Michael Yoganayagam reports for Cambridge University’s The Cambridge Student on the Universities Minster’s response to the suspension of PhD student Owen Holland:
Universities Minister David Willetts has declined to offer any support to PhD student Owen Holland, who was suspended for seven terms last week for his involvement in an anti-Willetts protest last year.
Willetts had so far refused to comment on the matter, which has outraged students and academics nationwide. However, appearing at the European University Association’s annual conference at the University of Warwick on Friday, Willetts was asked about Holland’s actions and sentence by Allan Pall, president of the European Students Union. Willetts responded: “It is important to sustain freedom of speech in universities, but it was the only time that I have been shouted down and been unable to give a speech. I had many people who wrote in and were very shocked about what happened.”
Of the punishment, he added: “It is a matter for the university and for their disciplinary procedures.”
Willetts said he was still keen to engage with students despite the hostile receptions that have greeted some of his visits to universities. “One can engage with students,” he said. “I was at Southampton where students were addressing me through a loudhailer. They could not hear me because they were talking so loudly, so I was able to use their loudhailer to speak to them.”
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