Inside the sit-in

This week’s issue of the Liverpool Weekly News, out today, has devoted most of its front page to an extensive report, continuing on an inside page and lavishly illustrated with photos, from inside Senate House.  The tone is generally much more sympathetic than most other press reports have been:

Grants may be stopped shock

Ten days have passed since 300 University students stormed their administration centre – Senate House – and hoisted the Red Flag.

University bosses locked their plush offices and left the building – to be barred the following day.

Now Liverpool Education Committee are getting tough and at their meeting on Tuesday, a move was made to stop grants to sit·in students.

A 16 to 3 majority recommended that local authorities take this action against students showing unfit conduct.

Reports of  office ransacking and general vandalism throughout the £600,000 building were bandied about the city, These we now find to be completelyy false.

The carpeted corridors walked by Princess Alexandra when she opened the Senate House ten months ago are now the sleeping quarters for scores of students.

The marble plaque recalling the Princess’s visit is covered with a paper poster commemorating the stand made by 1,500 Liverpool tenants, workers and students.  The poster reads:

“This building stood as a £0.75 million travesty amongst university-owned slums.”

Floors are scrubbed daily. Hygeine, catering and security squads have been formed.  Mass meetings are held twice a day. No office doors have been forced.  No windows have been smashed.  The whole occupation is completely orderly and amazingly controlled.

These are the facts that hit the visitor in the face.

The Senate Chamber or ‘inner sanctum’, where the University bosses normally hold meetings, is now used as a study room.

The massive entrance hall has been turned into a coffee bar and the bare walls decorated with an odd mixture of painted posters.

While some students leave the Senate House to attend lectures over the University precinct, others stand guard on all entrances – ready to repel any unwanted intruders.

The Liverpool campus, which has often been scorned by its national and international counterparts, still persists in vowing its liberalism.

On the first day of occupation so-called ‘moderates’ raided the building, say the occupiers.

A student was beaten up and his clothes ripped. The sit-in learned fast. Now ‘flying squad’ patrols walk the corridors and roof at night, securing the ‘castle of their ideals’.

Five demands were issued by the occupying students to the administration staff:

  • That the Senate and the University Court proclaim their opposition to all forms of racial discrimination and disassociate themselves from the views of the Chancellor, Lord Salisbury, and call for his resignation.
  • That the Council and Court order a detailed schedule of all University investments to be published in the staff newsletter and the Guild magazine.
  • That a public inquiry be held into the keeping of secret files on both staff and students.
  • That the Vice Chancellor gives acceptable answers on both the files question and chemical and biological warfare production at the university.
  • And that there be no victimisation of any people taking part in the occupation.

Until these demands are met the students threaten they will continue to occupy the building.

One 20-years old science student claims he has already been warned that complaints concerning his sit-in action were to be put forward to the disciplinary committee.

“We will condemn any attempt by the University to victimise any student and will fight with all our power to ensure no student is penalised for taking part in the occupation”, said 22-years old arts student Dave.

On Sunday nearly 100 of the sit-in attended an interdenominational service on the steps of Senate House.

Catholic Chaplin, Fr Thomas McGoldrick, who was asked to conduct a service in the building said he disagreed with the methods but felt that the students were far from irresponsible.

“I feel that certain ideals are at stake.   I was impressed by the organisation and good order of the sit-in”, he added.

There has been much confusion over the subject of wages for the Univerrsity manual staff.  Students claim cleaners have been told that the sit-in will result in them not being paid their wages as the money computer lies in the taken over building.

“We are being used as the scapegoat,” said Alan, a second year student.  “The men to work the computer can come in any time they want.”

However, although the Senate House security boss has been permanently barred from the premises, his staff are free to carry on with their normal jobs.

“One thing about this,” chuckled a porter, “is that you see plenty of mini-skirts.”

Mary, a Liverpool-born undergraduate, said she hoped the citizens of the city will give their understanding to what their students are doiung.

“We have not wrecked anything.  This is a responsible action on our part and we hope that Liverpudlians will give us their support.”

A University spokesman said this week: “The students in the Senate House are a small and unrepresentative group.  They occupied the Senate House following a sham vote and do not have the support of the student body.”

When questioned over the five demands put forward by the sit-in, the spokesman said the University administration could not possibly accede to the points and in their opinion the demands were not backed by a student majority.

A move to stop the grants of students involved in the Senate House sit-in has been proposed by Liverpool Education Committee.  An emergency motion put forward by Alderman Joseph Norton on Tuesday was accepted by a 16-3 vote.

It read: “That the Association of Education Committees be asked to consider as a matter of urgency the action that should be taken by local education authorities in the exercise of their responsibilities under Regulation 22(3) of the University and Other Awards Regulations 1965”.

Regulation 22(3) states that if, after consultation with the University Authorities a local authority is satisfied that the students they are financing show unfitting conduct, the grant can be taken away.

Commenting on the Committee’s decision, a Liverpool undergraduate said: “My parents and relatives have paid rates in Liverpool all their lives – and they don’t consider my action irresponsible.”

After the meeting Alderman Norton said, “I think it is essential that legitimate student grievences should be thoroughly investigated and dealt with speedily in a spirit of enlightened co-operation between the authority and the students.  But violence must be condemned and discipline restored.”

But another student hit back: “I don’t see why I should be penalised over something that I feel strongly about.”


Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

2 thoughts on “Inside the sit-in”

  1. I can remember writing this when I worked for the Liverpool Weekly News, which was an independent small series of Merseyside titles. Phil

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