300 Liverpool students in Senate House ‘sit-in’

Mr Trevor Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, addressing some 3000 students before militants occupied Senate House

The Daily Telegraph, along with several other national newspapers, carries an extensive report this morning about the occupation:

After the Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool University, Mr Trevor Thomas, had addressed about students yesterday on the subject of files and other controversial issues, about 300 militants went to Senate House and occupied part of the administrative building.

Last night, they were firmly in control and had moved in provisions for a siege. Other students organised a petition saying they felt the occupation to be unwarranted and dissociating themselves from it. By early evening, more than 700 students had signed.

The militant leaders had called for the resignation of the Marquess of Salisbury as Chancellor because of his  expressed opinions on Southern Africa and an independent public inquiry into allegations that files are kept relating to political views and activities of students and staff. The militants clearly rejected some of the Vice~Chancellor’s answers but the overwhelming majority gave him an attentive and courteous hearing and appeared to be satisfied.

Before the meeting at the Students’ Union posters bearing slogans such as ” Dare they let him tell the truth? ” were torn down after a vote to remove them. Mr Thomas, who was cheered as he entered the hall with Mr H. B. Chrimes, the university treasurer, proposed that the files question be put on the agenda for the senate’s next meeting in 10 days’ time. ” I accept that the political opinions and affiliations of students and staff are no business of the university,” he said.

Asked if the university had any chemical and biological warfare contracts with the Ministry of Defence, Mr Thomas said there was nothing to hide. There were four Government contracts in the engineering department.

On Lord Salisbury he said: ” If we accept that the political opinions of students and staff are no business of the University, then, with respect, I believe this ought to apply from the Chancellor down.”

When the Vice -Chancellor left after 90 minutes some students jumped on to the platform, said his answers had been inadequate and called for an occupation of Senate.

There was some confusion over voting on a show of hands, and about 300 militants set off  for Senate House to sit in. About 700 other students condemned this action.

A statement by one group said the 300 had seen fit to throw representative democracy to the wind and to take “childish and irresponsible action”.

” We have no political axe to grind, neither are we racialist as the militants might suggest. But we cannot allow this small minority to blacken the name of  the responsible and intelligent students of Liverpool University”, the statement concluded.

A spokesman for the sit-in students said one had had his glasses smashed and his clothing torn and that a panel of a door had been kicked in by rival students. They said that from this morning the university staff, except porters and cleaners would not be allowed in the building.

The Telegraph also reports  on action at Manchester University:

Manchester University students yesterday narrowly rejected a move within the Students’ Union to end their sit-in immediately. Now, the militants are starting a pressure campaign and plan a march of more than 12,000 students today.

In what they call a ” day of action,” the leaders, hoping for the support of colleagues from other Manchester colleges, will march through the city centre to the Town Hall and then back to the university’s Whitworth Hall, focal point of the sit-in, now in its 14th day, to hold a mass meeting.

After yesterday’s meeting of 3,000 students, Mr David Wynn, 22, Union president, said: “I think the vote for the continuation of the sit-in shows the solidarity of the student body and its resolve to carry on the fight until we have won.”

But despite a 1,444 to 1,010 vote to continue the occupation of the administrative buildings, there were signs that the student leadership had split. Miss Elizabeth Loughran, 21, the full-time welfare vice-president, resigned from the Union executive with the Union events vice-president, Barry McCormick, leaving only David Wynn and one other member. Miss Loughran said last night “I feel I can no longer serve the Union. I feel they have gone too far in their policies.”  She believed the students had achieved a victory by forcing the university to admit their mistakes by dropping the injunctions,  and promising to set up inquiries into how the injunctions came to be served and into the question of secret files on students’ activities.

Mr Roger Darlington, students’  union president of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, supporting Miss Loughran, said the students were “being stampeded into euphoria” by certain leaders.

” Members of the university are behaving like members of the Mafia,” he said.

The Telegraph also reports on developments at Sussex University:

Sussex University offered yesterday to let students see their personal files, but they would have to ask permission from the originators to see confidential material, such as character references.

If permission were refused, the university would destroy the documents.  In no circumstances would a student be allowed to see another student’s file.  The offer ws accepted on a show of hands at a meeting of 1,400 students.

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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