Senate reoccupied after Thomas’ silence

The second lead in this week’s Guild Gazette concerns the recent brief re-occupation of Senate House in protest over the disciplining of the ten, and the University’s refusal to respond to requests for negotiations:

Just before the beginning of examinations, Senate House was reoccupied for three hours by some 150 students, while several hundred waited outside the building. The reoccupying students called for the Vice-Chancellor to address them, but after waiting some time he did not appear and the reoccupation  petered out.

This move, the latest over the disciplining of the 10, began at a mass meeting in the Mountford which was attended by some 400 students. Addressing the meeting, called to discuss further student action against the savage sentences imposed on the 10 students, Richard Davies and Jon Snow called for immediate positive action.

With several impassioned pleas Davies and Snow called for action against the University saying that if the authorities were allowed to get away with the sentences, then there was no knowing what they would do in the future.

“They’ve shown us what they can do when some people try to rock their boat; let’s show them how we will react,” said one speaker. He earned loud applause.

There seemed, however, some indecision as to what action should be taken, and when it was suggested that Mr Thomas, the Vice Chancellor should speak to the meeting. The idea was received favourably.

It was, however, pointed out that Mr Thomas was hardly likely to come to the Union to address a meeting so obviously hostile to himself, but someone replied that he himself had said, “My time is the students’ time.”

After long, protracted arguments as to whether the Vice Chancellor should come to the Union, or the students should go to Senate, a vote was taken and the majority favoured reoccupation by a substantial margin.

Some 400 students then walked across to Senate House, where their vanguard was met by locked front doors. The group then spread out around the building, many of them going into Abercromby Square.

Eventually, a side door was found to be open and some 150 students entered the building, and filed into the huge entrance hall while Senate staff looked on with interest and not a little trepidation.

Meanwhile, the majority of the students waited outside Senate House; after about half an hour it became known that the Academic Secretary, Mr Roy Butler was helping to negotiate with Mr Thomas and Gavin Graham, to try to persuade the Vice Chancellor to speak. Several hours later, during which time the students in Senate had been sitting around talking, reading or eating ice-cream, it became obvious that Mr Thomas was not going to appear, and an orderly retreat from Senate was put into effect.

In the Senate House foyer, Mr Roy Butler standing on left (with glasses) being questioned by Gavin Graham (centre).

She can work!

A letter in today’s Leicester Mercury reads:

Three cheers for the Liverpool University Disciplinary Board!  More power to their elbow.  By rejecting the appeal of a Leicester student against her two year ban for a sit-in protest, they receive at least ten taxpayers’ heartfelt thanks!  We only wish the rest of the 200 who took part had received the same punishment.  The student in question doesn’t know what to do for the next year or so.  May we suggest she joins the rest of Britain’s taxpayers in a venture we call W-O-R-K?

– PW Tatterall

A letter of support

This letter by June Walker appears in today’s Daily Post.  In it she refers to having organised a petition objecting to the severity of the sentences imposed by the Board of Discipline which was signed by 140 postgraduate students. It reads:

Dear Sir,

Now that the Board of Appeal of Liverpool University has completed its hearings of the appeals lodged by nine of the ten students disciplined in connection with their part in the occupation of Senate House last March; and that the only changes in the penalties imposed are that two of the students have had their suspensions reduced from two years to one year, I feel that the public should be made aware of the following facts:

1. At a meeting called by the Vice-Chancellor, Mr T Thomas, MA, LLB, on 9th March, the University Treasurer expressed the view that morality did not enter into the question of where a University had its investments. The meeting was abruptly ended by the chairman before many questions from undergraduates, postgraduates and staff could be answered.

2. The occupation of Senate House, which immediately followed the above meeting, was well-disciplined throughout, and when the students voluntarily left the building on 20th March, it was found to be in a spotless condition.

3. Although 170 people signed a witnessed statement to the effect that they had participated in the sit-in, only ten students have so far been disciplined by the University. One student was expelled, seven were suspended for two years, and two were suspended for one year. (One of the students suspended for one year did not appeal).

4. Between 23rd and 28th April, 140 postgraduate members of Liverpool University, including myself, were signatories to a petition to the Vice-Chancellor. Those who signed had taken their previous degrees or diplomas in universities overseas as well as in the United Kingdom.

The petition stated our belief that the sentences were harsh,  out of all proportion, and appear to be a form of exemplary punishment of which we strongly disapprove.

We also feel that the University has failed to take into sufficient account the very real difficulties students feel in getting their deeply held convictions over to the administration.

We consider that if the penalties were upheld a very serious injustice would have been done to the ten students involved.

Professor Griffith, of the London School of Economics, who defended five of the students at their re-hearing, and Mr E  Rex Makin, LLM, a leading Liverpool Solicitor, who defended three of them, were given copies of the petition and its signatories. The Vice-chancellor passed on the petition and signatures to the Board of Discipline in time for the first re-hearing, which was held on 1st May, 1970.

In the same week a petition signed by 148 members of the University’s teaching staff, including 13 Professors-was given to the Vice-Chancellor. The petition expressed the united concern of those who signed it, over the severity of the penalties. It stated that, “As members of the staff of the University, we are in some sense to blame for inadequacies in communications which, as you have recently pointed out, are not as good as they might be; but also because we feel that these penalties are such as will damage future staff-student relations. Consequently, while in no way condoning the action of the students in occupying Senate House, we feel moved to appeal for a suspension of the sentences, or, alternatively, for a lightening of the penalties imposed. We are aware that this affair has been a severe test of the revised procedures for discipline, and we trust that the opportunity will be taken to review them in the light of this experience.”

Considerable efforts have been made to stifle any expression of student feeling. For example, when the Guild of Undergraduates passed a resolution for a boycott of all lectures on 1st May in sympathy with the ten victimised students, a small number of professors made it clear that checks would be made on the attendance of students at lectures that day.

Yours very sincerely,

June M Walker, Diploma in Social Studies, London University (External); formerly Social Worker, Liverpool Personal Service Society; at present, student Diploma in Applied Social Studies, Liverpool University


June Walker’s letter also appeared in the 30 June issue of Guild Gazette, and she conducted a correspondence with the Registrar and members of the Board of Discipline on the issue.

No penalties for 171 Liverpool students

Before the appeals hearing, a number of those who participated in the occupation signed a statement that they were equally responsible for actions taken during the sit-in, and that the ten who have been disciplined should not therefore have been singled out. Today,  The Times has this:

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 […]

The other 171 wrote to Mr Trevor Thomas, the Vice-Chancellor, stating that they were each ‘equally responsible for any action taken in accordance with the wishes of the corporate body of the occupation’.

Mr Herbert Burchall, University Registrar, announced today that he wrote to the 171 students asking whether they intended by their statement to admit that they were guilty of the charge of ‘conduct detrimental to the discharge of the duties of the university’.

His statement said: ‘It is understood that at the hearings before the board of appeal it was claimed that the statement…was merely a ‘solidarity statement’ and not an admission of guilt.  Although the university does not entirely accept this view of the statement, it does recognise that, having regard to the circumstances in which it was written, it may not have been intended as an admission of a disciplinary offence…It had therefore been decided not to proceed against the 171 students, in almost all of whose cases the statement is the only available evidence’.

University ban on sit-in girl is confirmed

This story is from the Leicester Mercury, local newspaper in Susan Rosinger’s hometown:

A Leicester student’s appeal against her suspension from Liverpool University for two years has been dismissed by the university’s disciplinary appeal board.

Twenty-one year-old Susan Rosinger, of 14 Sheringham Road, Leicester, was one of 10 students disciplined a month ago for their parts in a student sit-in at the university in March.

Susan and four other students were represented at the appeal hearing by Professor John Griffith, professor of public law at the London School of Economics. All ten were found guilty of “conduct detrimental to the discharge of the duties of the university.”

Susan told the Leicester Mercury: ”After the hearing the appeals board refused to re-convene and announce their findings publicly or give reasons for their decisions. I got a letter saying that they had found my case proven and that my suspension would last until the summer of 1971.

“Two other students had their suspensions cut from two years to one year, but again, no reason was given. All the appeals were against the verdicts and the sentences. We thought the first hearing was unfair. It was a kangaroo court. Although 200 students took Part in the sit-in, only ten were disciplined. I’m sure this was because our ten names were on a committee list pinned up on a wall during the sit-in. But the committee was only dealing with things like catering and ceased to function after the first day.”

Susan, who was educated at Newarke Girls’ School, was due to take her finals in a fortnight, and had been offered a place at ‘Weslminster College, Oxford, next year to study for an education diploma before becoming a teacher.

“I d0n’t know what I am going to do for the next year or so. It is unlikely that I could get into another university, and even then I would not get a grant. I will probably stay at Liverpool until the end of the year, and then I may go abroad for a year.

”It seems very unfair that we are expected to take our finals in two years time with only six weeks at the university beforehand to prepare for it.”

The sit-in was held because students wanted the university vice-chancellor to dissociate himself from the views of the Chancellor, Lord Salisbury, on racial issues. They also wanted a public inquiry into political files on students, the publication of the university’s investments and thought the university should not accept contracts for chemical and biological warfare. They also wanted no victimisation of students taking part in the demonstration.

Susan commented: “We believe that the decision to make the sentences so harsh was made a national meeting of vice-chancellors. Students at the universities of Oxford and Keele have also received harder sentences. Students were surprised at the results of our appeals at Liverpool.

“Four hundred students staged a sit-in at Senate House on Friday for three hours, and a negotiating committee of students was elected to discuss the sentences with the vice-chancellor, Mr Trevor Thomas, but he refused to see them. A meeting has now been arranged for later today.

“The university hopes that by victimising ten students, everyone will be too frightened to carry on, but that will not be the case. The struggle will go on despite this victimisation. ”

The following week the Mercury published a letter in response to this article.

Forced entry sit-in

The Daily Post report...annotated by HH Burchnall (from his archive)

The Daily Post reports this morning on yesterday’s brief re-occupation of Senate House:

Only hours after Liverpool University’s Board of Appeal cut sentences on two disciplined sit-in students yesterday, about 350 fellow students forced their way into an administration block and held a ‘sit-in’ (pictured above).

Two and a half hours later the students left the Senate House building after the university’s Vice- Chancellor, Mr Trevor Thomas refused to meet them.

Students Andy Black, aged 20, and Phil Gusack, aged 22, had their two-year suspensions cut to one year. But the other seven suspensions and one expulsion still stand.

The appeal results were discussed by the 350 students, who marched to the Senate House and forced their way in when the doors were opened to allow the staff to go home.

One of the suspended students said: ”We felt that the decision was a token compromise in a bid to avoid further trouble.”

The Vice-Chancellor said he was prepared to meet the properly elected representatives of the students at any reasonable time but was not prepared to meet an ad hoc body of students, some of whose members were suspended students. The university authorities intend to issue a statement on the disciplinary proceedings some time next week.

Sit-in students have suspensions cut

The Times today reports the results of the appeals as follows:

Two of the sentences imposed by Liverpool University disciplinary board on 10 students who took part in a sit-in at the Senate House at the end of last term have been varied on appeal.

The two-year suspension of  Mr Andrew Black, aged 20, and Mr Philip Gusack, aged 22, have been reduced to a year.  All the other sentences have been upheld […]

When the decisions became known placards appeared in the Student Union carrying such slogans as ‘The pigs won’t be moved.  Appeals unchanged.’

Later, more than 400 of the 6,500 students surrounded the Senate House to ask Mr Trevor Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, to address them.  Fearing another sit-in, the authorities locked the doors against them, but they were later reopened and the protesting students moved freely about the administration block.