Students at La Trobe university have been in occupation since August 23, in protest against planned cuts to Humanities and Social Sciences. After a demonstration and a brief occupation on August 13, the vice chancellor had emailed students to say that they could be suspended or expelled for participating in unauthorised protests. The University was particularly worried about the possibility of disruption to its Open Day, August 26.
At the Open Day, the vice chancellor had to escape a student protest ambush by using an underground tunnel network at the campus.
ABC News: Latrobe University students were protesting against funding and job cuts at the humanities faculty during Open Day at the university’s Bundoora campus.
The student union claims the university plans to axe 41 staff and 500 subjects.
But as Professor John Dewar was talking to the media, marching students rounded a corner towards him.
When they spotted the university head, the protesters chased him into a building and up through a corridor, where he was protected and surrounded by security and staff.
Professor Dewar was jostled by the crowd of protesters before staff and security could whisk him away into a nearby room.
Students thought they had him holed up as they chanted: “Come out John” and formed a barricade.
But Mr Dewar was able to escape the situation by using the university’s underground tunnel network, and was guided back to his office.
“I did have to make a quick escape at one point but my colleagues were able to get me back to my office very quickly,” he said.
“I was in student centre offices and then there was a lift that took us down to the tunnels and then we were easily away from there. So not a problem.”
He says it just goes to show how passionate students are about humanities.
“I was just anxious to ensure that the parents and the children and prospective students were not too alarmed by what was going on so the campus could focus on the main business of the day,” he said.
Despite the scare, Mr Dewar says he supports the students’ right to protest.
“I think it adds colour and movement to life on campus, I think it’s fantastic,” he said.
La Trobe University will review what happened and some students may face penalties, which include expulsion.