personally i say accept the peoples Spartacus letters and suspend the lot of them…

    • Crassus

      Crucify 'em, I say.

    • Yes!!

      I don't understand why this isn't more popular.

      We have a bunch of irritating vigilante protestors essentially requesting to be sent down. For once we could listen to what they're saying, and get rid of the lot of them. Then they might be a bit more careful in the future about which bandwagon they mindlessly jump on…

    • i'm not particularly

      up in arms about this, but "it is inherently designed to be fair and just… " is a stupid as arse reason to agree with the decision of the court

  • Entire Student Body

    We are ashamed of our University.

    • Well

      I'm a student. and I'm not ashamed. You don't speak for the students.

    • jokes

      is this a non-ironic version of ISpeakForTheStudents, a mere 5 posts below the great man?

    • Notta

      Don't you dare presume to speak for me.

    • UPC

      No, blood.

    • The Tab Readership

      Our thumbs are ashamed of you.

  • Revd Slipper

    Human rights.

  • Anonymous

    However difficult it is to sympathise with CDE, I think it's fair to say that this is excessive…

  • Huh.

    Don't get me wrong, I think the sentence is way too harsh but:
    "the idea that you can protect freedom of speech by silencing protest is the height of hypocrisy.”
    Really? Surely the idea that you can protect freedom of speech by silencing a talk by a government minister is the height of hypocrisy too?

    • C*nts Disrupt Events

      Yep, it's fairly clear to me that you can protect free speech by deterring morons from deciding that what he's got to say is more important than what everyone else wants to listen to.

    • Danny

      It amazes me that David Willetts' right to free speech is still the be-all and end-all of this debate.
      The man is an MP, is it his right to free speech we should be concerned with defending? David Willetts' platform was one which denied a voice to generations of students whose education will be damaged. His position had been parroted in similar speeches around the country, and there was no student voice on the series. Free speech is a complex issue. Is every back-bencher's jeer a denial of David Willetts' right to free speech when he speaks in the house of commons? Did his platform need to be listened to when he was just trotting out the party line for the hundredth time? Surely free speech involves the right to shout out when your voice is being ignored. Endlessly yelping 'free speech' as if it were a cut-and dry issue is nothing but moronic.

      • To Danny

        Thanks for your two pennies worth.

  • CDE

    Pioneering 'peaceful' protest…

  • Oh dear

    When I watched the CDE 'poetic protest' (as the Guardian puts it) for the first time, I was as ashamed as anybody else to have been through the same University as those involved. Sanctimonious, blinkered, self-indulgent, obsessed with their own supposed superiority, and – wonderfully – under the impression that a "belief in competition" is some sort of crazed fringe right-wingery.

    But this is clearly completely disproportionate, and it just plays into CDE's hands. Now we can all expect far more of this 'battle' and far more of their victim complex, when ignoring them and leaving them to reflect on their own irrelevance seemed at least to quieten things down for a bit.

  • Well that

    Seems a little excessive.

  • Student Protestor

    Consequences for actions!?!

  • Reprehensible

    Completely ridiculous. I didn't support the original action, but that doesn't change the fact that this sentence is reprehensible.

  • Ricky Alty

    As a teetotaler, I am astounded at this young man's behaviour. His intentional attempt to impend free speech within the precincts of the University are typical of the debaucherous thugs that are omnipresent in Cambridge. All power to the politicians!

  • to the Spartacuses:

    I think the reason that they picked on Mr Holland was that he is a PhD student, whereas most CDE activists are undergraduates. As a higher-ranking junior member of the University, it follows that higher standards of conduct can reasonably be expected of him.

    Nonetheless, I agree that 30 months is a very long sentence, and, notwithstanding the aforementioned reason cited for the choice of individual, seems perverse given that charges were not brought against the other CDE activists involved.

    • O RLY?

      Pretty sure there are full-blown academics on the 'Spartacus letter' (Gopal? Prynne?) so I don't think this explanation works.

  • Is this him?
    • Cambridge Zoonion

      Yes. He played the role of the human RON in the Union election. Actually made hustings vaguely interesting, though.

  • wut

    I don't get why people are moaning about his sentence so much. A couple of months wouldn't make a difference but hopefully two years will. He didn't just interrupt a speaker; he held a week long occupation.

    • really?

      He didn't hold a week long occupation. a whole load of students and academics held one together. And this would be a hugely unfair sentence for that too..

      • wut

        Says who? If you did that in a job you'd get sacked straight away.

        • Blindingly obvious

          They're not being paid to be here, they are paying to be here. I think that's the fundamental difference you seem to have overlooked.

  • Dave

    I act like a misogynistic dick head and encouraging excessive binge drinking and my punishment is being banned from formal hall for 4 weeks when I hardly go at all, this guy stands up for a political belief he truly deems to be a worthy cause and his punishment is a 30 month rustication? There is something seriously wrong with this. And I don't understand how anyone can claim that anything that isn't overtly forceful is in any way impinging on free speech…

    • Impinging

      How about a room full of people shouting you down?

  • Please

    Think it's unfair?

    sign the petition here…

    • Alternative

      If you don't think it's unfair?

      sign the petition here. . . http://www.ban_the_sanctimonious_prick_for_longer

      • Disappointed…

        that that URL doesn't exist :(

    • Lies!

      That petition isn't for people who "think it's unfair", it's calling for him to be 'reinstated'.

      If you still think he deserves to be sent down for at least a little bit, don't sign it.

  • OOPS

    A little harsh but if this is what it takes for the CDE to pipe down and realise they dont represent 'Cambridge' Defend Education, then so be it.

    • J.W.

      No. The idea of having a scapegoat in order to make a general point is fundamentally wrong, and dangerous, however much we may disagree with CDE's actions. Once you abandon the requirement of proportionate punishment, you might as well punish innocent people if it gets CDE to 'pipe down'.

      • Dictionary.com

        "Scapegoat" – "a person made to bear the blame for others".

        Not really, though, is he?

      • Proportionality

        So, instead of making one guy a scapegoat, we give the same punishment to everyone else who's signed the letter asking to be punished as well.

        Everyone's a winner.

        • J.W.

          Proportionality also requires that the punishment should fit the crime, which in this case it clearly doesn't.

  • Fear not…

    CUSU is doubtless on the case….

    Juan – "I have had the joy of serving as CUSU Communications Officer. I was never told what to do…. Good luck to whoever inherits this dull, god-forsaken position."

  • not a massive tory

    Lets hope the uni takes up the offers of other CDE members to get equal punishment

    • Cambridge Loonion

      Redistribute the rustications, comrade!

  • Compareandcontrast

    30-month ban for driver three times over the limit

  • Shit poem

    It didn't even rhyme

  • Girton took no form of action against Charlie Gilmoure, and he actually committed a crime. I really hope this guy has a rich daddy.

    • What?

      Girton took no action because Gilmour had already served a criminal sentence.

  • Capital Punishment

    For him and his kin

  • Scapegoat

    What about all the other people who were being disruptive?

  • Economist

    Apparently Willets is “a man who believes in the market and in the power of competition”.

    I fail to see the problem with this.

    • CDE

      It's cos we're all raging communists innit.

    • consequences

      The irony being, the moment we switch to a market of higher education, all of our smartest/foreigners are moving to american universities because they can actually support students financially.

      Under this new model we would need to increase giving from alumni some huge amount to provide adequate support. As it stands, the smartest kids are just going ivy league instead.

      We've increased the price of our goods to the end consumer, and dropped the value, whilst elsewhere they are doing the opposite. If we're going to run education like a market, you must understand, the american's will win.

  • Good

    One step towards a student population which understands that your right to free speech doesn't give you the right to rob other people of theirs. I'm glad that the University have decided to join the Union Society in telling these self-centred, entitled 'activists' to stop their fascist assaults on free speech.

    • The Union

      The Union Society clearly doesn't agree with this – the Union hacks are out in force protesting this on Facebook. It's one thing to disagree with shouting down a speaker, but quite something else to issue such a disproportionate punishment.

      • Good

        Never said they did, mate.

  • Better Idea

    Ban CDE for 7 terms and let the PhD student come back to no friends. Maybe his poetry will get better.

  • caian

    Bracing for CDE to occupy my library again because it's close to Senate house.

  • LoveTab&LoveTCS

    TCS coverage under fire (again) over the coverage on the fb group for the march

  • Dorothy Wayneright

    I think CDE members should be made to wear armbands identifying them as such at all times, and forced to live in ghettos while we prepare a more lasting solution.

  • reality

    By reading out that poem, Owen led the protest. However peaceful it might have been, CDE still prevented Willetts from speaking and occupied university property. The sentence is too extensive but if you put your face out there as the leader of a movement and do shit wrong, prepare to be punished for it.

  • i went

    protest was shit

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