Edinburgh University ‘to take disciplinary action’ against ethical investment protesters

Students accuse university of using up time and resources on 'intimidating students' as opposed to 'making a commitment to full divestment'

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The Independent Online

Student protesters at the University of Edinburgh have said the institution is to take disciplinary action against them.

The move comes after a group of demonstrators occupied the university’s main finance office earlier this month in a bid to pressure the institution to divest from fossil fuels.

In an online statement on Thursday, the demonstrators said: “Following our picket of Charles Stewart House on 8 April, the university is taking disciplinary action against People and Planet under the student code of conduct.”

The People and Planet movement says it is the largest student network in Britain campaigning to “end world poverty, defend human rights, and protect the environment.”

The students expressed disappointment at the fact that, after a year-long campaign involving around 50 students participating in direct action for ethical investment, the university had “singled out just six students” for further investigation.

The group said: “The only evidence they are using against us is one picture found on social media of our peaceful protest.”

After a week of occupation and protest, the students announced on 8 April they had left, adding: “But we blockaded and shut down the building on the way out.”

In their statement on Thursday, though, the students said: “Despite constantly stating that the university defends the rights of students to peacefully protest, the inconsistency with which it is applying its code of conduct makes it clear this is an attempt to scare people away from taking meaningful action against the university.”

The students also accused the university of using up time and resources on “intimidating students” as opposed to “making a commitment to full divestment,” adding: “It is a telling sign of a nationwide crackdown on political dissent.

“We will fight this disciplinary action and our campaign continues in full force. We urge everyone to spread the word about this attack on student activism and dissent.”

In a statement to the Independent, however, a university spokesman said no one had been disciplined “at this moment.”

He added: “An investigation has begun into allegations of misconduct during recent protests at Charles Stewart House.  

“Although the university respects the students’ right to peaceful and lawful protest, their behaviour is governed - at all times - by the code of student conduct.  

“The right to protest must be balanced with other university responsibilities, such as the right of employees to work. Any allegation of obstructing staff will be taken seriously.”

The Independent has contacted People and Planet Edinburgh for further comment.

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