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  • Ethan Manera

Staff Told to Tear Down Posters Protesting Staff Cuts On Open Day

Words by Ethan Manera (he/him) 

Documents released to Salient under the Official Information Act reveal the university ordered the removal of posters protesting staff cuts around campus ahead of Open Day.

A staff member, whose name was withheld by the university, emailed the communications department in early August saying, “We have seen quite a few posters and fliers dropped across campus about “staff cuts” and “programme cuts” etc. I know we are a University and encourage freedom of speech, [...] but I don't want this to be a key focus for Open Day (given the purpose of Open Day is recruitment of new students!)”.

A work order slip was then submitted requesting Campus Care “remove ‘stop the cuts’ posters dotted around the Campus ahead of the Friday 25th Open Day”.

On Open Day, a video emerged of a security officer tearing Students Against Cuts (SAC) posters off a notice board in the Kirk Building, prompting widespread outrage on social media with many calling out the university for restricting students’ freedom of expression and right to protest. Some comments from both academic staff and students included calling the removal of posters “an act of silencing dissent” and “absolutely fucking disgraceful”.

Staff involved had noted in earlier emails that posters on public notice boards were not allowed to be removed, and only those in areas such as windows, walls, and the columns in the Hub could be torn down. However, this was not communicated in the work order slip, and was only conveyed through a direct message at 11:20 a.m. on Open Day, 48 minutes before the video surfaced.

When the university was made aware of the post, internal emails show the communications team called the situation “annoying”.

“They shouldn't have been taken down. Grrr,” a staff member expressed.

They responded to the outrage by releasing a statement saying the posters “were removed due to a misunderstanding”, and that the university “respects and strongly supports our students’ rights to express their views”. 

The university was closely monitoring the posters discourse on social media, emailing screenshots of Twitter threads where staff and union spokespeople criticised the removal of posters.

The released documents show university staff were also closely monitoring SAC’s plans for Open Day, with a staff member covertly photographing a student erecting protest posters in the Hub and emailing the image to other senior staff. A university spokesperson disputes this, saying the photo “was not taken covertly, but as part of our usual practice of informing relevant staff of activities happening on campus that might be of interest”.

The university’s Chief Operating Officer, Tina Wakefield, maintains that the posters “were removed in error due to a misunderstanding”.


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