A University of Sydney student has been banned from campus for one month after participating in a protest that took place during a visit from the Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop last week.
But at least one of the reasons relied on for the ban — a claim that NSW Police are investigating an alleged assault on a campus security officer — have collapsed.
On Friday afternoon Tom Raue, a 23-year-old Arts student and the Vice President of the University of Sydney Union (USU), received an email from campus security informing him of the decision.
National Union of Students President, Deanne Taylor said the Raue incident marks the first time a student has been punished by their university for participation in a campus protest since the wave of demonstrations and actions intensified on Wednesday.
“I’m yet to hear of any other issues from students on campuses around the country,” Taylor said.
Student representatives at the University of Technology Sydney and the Australian National University told New Matilda they were also unaware of any instituted bans on their campuses.
In the email to Raue, Campus Security Unit Manager Morgan Andrews said video footage showed the student “attempting to physically force [his]way through security and police officers”.
“We are also aware that you allegedly punched a Campus Security Officer in the face and that this is being investigated by NSW Police,” the email said.
But a spokesperson for NSW police dismissed the claim.
“My understanding is that there is no investigation into that matter,” the spokesperson said.
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported receiving the same response.
Raue said he had not been contacted by police since the protest but declined to comment directly when asked whether he punched the security officer, citing legal advice.
“Police officers and security on multiple occasions restricted my movement; tackled me, hit me, pushed me to the ground. Any violence was on their part,” he said.
The University of Sydney confirmed that Raue is currently the only student who has faced sanctions for his actions.
University of Sydney’s Head of Media and PR, Kirsten Andrews told New Matilda the university has not ruled out further action against other students involved in the protest.
The decision to single out Raue is already causing a stir at Sydney University given his position as an elected student official, and as a long time antagonist towards university’s management.
In 2013 Raue leaked a document to campus newspaper Honi Soit which indicated the university had been dishonest in distancing itself from police actions during staff strikes that year. Students involved in pickets on campus had complained of police violence, and one was hospitalised with a broken leg.
Andrews said that university’s decision was based on reports made by security officials, which were escalated to the office of the Vice-Chancellor.
Raue said he it was unclear whether he had been targeted.
“There were at least 20 people there, and at some point it swelled to 100,” he said.
“I do think it’s very startling that I appear to be the only person from the whole protest who has been [sanctioned]in any way.”
Manager of Campus Security Morgan Andrews declined to comment on his report or the video, and directed enquiries back to the university’s media department, who also declined to comment further.
Raue said the ban would prevent him from performing his role in the student organisation and that it may force him to resign.
“I cannot access the office, I can’t go to the computer, I can’t speak to staff in person, I can’t attend any working party, committee or board meetings,” he said.
Taylor said she was concerned at the precedent established by the ban.
“There’s always a chance that universities will use disciplinary action on students who engage in forms of legitimate protest and I think that’s especially true of our current times,” Taylor said.
“We’ve got a very strong student body coming out to oppose the budget.
“So far it seems like most vice-chancellors, even if they have been in favour of deregulation and measures in the budget, are supportive or at least indifferent to protests.”
New Matilda understands Raue’s chances of appealing the decision are limited, as he is not currently enrolled in any subjects at the university.
USU President Hannah Morris told New Matilda her organisation continued to support Raue.
"The USU Board is going to work with Tom in assisting him to perform his duties as VP and Board Director,” Ms Morris said.
The move against Raue came just one day after the University of Sydney played host to violent scenes, when Education Minister Christopher Pyne, Attorney General George Brandis, and other prominent Liberals attended a Young Liberal debating competition.
“I should not be singled out for punishment for engaging in a protest against the Abbott Government,” Raue said.
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