Now is the reckoning

This is the editorial, written by Ian Rathbone, in the issue of Guild Gazette which appeared today, the second day of the Senate House occupation, though it had been written several days earlier (the last paragraph, though, looks like a stop-press addition):

The collapse of’ Guild Government and the extnction of the system which has been ailing for some years has apparently been resolved by the university authorities stepping in. Not only stepping however, but stamping as well, on the wishes of students and their attempts to deal with a situation which concerns mem, and them alone.

The facts are quite disconcerting – a Committee of Six responsible people, elected by a general meeting of 1,500 students and then ratified by a second meeting of 900 students, has been totally ignored by the university who have simply said “well, you nave been naughty boys, you’ve had your fun, now get back to what you were doing before”. We are being forced to elect an Executive to continue to prop up a structure which has shown itself incapable of functioning efficiently as a means of students running their own affairs or even representing their opinion. Even those in prominent positions last year recognised this and tried to institute an alternative, viable structure but Guild Council obstinately refused to see reason.

There are other issues which have been obscured by the resignation of the previous Executive, which not only precipitated their downfall but have also been ignored by the University. The invitation of Lord Salisbury to Guild Ball by that Executive caused not only that Executive’s resignation but a sit-in in protest, a petition of 1,000 signatories and a picket of Senate House, yet the University has failed to make any public comment on the position of Lord Salisbury until more direct action has been threatened.

In connection with the issue of racialism, we are still left in the dark as to what investments this University and Union hold in South Africa and Rhodesia, thus maintaining these apartheid regimes. The University has ridden rough shod over student demands to be informed of the situation, and it is hoped that the Vice Chancellor will give satisfactory answers to these issues and prevent direct action on the part of students which which only further serve to show the chasm between the students and the administration (this is written before Monday).

There are genuine worries amongst students over the question of secret files being kept by Universities on students’ political and religious activities.  There is the moral aspect of whether there should be files, bringing the ‘Big Brother’ of Orwell’s 1984 considerably closer, but also the nastier aspect of whether this information is being given to ‘Big Business’. Connected with this is the whole question of the extent of the influence of Big Business in the University, the evidence of which seems considerable.

Of course, the national politicians have been making much ‘fodder’ of these issues recently, particularly the last two, and cashing in on the general dislike of students to create for themselves an audience. Vice Chancellors have been accused of ‘cringing before student anarchy’ and law and order, an old meaningless vote catcher, invoked to beat both students and University authorities. Yet the authorities have far from allowed students to get their own way and the last thing any of us want is anarchy.

A plain and simple answer to the issues outlined is required and it is to be hoped that this is what will be given. This is democracy, not dictatorship.  We have a right to know what is happening in this University and in the end, a right to play an essential role in its government as a participant.

The Vice Chancellor has failed to satisfy student demands on all counts and must now accept the occupation as a failure to communicate with his students. For the first time in years students at this University have shaken out of their apathy and stood up for what they believe is right.

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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