The Chancellor of the University of Queensland (UQ) said he will hold a special-out-of-session university senate meeting to discuss a university disciplinary body’s “severe” decision to suspend for two years final-year student and senate member Drew Pavlou.
In a statement sent to Neos Kosmos, Chancellor Peter Varghese said: “I was today advised about the outcome of the disciplinary action against Mr Pavlou.
“There are aspects of the findings and the severity of the penalty which personally concern me.
“In consultation with the Vice Chancellor, (Peter Høj) who has played no role in this disciplinary process, I have decided to convene an out-of-session meeting of UQ’s Senate next week to discuss the matter.”
Mr Pavlou said that his status on the university senate was not affected by the disciplinary decision. He told Neos Kosmos that he had no direction as to whether he could attend the out-of-session meeting called for by the UQ chancellor.
Mr Pavlou said on Twitter on Friday that “The University of Queensland has expelled me for two years for criticizing the Chinese Communist Party. They gave no reasoning and threatened consequences if I breached the confidentiality of their decision. I will immediately appeal to the Supreme Court.
News of Mr Pavlou’s suspension from the university has drawn international media attention with one commentator calling him the “world’s most famous undergraduate.” His case has been under media scrutiny for over a year.
“I am emotionally exhausted I have done so many interviews,” he said on Saturday.
Top law firms MinterEllison and Clayton Utz contributed to the UQ disciplinary hearing against Mr Pavlou that was held last week on Wednesday (20 May). The cost of hiring the two firms will have probably cost the university hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Eleven charges of misconduct were levelled against him in a 186-page document.
After an hour into the hearing, Mr Pavlou withdrew from the hearing on the basis that it was heavily biased against him. The decision was taken on the advice of his legal representative at the hearing, Tony Harris QC.
Mr Pavlou also revealed on Twitter a MinterEllison recommendation to the UQ disciplinary that: “Having regard to the above considerations, if the Disciplinary Board makes a finding that the Student has engaged in misconduct, the University considers it is open to the Disciplinary Board to impose the harshest of penalties: either expulsion from the University or suspension of up to five years.
“These penalties are reserved for level 3 general misconduct (being student misconduct that is serious, as opposed to moderate or minimal).”
One of the accusations against him was that he used a black marker in a campus books shop that he left on the counter after being asked to buy it. The New York Times article said that Mr Pavlou also posted a picture of himself outside the Confucius Insitute on campus wearing a biosafety suit with a message that the Chinese government has given he world “this pandemic”. He has also goaded the university administrators on social media.
Mr Pavlou told Neos Kosmos on Tuesday (the decision was announced on Friday, 29 May) that he had expected that he would be expelled from the university for his outspoken stand against the policies of the People’s Republic China (PRC) towards the Uighur communities, and Hong Kong activists and its influence on the UQ campus.
Mr Pavlou he said that he intended to appeal and take the matter to the Supreme Court where he stood a better chance receiving of an independent and unbiased hearing.
In a statement on its website, UQ rejected that its disciplinary case was “a free-speech issue” and that disciplinary matters were “initiated in response to complaints made to the University.”
Mr Pavlou has attacked what he said are PRC links with the university administration, the presence of the Confucius Institute on the campus and the role of its Adjunct Professor, Dr Xu Jie, who is also the PRC Consul General in Brisbane.
In October last year, Mr Pavlou issued a summons on Dr Jie to appear before a Brisbane Magistrate’s Court under Queensland’s Peace and Good Behaviour Act. The case has been deferred to 24 July.
Last year, on 24 July, Mr Pavlou was one of the organisers of a UQ campus meeting in support of Hong Kong demonstrators. That meeting became heated and police were called in when pro-PRC supporters appeared at the meeting.
The day after the campus unrest Dr Jie issued a post on the consular website praising the behaviour of pro-PRC supporters. Mr Pavlou was directly named as one of the organisers in the Global Times, a PRC publication/website and by Chinese media in Australia. As Mr Pavlou received verbal threats and was attacked online.
Last week, Mr Pavlou’s legal team launched a formal complaint with UQ and called on the university to dismiss Dr Jie as the adjunct professor of the Confucius Institute.
“The biggest stress over the past 12 months that this has been going on has been the burden it has put on my family. They were initially against the stand I had taken but they completely support me now and that has been a great relief,” said Mr Pavlou.