Sixteen Universiti Malaysia Sabah Labuan (UMSKAL) students were brought before the university’s disciplinary committee on May 26, 2014 for contravening the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA). They were charged with “organising assembly and protests without university’s permission in campus”, based on a student demonstration in front of the UMSKAL administration building on Feb 21, 2014, during which students protested the university’s decision to close a student run stationary shop on campus.
Eight students were suspended for one semester and expelled from their dormitory after admitting to participating in the demonstration. Another three were suspended for one semester on June 4, 2014, one week before they were due to sit for the final exam of their final semester. As of this report, another five students were awaiting a decision from the disciplinary committee.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about expulsion and other retaliation against students for their peaceful exercise of the right of free expression. State and university authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliatory discharge aimed at limiting such expressive activity harms academic freedom and related higher education values including autonomy and social responsibility.