Cambridge University has imposed an unprecedented seven-term (two-and-a-half-year) suspension on a PhD student, Owen Holland, for his part in a peaceful protest last November.
The move is a gross violation of Holland’s democratic rights. It is calculated to intimidate students and counter all expressions of political dissent.
Holland’s crime is to have led the collective reading of a poem against Universities Minister David Willetts. This led to Willetts’s talk being cancelled. No other protester that night has been penalised in the same way. But the severity of the punishment meted out is intended to deter future protests.
State governments in Australia have begun to implement the federal Labor government’s “Empowering Local Schools” program. In the name of greater school autonomy, it gives principals increased powers over teachers and other staff, paving the way for further budget cuts and the atomisation of the public education system.
The initial phase consists of a trial by 1,000 public and independent schools across Australia over the next two years. By 2018, according to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, all schools will be “self-governing”. Autonomy is a mechanism for transforming schools into businesses competing for students and resources, with those in working class areas losing out.
A report on student debt published March 5 by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York highlights the social disaster confronting young people in the United States.
Amid mass unemployment, falling wages and rising tuition, more and more college graduates are unable to keep up with student loan payments. The report found that over one quarter of student loan borrowers are late on their payments, far higher than the 15 percent reported in earlier surveys.