University on trial

This is Guild Gazette reporting on today’s ‘mock trial’ of the University leadership:

Over the vacation the University, in the form of its Discipline Board, tried, found guilty and sentenced ten students. [Now]  the roles were reversed. The University was in the dock and the students judged them. The Chancellor of the University, Lord Salisbury; theVice-Chancellor, Mr T C Thomas; the Registrar, Mr H H Burchnall; and the University Treasurer, Mr H Chrimes, were all charged with “inciting students to occupy Senate House on or before March 9th”.

The university Board of Discipline, which had tried the ten, were accused of ‘conduct detrimental to the good name of Liverpool University’. Both charges are similarly worded to those brought against the students by the University.

One of the organisers of the “trial” explained : “The idea for this came during the occupation when it was learnt that the university intended to bring its Discipline Board to bear against the occupying students.” He continued, “It was intended to be part of a general campaign, both on the victimisation issue and upon the other four demands of the occupation.”  He added, “This was a serious trial aimed at pointing out to students the criminal way in which the University and especially the people against whom charges were brought at this time, has behaved throughout this affair.”

Letters were sent out to all the accused, informing them of the charges against them and demanding that they attend the hearing. Oliver Swingler, who sent out the letters in the name of secretary of the discipline section of March 19th Movement, said, ‘ I received no acknowledgment of the letters from any of the accused. However, I did see Mr Burchnall on Monday morning, and he said that he may come.”

In fact, none of the accused attended and their defence had to be taken up by several students from the audience. Before a packed Lounge Hall Oliver Swingler, the prosecutor in all the cases, began by calling Gerry Cordon to show the way in which Lord Salisbury had incited students to occupy Senate House.

Mr Cordon quoted several of Salisbury’s speeches and concluded that “Salisbury’s views are an insult to everyone at this multiracial university.”

In the second case the witness, Mike Smith, attempted to show that Mr. Thomas had lied to students, and had refused to answer questions on investments, chemical and biological warfare, and the position of Lord Salisbury. In this case, as in the following two, two members of the “Jury” attempted to defend Mr. Thomas.

The evidence against Mr Chrimes, the treasurer, concerned his answers to questions at the meeting of March 9th; and Mr Burchnall, the registrar, was accused of forcibly entering Senate House on the morning of March 10th.

The two witnesses called showed that rather than Peter Cresswell stopping Mr Burchnall from entering the building the Registrar had pushed Mr Cresswell.

When the vote was taken, the ”Jury” overwhelmingly found all the accused “guilty.”

Both Paul Thompson and Lynda Hodgeman, the witnesses against the Board of Discipline, showed the way in which the Board had refused to listen to the defence, and that some of the judges’ opinions on the occupation were known before the hearings.

In summing up, the chairman of the judges, Dave Jenkins, reiterated much of what the University Board of Discipline had said, holding each of the accused responsible for his own acts against students; but reversed the priority of the university regulations and personal committment.

The sentences agreed upon by the judges were: that Lord Salisbury would be banned from the Union for life; the other three for 2 years; and the Board of Discipline for one.

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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