Dear Mr Thomas

Today’s Guild Gazette leads with the story, Thomas ‘Attacks Militant Group‘.  Alongside is this response from editor Ian Rathbone:

So, you have told it how it is. No wonder you at first refused and then prevaricated over an interview with Gazette. At last we now know what you have been hiding all along – what you thought when you spoke to three thousand students last year, but did not put into words.

You are wrong to say what you have said; wrong to say it at this time, when the assailants of both sides having finished licking their wounds have forgotten, though not forgiven.

As for publicising those “unhappy events” further – you knew just what you were doing, Mr Thomas. Any anti-student vice-chancellor will always get plenty of lineage in the national papers – especially considering the general clamp-down on students in every university. You are just conforming to a general pattern.

“Minority militant group to overthrow the lawful constitution of the Guild.” You, of course, Mr. Thomas are in the majority, since the majority here, ie 7,000 students, elected you to look after the affairs of our university, didn’t they?

You’re the minority but refuse to recognise this, hence the reason why the structure commission will never work because the last thing you evidently want is the views of the majority represented ANYWHERE in the university – or else why have we got no less than three committees negotiating with you and your cronies.

You also vary the size of this minority from “a small group” to “very few” – a convenient distortion intended, it might appear, to further belittle the claims made last year.

Why were the five principles of no secret files, no chemical and biological warfare research, no racialist investments, the removal of Lord Salisbury as chancellor, and no victimisation, not mentioned? After all, 1,500 signed a petition agreeing to them!

Since you seem to be unaware of the facts, Mr Thomas, may I repeat them yet again. The Guild Executive last year were incompetent, inefficient and, through their lack of unity, collapsed and resigned. THERE WAS (THEN) NO CLAUSE IN THE CONSTITUTION WHICH COVERED THIS EVENT AND SO NO CONSTITUTION WAS THERE TO BE OVERTURNED. Mass meetings were instituted at the time as the only means of decision-making, since Guild Council no longer existed. Even Professor Hair, in a letter to “The Times” last year, stated that the Guild had “constitutionally ceased to exist.”

Will you also please state explicitly instead of offering vague banalities about last year’s events in terms of the general history of politics – what abuse was made of the procedural rules. YOU, surely, abused the rules by forcing us through the power of the purse-strings to cow-tow to your rules.

Using your own words, you abused the rules for your own ends. That is keep things quiet because your job might be endangered and any future positions you might apply for. To be seen weak, is to be seen wanting.

Now, I suppose, you hope, once again, to keep us quiet by first laying down the rules and stamping them in with the jackboot of authority and then by using the fact you might pay off our deficit as an effective silencer to any opposition. Well, if you want to work by threats and backstabbing, what more can you expect if your nice, respectable students try to defend their position as best they know how. This letter may be inflammatory to you, but how much more so your speech in your annual report?

We don’t need you to tell us that a sit-in is a use of force. Of course it is – the last resort in the attempt to be listened to, to at least have our complaints discussed. There is no discussion when there is a deliberate “deafness” on the part of one side. There is also no “academic community” here either. Come down off “cloud nine” and realise the truth. You are just not communicating with your students, have their sympathy or even understanding. If you had spoken to us more often and more explicitly then perhaps these “unhappy events” would not arise.

You say that force in support of an argument or cause must be outlawed – your argument was “shut up, kiddies, I run this place” and the force was to suspend nine students and expel a tenth. Presumably that irresponsible action might also be construed as regrettable should it be attributed to the university as a whole.

What do you know, Mr. Thomas, about the majority in this University? You never speak to them or emerge from your ivory tower on the second floor in Senate House to see any students. In any case, you must be congratulated on your effective attempts to quell any questioning of the system. You must surely be living in a dream to believe in a willingness to “discuss, compromise and work for a solution that will be lasting.” How about you coming over to the place where the majority live and discussing, compromising and working for a solution?” You have not shown much evidence yet of any of these, and I can’t see Senate compromising itself for students! You were quick with your disciplinary methods – how about some speed over finding a solution which is satisfactory to us as well as Senate?

Would any of us be surprised to see further trouble – similar to last year – when the vice-chancellor deliberately antagonises the students and, like a bull in a china shop who hasn’t finished smashing the goods, comes back to complete the job?

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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