LSE seizure of university building

28 January 1969

The Times lead story today reports on the occupation of the LSE in the latest development following the appointment of  Dr Walter Adams as director of the school.  Students oppose him because of his links with Ian Smith’s racist regime in Rhodesia where he was director of the University College.

About 250 students- most of them from the London School of Economics, locked out of their own school- occupied the University of London Union building last night in defiance of a ruling of the authorities there. There were tussles for the keys of various buildings. The action came after a march by 750 students and sympathizers on the LSE buildings in Houghton Street, WC, which were sealed off by police.

Prepared to stay for several days

About 250 students, mostly from the London School of Economics but including some from other colleges, were last night still occupying the University of London Union building in Malet Street, WC, as a temporary headquarters for “the LSE in Exile “. A student spokesman said that the militants had earlier seized the keys to the union building and hoped to stay there for ” the next few days “.

The peaceful occupation came as the climax to a day of argument and activity as militant students discussed ways of reopening the school. It was closed last Friday night after students started to tear down iron gates which had been installed after a series of sit-ins and occupations.

Dr Walter Adams, director of the school, declared it closed until order could be restored. About 500 students from the school and another 50 or so sympathizers met yesterday morning at the union for a three-hour session to formulate their demands. They demanded the immediate reopening of the school and the dropping of all charges against arrested students. They also demanded that the gates – a symbol and focus of discontent – should be replaced. They rejected the ” police university” and the recommendations of the school’s general purposes committee.

But by clear majorities they voted down proposals demanding the dismissal of staff who had identified students to police, or that such staff should be brought before student-staff tribunals. Instead, they called for an end to “professorial spying”, and proposed the establishment of an ” LSE in Exile” at the union. They said that if their demands were not met, “we will prevent the school’s administration, but not the school’s educational activities, strictly defined, from being continued ‘.

Later yesterday afternoon, 750 students and supporters marched from Malet Street to the school’s buildings in Houghton Street. A small deputation was allowed through a double cordon of police to hand the demands to a porter. Then the students marched back to the union building as peacefully as they had arrived. Another meeting was held and a vote was taken to take over the union building. A deputation from the students went to see Mr Roger Bingham, president of the ULU, Sir Douglas Logan, principal of the university, and Mr Geoffrey Fenn, warden of the building. During the discussions the students got hold of the building’s keys.

The authorities issued the following statement:  ” The situation at present is that a meeting of LSE students in ULU has voted to occupy the union building. This has been illegally effected in the face of a ruling of members of the Committee of Management for the ULU building that they should not use the facilities other than those available to all students without obtaining permission through the normal channels.”

An emergency meeting of presidents of constituent colleges of the union has been called for Tuesday evening to consider the situation. With the occupation established, the students began to telephone other colleges for support and recruits, and to plaster posters on the outside of the building, one of which described it as a ” centre for the exploited masses “.

Preparations were also made to barricade the building in case of an attempt by police to eject the 250- odd students who were still in the building when it officially closed at 10.30 pm. By early morning the building was showing all the usual signs of student occupation. Equipped with the keys to the buildings the students set up a complex bureaucracy of committees, information offices and communication centres, producing quantities of propaganda and pamphlets.

In one office the Maintenance Action Group was installed. This was formerly the Security Committee but underwent a change of name because of its supposed “fascist ” connotations. Students were scattered throughout the building, sleeping where there was space, playing snooker, chatting or just resting, while in the communications centre the duplicator was still busy at 2 am. Precautions against possible police action continued throughout the night, as tables and chairs were stacked against doors and windows.

Outside two genial policemen kept watch, invading the building only when one of them came to tell a member of the occupying forces that his taxi had arrived. Newspaper offices in London, including The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, have received a pamphlet published by LSE students appealing to printworkers “not to print malicious lies and opinions against us.”

Two hundred students yesterday occupied the library at Warwick University in sympathy with their L.S.E. colleagues.

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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