University trespass actions questioned
Thu, 17 Jul 2008
By Sarah Harvey
Otago University Student Association president Simon Wilson has questioned whether the university is trying to "crush political dialogue".
Two students, members of the pro-marijuana reform group Norml, have been issued trespass notices and are no longer allowed on the student union lawn, the area where the group holds its twice-weekly protests.
"We don't have to like what they are campaigning for, but we have to respect their right to protest," Mr Wilson said.
"It's ridiculous that students can be trespassed from an institution where they pay fees to attend.
"We are members of the university and it's abhorrent that university management can have someone trespassed just because they disagree with their political views."
The university was contacted by the Otago Daily Times yesterday but said it could not respond to questions until today.
Mr Wilson said the students' association supported political dialogue and said universities were meant to be places where people could "agitate" for change.
The Norml group has attracted attention in the past few weeks after police announced they would crack down on the group.
Non-student members of the group have since been issued with trespass notices, and three people, including Norml leader Abe Gray, were arrested during a marijuana protest at the university last week.
Two of those arrested have yet to appear in court, while the third person pleaded guilty in the Dunedin District Court on Tuesday to a charge of disorderly behaviour.
Mr Wilson said Norml's campaign of civil disobedience could expect to attract police attention, but the group's protests should not be directly targeted by the university.