Oppose the expulsion of Workers Party activists from Victoria University

 Join the protests:  Auckland Solidarity Protest for expelled anti-war Victoria Uni students Wednesday, May 27, 2009 12:00pm – 1:00pm Assemble in main quad, Auckland University

Wellington 12 -1pm on Friday, May 29, at Kelburn Parade (by Victoria University)

Students Alastair Reith, Joel Cosgrove and Ian Anderson have been expelled from Victoria University for burning the New Zealand flag. They did this in protest against New Zealand imperialism and New Zealand’s involvement in such imperialist ventures as Iraq, East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, the occupation of Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The students are not allowed to reenrol until next trimester, and are banned from sitting their exams. As a result they will fail all their courses, and as they are not being issued a refund they are essentially receiving a fine of several thousand dollars each.

The University is claiming that they were expelled for “health and safety” reasons. However this is clearly not the case. The flag was burned outside, in the rain, on the soaking wet smoker’s smokers’ deck outside the Mount Street Bar, and despite the false claims of the University the students had a bottle of water with them with which to put the fire out, and extinguished it themselves with water taken from inside the bar.

And if this was really about “health and safety”, why is Ian Anderson being expelled for filming the event? He had no direct role in burning the flag, and his only involvement was recording on camera what took place. Another student and Workers Party member, Marika Pratley, has been issued an official warning for simply being present on the deck while the flag was burned!

You don’t have to agree one hundred percent with the expelled student’s students’ politics, or with the act of burning the flag. But whatever way you look at it, this is an outrageous abuse of power by the University which sets a worrying precedent. This is an issue of freedom of speech, freedom of expression and the right to engage in political activity without fear of reprisal. If you support basic civil liberties and democratic rights, you should do everything you can to oppose the University’s decision and support Alastair, Joel and Ian being reinstated.

This coming Friday (the 29th), midday on Kelburn Parade, there is a protest being held against the expulsion of the students. If you think this is an over the top punitive action and support the right of student’s students’ to protest and take part in political activism in a free, open and democratic environment, you should come along and make your voice heard. Don’t let the University silence free speech!

Workers Party press release on the expulsions.


  1. magonagal says:

    If you support the right of students to have a quiet drink in a bar without stupid people lighting fires, then turn up to applaud the university’s right to discipline students for seious misconduct. these people were given an opportunity to appeal or put their side of the argumnet but chose to stage another protest instead. I’ll be very surprised if they get more than 20 students to support them on kelburn parade. Of course the worker’s party rent a crowd will be in attendance.

  2. magonagal says:

    Just as I predicted. #0 people show up to the Kelburn campus protest. less than half of them students the rest just the usual rabble from the Worker’s party. Guess that Joel and the other “radicals” have no support on campus.

  3. magonagal says:

    #0 should be 30

  4. Matthew_Cunningham says:

    I supported them, and i’m not a member of the Workers Party. In fact, I regularly disagree with their ideology and politics. I simply could not find any rational reasoning behind the choice of action undertaken by the university; conversely, I found plenty of reasons – free speech and the right to voice one’s opinion chief amongst them – to oppose it. To quote ‘The American President’:

    “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest”

    To advocate otherwise is hypocricy, pure and simple.

    Cheers, Matt.

  5. magonagal says:

    Matt, I don’t think anyone was denying them the right to free speech. As I said they were given a right of reply which they chose not to exercise. What I was pointing out was their infringement of other people’s right to have a quiet drink in the bar. With rights comes responsibilities. That is part of being a responsible citizen.

  6. John Edmundson says:

    Magonagal says:
    “I don’t think anyone was denying them the right to free speech.”

    Actually some have advocated exactly that. Some people have said they should be gaoled, others have said they should be hanged. Some other less irrational critics have approved of the expulsion, which is in effect a fine of a couple of thousand dollars each for an act that never threatened anyone. Even the least of those measures could have the effect of stifling freedom of speech.

    “What I was pointing out was their infringement of other people’s right to have a quiet drink in the bar.”

    God forbid that people’s political expression might actually be noticed by someone having a quiet drink. I’d put money on it that every week in every student bar in the country someone does something that “infringes” on someone’s “quiet drink”. But I’d also bet there aren’t expulsions happening every week as a result. I’d say there are people filming stuff on university campuses too without being expelled for it.

    Of course boring though it may be, I will restate that it didn’t take place “in the bar”, but outside in the rain. Regardless, these people haven’t been expelled for upsetting some sensitive soul at the student bar who couldn’t handle a few seconds’ disruption to their “quiet drink”. They were expelled on the spurious grounds that they caused some sort of serious health and safety threat.

  7. Regardless, nobody would’ve been able to have a “quiet drink” even if the flag burning had not happened – there was a Students Representative Council happening in the bar, where whoever was speaking at any given time had use of a microphone plugged into large speakers.

  8. WP Admin says:

    Plus there’s the hecklers to factor in.

  9. Matthew Cunningham says:

    “I don’t think anyone was denying them the right to free speech”

    Fair enough comment – it’s not like they were prevented from voicing their ‘fiery’ opinion by heavy-handed, truncheon wielding police officers. However, my stance is around ‘free speech and the right to voice one’s opinion’ without the fear of consequences – a stance that I feel was unfairly broken by the University’s decision to disenrol these students. The reasoning behind the disenrolment was not consistent with either the reality of the protest (it was isolated and posed no danger to anyone) nor the supposed violations of the the Student Conduct Statute – which specifically states that it “is not intended to apply to reasonable behaviour by students in the exercise of academic freedom” (Section 4.2 j xiv)

    “[T]hey were given a right of reply which they chose not to exercise”

    Again, fair enough – I thought that their failure to take advantage of the formal complaint resolution process spelled out in section 4.4.1 of the Statute was unnecessarily inflammatory – but worthy of disenrollment? Hell no.

    “With rights comes responsibilities. That is part of being a responsible citizen”

    I agree. And are we not in turn responsible for vigorously upholding the standards of free speech that we hold so dear? It’s easy to support a democratic framework when the opinions being voiced within it are fairly uniform – however, it is when those voices become increasingly dissenting that our values are put to the test.

    Cheers, Matt.

  10. magonagal says:

    Wasn’t one of the tests of free speech that you couldn’t/shouldn’t yell Fire! in a crowded theatre? What exactly was the message they were trying to convey by standing on a cold wet veranadah at the Mount st Bar and setting fire to a NZ flag they’d only just purchased? I’m sure there are better ways to communicate to the public that they should support your views? Given the WP gained less than a thousand votes in the General election they need to take a good look at how they garner support. i’d be very surprised if burning flags was a vote catcher!

  11. John Edmundson says:

    That’s why we objected to people doing exactly that. There was no fire “in” a crowded theatre but that’s exactly what many, including yourself – “a quiet drink in a bar” – have tried to claim. And there was no danger, so no need to “yell Fire!” I’m glad you’ve come to see that ;-)

    Any understanding of the WP’s view of elections – try talking to some of us one day – shows that the WP do not choose their actions or positions on issues of the day on the basis of winning votes. Winning votes has never been the primary purpose of the WP’s participation in elections. We do it to get our politics – what we see as key issues for working class unity in the long term, like internationalism – into the public arena, not to bend our politics to fit with current popular views. If we wanted to do that we’d join the Labour or National Party. So we won’t just go around randomly burning flags, but we won’t decide our strategy based on electoral considerations, we’d rather be honest about what we believe to be important.

  12. As a student at VUW I can’t tell you how happy alot of us are to be rid of him. If you’re going to go on about political views, at least be nice about it, or target the government instead of the university.
    I have been informed that people know of joel cosgrove as “a prick before he went to university”. I can’t say much of that really changed. Not only did he burn that flag (which was said to be inside the bar, hence the reasoning for the health and safety issue) he also stole money from the students after he took a trip to australia. It was approved on the condition he wrote an essay justifying the trip. He wrote a draft but no essay. I still don’t know if he actually paid the money back yet or not. probably not.
    Personally I was quite pleased to see him given a ban on trespassing on the university for 2 years. he really was a thorn in our ass, considering he was usually harassing people, come student election time, along with Nick Kelly.
    Its not about the communism. its about his actions and his attitude that I don’t like him.

  13. “As a student at VUW I can’t tell you how happy alot of us are to be rid of him.”

    By ‘him’ I assume you mean Joel Cosgrove? This may be a shock to some people, but this isn’t all about Joel. He’s a member of the Workers Party. I’m Ian Anderson, also a member of the Workers Party, and I was kicked out for filming a protest. Let me restate that: I filmed someone burning a flag, outside in the rain, and for that, failed the courses for that trimester and lost my fees. Meanwhile, the Greens have faced trouble from Vic for holding petition stalls in the quad.

    Focusing obsessively on Joel Cosgrove might be satisfying, but it detracts from noticing the elephant in the room; the clampdown on democracy by an increasingly stretched university. As for targeting the government, we do actively oppose the student loan scheme and the cuts to funding – but the university is a part of the state apparatus. Do you really feel comfortable with a university that disenrols students for participating in protest action, and trespasses members of the public for holding signs saying “free education”?

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