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Aberdeen Occupation – Students Vindicated

This is a press release from the Aberdeen Students Occupation which refutes the allegations of violence made by the university against students. The occupation is in solidarity with academics involved in the University College Union (UCU) pension dispute.

[CONTENT WARNING: video contains potentially distressing content and physical aggression against students]

Footage has now been released of an incident that occurred on 14th March at the Aberdeen Occupation. This clearly shows that the University’s allegations of student violence are unsubstantiated. 

Angus Donaldson, Director of Estates and Facilities at the University of Aberdeen, is clearly identifiable and can be seen charging headfirst into a crowd of students and security staff, ramming students against the fire door they were being told to move away from. At the end of the video, Donaldson is seen manhandling a female student who responds by objecting loudly at being moved in such a violent manner by a member of Senior Management.

Members of the occupation stated:

“As Director of Estates and Facilities, we believe that Angus Donaldson is ultimately responsible for any inappropriate conduct by members of the University security team. He is paid an annual salary of £115,000 to fulfill his Senior Management duties as Director of Estates and Facilities [1]. We repeat and reaffirm our previously stated belief that Angus Donaldson has egregiously failed to hold his security team to any standard of proper health and safety practice and has repeatedly put Aberdeen University students in potential harm. Rather than acting to ensure the safety and wellbeing of staff and students, Donaldson has behaved in a physically aggressive and escalatory manner.

“We again repeat that this violent behaviour displayed by a member of Senior Management has been in stark contrast to day-to-day engagements with ordinary security staff members, who have broadly been amicable and professional in their dealings with us. In reference to the specific incident in which a security staff member fell to the ground, this occurred in the midst of the jostling and competition for space by security staff and demonstrators, as can be seen in video footage. No student pushed anyone to the ground. As soon as students realised someone had fallen, they stepped away, and protesters can be seen trying to help the individual. The footage clearly shows that everyone made sure to step away from the individual on the floor, and that that individual was helped to stand up.

“Police were called to the occupation by a member of UCU staff on strike who was participating in the demonstration outside. The member in question was concerned for the safety and wellbeing of students in the occupation. The police spoke to us and reassured us that they were indeed called to the scene in order to check on our own welfare.”

Maggie Chapman, recently re-elected Rector of the University of Aberdeen, on viewing the footage, said:

“I am very concerned about the behaviour of a senior member of university staff. Angus Donaldson, the Director of Estates and Facilities, appears to think he is on the rugby pitch, and is trying to clear students off an imaginary ball. This might be acceptable in a rugby game, but it is certainly not an acceptable way to treat students. Towards the end of the clip, he can be seen manhandling a student against a wall while she shouts “do not touch me” at him. She is not resisting. She is not fighting back. She is not causing any disruption.

“I sincerely hope that the member of security staff who fell to the ground is alright. I also hope it is also clear to all who see the footage that he was not deliberately pushed to the ground by students. The University needs to take responsibility for this incident: they promised open access to the occupation. Caroline Inglis (University Secretary) and Mike Greaves (Senior Vice Principal) both signed a note to this effect. If they had kept their agreement and maintained open access to the occupation, none of what is seen in the footage would have happened.

“I call on the University to honour, with immediate effect, the agreement made on Tuesday, which said: ‘AUSA students can have full access to UO [University Office] building consistent with compliance with health and safety requirements.’ Failure to do so will not only exacerbate the distrust students have in Senior Management, but could also lead to further health and safety concerns, for either staff or students.”


[1]: University of Aberdeen Freedom of Information Request, FOI 2017-342, “Management pay and expenses”, received by a supporter of the occupation 11 January 2018. Available on request.

Comments (9)

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  1. Graeme Purves says:

    ‘Very disturbed that such incidents are taking place at my alma mater. That is outrageously irresponsible behaviour! Students could have been seriously hurt.

    Has Angus Donaldson been charged with assault? Has the University of Aberdeen initiated disciplinary procedures?

  2. Ally says:

    This is proving popular up here Mike, good on you for covering this!

    1. Yay! Maximum support to all involved in the strike. Hugely important to salvage higher education and great to see students and staff in solidarity

      1. Andrew says:

        The staff and students are not in solidarity, and in fact the staff working in the administration building are scared. Those staff members do not want the students to be there, and they certainly do not want the kind of “support” that the students are foisting upon them. I know people actually working at the university and not one is happy with the behaviour of the protestors.

        1. The staff are scared? I don’t believe you.

          1. Ally says:

            Andrew I am staff, I’m not scared.

  3. Andrew says:

    The students in question are undoubtedly being heavy handed and are frankly involving themselves in a situation that they have very little knowledge of and have no stake in either. They get everything they deserve in my opinion, and should have been ejected from the building by security or the police long before now. This is typical of the new wave of self entitled and ill-informed students that seem to be crawling out from under every rock right now. Neither side comes out of this debacle looking good, but the students have to take responsibility for their own poor behaviour and stop shifting blame. Staff at the university are scared by the protests, and are simply trying to do their jobs, but apparently this is the beyond the comprehension of these so called protestors.

    1. No stake? Students have no stake in their university?

  4. CathyW says:

    The UCU strike, and the solidarity shown to the striking staff by students at Universities across the country, is an important fight-back against the erosion of pension provision which is affecting current and future workers in many spheres. We cannot leave this kind of fight to those who are lowest paid and in the most vulnerable employment circumstances: we need the strength of UCU members to fight and win and they deserve our support. Many people, including many students, admin staff and even the management of several Universities, recognise the justice of this fight and are giving the strike wholehearted support. Hooray! If anyone in Aberdeen feels ‘scared’ I can only think they are poorly informed and sadly unfamiliar in recent years with such organised action by workers or students. In my day at Aberdeen Uni (1976-80) student occupations were not unknown and generally at least well tolerated by management. This Director’s behaviour is an utter disgrace and I am glad it has been caught on video – he should certainly answer for his actions and be dealt with appropriately.

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