University inquiry urged

The Times has this report today on the second of Lord Radcliffe’s inquiries into the situation at Warwick University; plus a round-up of other student actions across the country:

A royal commission into the administration of British universities was suggested by Lord Radcliffe, the chancellor, in his report to the council of Warwick University yesterday.

This was his second report on the university’s affairs. He had been asked to inquire into allegations of improper administration made by some students and staff. The council ordered the report to be circulated within the university and looked at by various committees. Their views will then be considered.

Lord Radcliffe, whose first report last month decided that none of the information found by students in confidential files fell outside the vice-chancellor’s legitimate responsibilities, reached the conclusion that the situation he was investigating was not confined to Warwick. It would be a mistake to suppose, he said, that a similar, though not identical situation was not to be found in many other of the newer universities.

“The problem seems to me to be a real one and of national dimensions. It deserves national consideration and the proper organ for this is a royal commission.” In the academic body of the university there was widespread dissatisfaction with its government, or perhaps with the way in which that government had been working out. Lord Radcliffe said he thought that Warwick should accept a basic structure of government laid down by its charter, if only for the practical consideration that the university could not alter it under its own impulse. Nothing could be more helpful to the university’s government than if ways could be found of ensuring that the decisions and recommendations of the senate, the supreme academic authority, should be fully informed and as far as possible expressive of academic opinion.

He considered that the assembly, to which academic and administrative staff belong, could be remodelled on more useful lines. ” As at present constituted it seems to me better adapted to generate or intensify internal tensions than to contribute to resolving them.”

The university council last night decided that it would not be in the best interests of the university if Mr Gilbert Hunt resigned his membership. Senate and assembly had both called for the resignation of Mr Hunt, who is managing director of Rootes Motors, after the files controversy earlier this year.

Keele discipline; Disciplinary action is being taken against five Keele University students after a late-night, open-air party on the campus. It was staged on the night that two buildings at the university caught fire. Four students are said to have disturbed other students by playing loud music from a record player.

No punishment: No disciplinary action is to be taken by Liverpool University authorities against 171 students who took part in a sit-in at the Senate House at the end of last term, for which 10 students have already been punished.


‘MI5 the place to look for files’

Yesterday’s Times quoted Laurie Sapper, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, as saying:

‘In spite of the inspection of files throughout the university system, forcibly or otherwise, not one single case has arisen which shows that political information on staff or students is systematically kept.

If there are to be demonstrations and sit-ins over this issue, students would be emplying their time better by doing so at MI5 or Special Branch offices where one assumes that nothing else but political information is kept’.

Old Chancellors Cast Long Shadows

Old Chancellors Cast Long Shadows went on sale today in the Students Union and elsewhere. The 20-page booklet, priced at 1s 6d, has been financed and published by the Guild of Undergraduates and documents the results of research which examined Lord Salisbury’s political views and his business connections in Africa.

The document has grown out of the occupation of Senate House between 9th and 20th March. It attempts to analyse, in some greater depth, the facts behind the first two demands of the occupying students, namely:

  1. That the University disassociate itself from the racialist views of Lord Salisbury and that Council call for his immediate resignation as Chancellor.
  2. That the University reveal where its investments lie.

Read the full text  here.

Stop the Witch Hunt!

This is a SocSoc leaflet handed out today in the Students Union.

Following the disclosure of secret files on the outside activities of staff and students at Warwick, students at a number of universities have demanded an end to all secret files.  The quick-thinking university administrations have done two things:

  • They are pretending that files and black-lists do not exist.
  • They are pursuing a campaign of victimisation against students who raised the files issue last term.

Liverpool: 9 students have been suspended for one or two years.  Another, Pete Cresswell, has been expelled for the ‘crime’ of being one among 300 students – supported by 1500 others – who peacefully occupied the Senate building.

Oxford: Postgraduate student Steve Bokhover has been expelled.  At his ‘trial’ no direct evidence was produced on the one charge and witnesses for the authorities contradicted themselves on other charges.

LSE: Paul Hoch, post-doctoral student at Bedford College, jailed for 28 days after he had been found drinking tea in the canteen following an injunction forbidding him to enter the school.

Keele: 3 students have been suspended and another fined.  David Kay suspended for a year.

Nottingham: Disciplinary proceedings in progress. We can’t begin to guess what will happen!

Cambridge: Students who demonstrated at a reception to boost the Greek colonels’ dictatorship are awaiting trial.  They may well face the same treatment as three Essex students now in Borstal.

In view of this victimiosation, the students union at the LSE has organised a march for May Day for which they have officially requested support from other student unions.  They have also organised a National Student Conference on May 8th, to discuss student action,  Letters have been sent out to all student unions.

The reason for the conference is that the NUS is unlikely to take action.  We left the NUS because it was felt that they did not represent us at all.  The NUS clearly from its lack of even token support for victimised students represents noone but its own tiny club of careerists.

Warwick report says files not kept

The Times reports today on the publication of the report of Lord Radcliffe’s inquiry into the issue of secret files at Warwick University:

None of the information unearthed by students in the confidential files of Mr J. B. Butterworth, Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, fell outside his legitimate responsibilities to the university, Lord Radcliffe said last night in his official report on the secret files affair.

He said that he had satisfied himself on one crucial matter; no political files were kept or ever had been kept bv Warwick University. There was no system of recording political information about students or staff for the purpose of using it to their prejudice or to their advantage either in their university careers or in employment elsewhere.

“After interviewing a good number of members of the university, I am left in no doubt that such a system would be regarded as improper and contrary to the principles upon which a university ought to be conducted. This is not to say, however, that political information cannot in any circumstances enter the records of the university and be retained there. I address myself to identifying the ways in which that can happen and discussing the procedures that control its use.”

It was the responsibility of the vice-chancellor to keep his eye on the preservation of good order in the university, which today involved the avoidance and prevention of its positive disruption, Lord Radcliffe said. Of the files he said: ” I would think it wrong, therefore, to undertake an analysis of the extent to which, retrospectively, any of them may be judged to have been to a greater or lesser degree required by its particular circumstances. ” There is no rule either of equity or of commonsense that one ought to wait to be blown up by an explosion before trying to detect the likelihood of its occurrence “.

The inquiry by Lord Radcliffe, chancellor of the university, started after students who were occupying the administration block discovered files which contained comments on the political activities of a former member of the academic staff and on a rejected student. He was asked to look at the university’s procedures on the retention of information concerning the political ac ties of staff and students and to cover allegations of ” improper adminstration of the university’s affairs.

His other recommendations were:

  1. It should be accepted as a standing rule that in every case where the balance between the acceptance and rejection of a candidate was in balance because of non-academic factors, a decision to reject him should not be recorded until after an interview. At least two members of staff teaching the course should read the papers and share in the conduct of the interview and a third member should be called in to decide if they did not agree. The report said: ” That, I think, would no more than consolidate a practice that is already the rule in some departments; but, considering the very great importance to every candidate of securing admission to higher education, I think that it would be well for the University of Warwick to avow openly the observance of such procedures.
  2. The special power of the vice-chancellor to veto the admission of any student without giving a reason should be abandoned. The insertion of such a power was a mistake and there were two considerable objections to any use of it, Lord Radcliffe said.  It involved the vice-chancellor in overriding what would be the normal process of decision by the senate. the supreme academic authority of the university, so creating just that tension between academics and administrators which it was most desirable to try to avoid. Secondly, the weighing of considerations that were not strictly academic was a delicate and difficult task which was probably better performed by more than a single mind acting on its own.
  3. The practice of recording convictions in personal files should be discontinued. Although the files must be kept under strict control, there was no good reason why a student should not be allowed to see his file whenever he wishes. Such a liberty should be given immediately, subject to the qualification that a student could not see the confidential statement on his Universities Central Council on Admissions application form, where the university was not free to make its own decisions. Confidential medical assessments should be protected.
  4. Any documents relating to confidential complaints from outside about university members should be strictly kept apart in their own file so that there should be no risk of their contents passing into any of the general administrative records of the university.
  5. There should be a standing rule in the vice-chancellor’s office that this file should be reviewed at stated intervals and that whatever was found to be out of date should be destroyed.
  6. A vice-chancellor properly equipping himself to discharge his duties of maintaining the good order of the university and of bringing before the senate all such matters as were required for the regulation of university discipline should be able to assemble and retain whatever material seemed to him fairly to bear on this.

As a matter of principle, Lord Radcliffe said earlier in the report, he retained doubts whether there might not be teachers so far committed to particular socio-political systems as to disqualify them from the objective analysis of their subject that the university tradition assumed. The report added: ” It is not necessary to point out that unless the vice-chancellor and the senate have a common understanding as to what are both the requirements and the limits of university discipline there will be neither order in its affairs nor efficiency in the advancement of its true academic aims.”

The report was released by the Council of the University last night. A statement said:  ” Council has noted sympathetically Lord Radcliffe’s recommendation for future action to safeguard this situation and has asked that the university should give urgent consideration to the practical implications of their implementation. Council has instructed that copies of Lord Radcliffe’s report should be dispatched forthwith to all members of the university and to the press.”

Liverpool appeals: Appeals from nine of the 10 students sentenced by the disciplinary board of Liverpool University after their takeover of Senate House last month were handed in to the authorities yesterday. The tenth student also intends to appeal.

Students hold ‘work-in’ at Warwick

The Daily Telegraph reports today on further developments in student protests at various universities:

Students at Warwick University last night began occupying the university social building for the beginning of  a week-long ‘work-in’ during the Easter vacation.

The official term ended yesterday, but several hundred students intend to continue it for a week, and say they will ‘turn Warwick into Britain’s first truly open university’.

They will continue their studies and trade unionists, members of the public, and students from other universities have been invited to attend lectures, discussions and teach-ins.

Miss B Devlin, MP, is due to speak on Wednesday and several members of the academic staff have agreed to lecture during the occupation.

The ‘work-in’ is being held as a protest against the university’s alleged policy of keeping files on staff and students.  Protests over the same issue continued at several other universities.

By a majority of 120, Mr Alexander ‘Sandy’ Macmillan was elected President of the Liverpool University Guild of Undergraduates last night.

Despite the narrow margin, this was regarded as a victory for the moderates, but the militants are still occupying the Senate House, the university’s administrative headquarters.  […]

At Leeds University the 600 students who have occupied the £250,000 Cornwallis Building – which houses computers, lecture theatres and administrative offices – for the past ten days said they would not leave the building until their demands are met.

A spokesman said: “Our demands are that we be allowed access to our personal files, that there is no victimisation and that we are allowed a democratic representation on all university committees, including the Senate.”

At Keele University, lecturers called on students to pay for the loss of property and damage caused when militant students staged a 13-hour ‘sit-in’ in their senior common room.  […]

Students at York University are to discuss a motion on Monday objecting to the university’s intention of awarding an honorary doctorate to Sir Frederic Seebohm, on the grounds that he is chairman of Barclays Bank DCO, a company which they say “plays a generally important role in South Africa.”

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.