May Day strike vote

Mr Ian Williams proposing the May Day strike by staff and students

There’s a special, one-sheet  issue of Guild Gazette out today which provides a detailed account of the Guild Council meeting earlier this week which voted for an all-out strike on May Day by university staff and students in protest against the sentences imposed on the ten disciplined students. The meeting attracted the largest number of observers ever seen at a Council meeting.

‘All out on May Day’ is Guild Council’s call to all students and staff, to express anger and disgust at the repressive measures of the University authorities on the ten students disciplined. All students are to meet in the Mountford Hall tomorrow at 11 am. Guild Council has also expressed full support for the five demands of the occupation, and demanded that the trials be declared null and void because of inherent breaches of natural law and the reinstatement of the students pending an enquiry into University disciplinary procedures.

There was a very good attendance at the meeting and only a few councillors were absent. A letter from four Councillors from the Medical Students’ Society was read out. These students expressed their opinions that the sentences ‘tended towards leniency’. Council then moved on to discuss President’s Business and Mr Macmillan brought two motions before the meeting. The first said that “Council give retrospective approval to the expenditure involved in obtaining legal advice and representation for the disciplined students’ appeal”.

The second motion expressed strong disapproval of the severity of sentences passed against the ten students. He went on to make two comments about discipline and files. He explained that in the university  there was a three tier system of discipline : an Advisory Board, the Disciplinary Board and the Board of Appeal. Mr. Macmillan added that he sat on the Advisory Board with two other people, and that his job was to examine evidence presented by the Registrar and decide whether a case was valid to be brought.

He added that it was not his job to bring charges against the students, but to simply decide whether a charge could be brought by the university. He answered that he was not aware that this was going to happen, and that it was not his job to decide who was and who was not to be disciplined.

It appeared to many students that Mr Macmillan in fact did not know much about the whole disciplinary structure in the university, and he was asked several times by different people, ”To whom does your allegiance lie – the students, or the university?”

Mr Beasly-Murray then commented, in Mr. Macmillan’s defence, that little was known about disciplinary proceedings as they had never been used before, and he criticised the sit-in.

It was pointed out, however, by Mr. Richard Morris that disciplinary proceedings had been used on one occasion, and that Mr Macmillan ought to be aware of them in his position as President of Guild.

Mr. Snow then told Mr. Macmillan that he was still in a position to undo what he had done, by going over to the university and expressing his disapproval of the proceedings, and issuing a press release to the effect that he had ‘been led up the garden path’.

The Council then moved on to a vote, and the first motion was carried unanimously. On the second motion, Mr Gavin Graham proposed an amendment which was further amended by Richard Davies to read that Guild Council demands that all sentences be declared null and void, because they had contravened natural justice in a manifestly unfair manner, and that the ten students be reinstated pending investigation by the university and Guild into the whole question of discipline within the university and the disciplining of all the students who had taken part in the sit-in.

Mr. Simmons, of the Spanish Department, spoke against the amendment saying that if it were accepted and passed it would mean that Guild Council implicitly supported the sit-in. Mr. Snow, in reply, said that the motion had nothing to do with the sit-in itself, but simply the disciplinary proceedings taken.

‘We are not concerned with the sit-in, but with this filth,” he said, “We want to stop this filthy nonsense now.” Mr. Simmons, however, went on to propose that the amendment should be taken in three separate parts; but after a vote, his amendment fell and Mr Graham’s amendment became a substantive motion.

Mr Beasly-Murray spoke against the motion, saying that the university had not been given a chance to show that the trials were just; but he was shouted down and Mr Davies, with a fiery speech, spoke against Mr. Beasly-Murray and for the motion.

A vote was taken and the motion was carried unanimously. Council then moved on to debate five Private Member’s motions, all of which had been tabled by Miss Mary Hickman, who waived her speaking rights to Mr Davies. The first motion said, “that Guild Council expresses full support for the five demands of the sit-in, and directs the President and officers in any negotiations to base them solely on these demands.”

Mr Davies outlined recent events and the five demands and said that he assumed support within the student body for them. After protracted argument and debate this motion was carried.

Mr Davies then moved on to the second motion “that extraordinary life membership of Guild be granted to Mr. Peter Cresswell and to the nine other disciplined students.” He said he wished to fight to make this Union “our Union and not the university’s.”

The third motion read “that neither the President nor any member of Council shall take any part in the University discipline structure, except for strictly academic offences”.

Mr. Shuttleworth then suggested to Mr. Davies that in the five demands, one of them was for better communication with the university. This motion, he suggested, served to destroy communication rather than improve it. Mr. Davies then replied that he didn’t want to see “student representatives on boards run by immorality.” Mr. Shuttleworth then commented on Mr. Snow’s letter which had been printed in The Times.

Mr Richard Davies addressing Guild Council with Mr Macmillan propping up the wall behind him and a bored Mr Charlwood acting as chairman (Gazette caption)

Mr. Davies pointed out that a 1,500 word letter had been printed in The Times from a Liverpool professor and that when a reply 700 words long had been written by the ten disciplined students, it had not been printed.

When he and several colleagues went to “The Times” last week to ask why their letter had not been printed, they were told it was because of ‘legal difficulties’.  Mr Snow added that his letter had been published because he was able to ‘pull the strings’ within the establishment.

A vote was taken and the motion was clearly carried.

The fourth motion said that no officer of Guild or Guild representative should afford any hospitality to any officer of the university until such time as Guild Council decides otherwise; and that no university officer or official   be invited to the Commemoration Ball 1970.

Mr. Davies said that this was a small thing in itself, yet in terms of the University it was a large thing. He added that the situation now is a “them and us” situation, and that “you don’t solve problems in Senate over a glass of wine at Commemoration Ball.”

Mr Gerry Cordon suggested an amendment to extend an invitation to all the University staff except the high officials. This was accepted and backed up by Mr Davies, who said these people worked very hard for the students and got little recognition.

The motion was clearly carried and Mr Davies continued to the fifth motion that “Guild donates £50 to the ‘March 19th fighting fund’ and undertakes to pay fully any legal expenses for any student incurred in any actions arising out of the occupation.”

Mr Frank Milner then proposed that Guild undertook all expenses towards printing and publishing a booklet about Lord Salisbury for the purpose of exposing him nationally and not just within the university.

Mr Davies pointed out that the booklet would be on sale nationally and any losses made would be underwritten by the Guild. He added that substantial losses were not likely to be made. An objection was made that this meant Guild was giving money for political purposes, but Mr. Snow retorted that racialism was not a political viewpoint but “a foul, immoral distortion of humanity.”

The motion was clearly carried, and Miss Maureen O’Sullivan proposed that the Vice Chancellor should be invited to come to a mass meeting of students within the next ten days, to answer questions about the disciplinary proceedings and any other questions.

Mr Ian Williams then proposed that Guild Council call a one day strike by students and staff on May Day in solidarity with the ten victimised students, and to support the May Day demonstration called by the Liverpool Trades Council.

He also called for NUS to break off all relations with the Committee of Vice Chancellors until repression of the kind seen at Oxford and Cambridge, and now here, ceases and an undertaking is given that there will be no further repression. The President, Sandy Macmillan, was also mandated to lead the May Day march with a placard. “Is it not a coincidence that at this time the Tories are calling for law and order,” he added.

At this point Mr M Terry, a member of NUS Executive Committee and President of Birmingham University Union, said that Liverpool was not a situation in isolation. Listing examples of Senate decisions at other universities in regard to sit-ins, he said that Liverpool Senate, by taking a lead in disciplining students shows a serious threat to students in general.

“Students have a right to take action and criticise the University over questions of racialism. It is obvious that Senate has decided to come down hard in this crucial term because they know students have little time on their hands due to examinations,” he added. He went on to say that NUS must bring out students on strikes, but added that there are problems of mobilisation. He finished by saying that NUS must make a stand against Vice Chancellors.

Mr Williams’ motion calling for a May Day strike was clearly carried, and two other motions were passed granting money for posters and an advert in the Echo for the May Day strike, and a committee of negotiation consisting of President, VPFA and three others elected by yesterday’s mass meeting, to be set up to negotiate with the University.

The meeting, which had the largest number of observers ever seen at a Council meeting, was adjourned at 8.30 pm.

The motions passed at this meeting can be seen in full here. A referendum held on May 7-8 later reversed some of these decisions, including the life membership vote.


Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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