Thomas attacks ‘militant group’

This week, Guild Gazette leads its front page with a report on the Vice-Chancellor’s uncompromising response to the events surrounding the occupation in his annual report.  The article also sees a general pattern of repression and intolerance of students’ rights emerging both abroad and in this country – and particularly at Liverpool University, citing the formation of  the Association for the Future of Liverpool University.

The Vice-Chancellor, Mr TC Thomas, last Friday condemned in his annual report to the Court what he called “the action by a small minority group of militant students” at Liverpool University this year which, he alleged, “besmirched the enviable reputation which the student body had built for itself.”

In what is his first statement on the events of last year, and his first definite line of policy since becoming V-C last January, he said he hesitated to publicise further those “unhappy events” but certain aspects deserved recording for their lessons. He also stated that use of force, such as a sit-in, had to be outlawed.

His remarks have alarmed many students and are likely to cause further trouble. They are also seen, like the new conduct rules laid down at the start of term, as part of an international clamp-down on students.

Trevor Thomas, Vice-Chancellor

“The attempt by a minority militant group to overthrow the lawful constitution of the Guild has a lesson for the student body as a whole”, claimed Mr. Thomas, “The Guild must be vigilant in perceiving and in heading off attempts by such groups to abuse the procedural rules of the Guild Constitution for their own ends.”

He went on to relate this to a wider context than the University. “History will perhaps find it strange to record that it is the interests of majorities and not those of minorities that stood in need of protection”. In claiming that a sit-in was a use of force he argued that “in a University community, force in support of any argument or cause must be outlawed.

“It would be regrettable and unfair however, if the irresponsible action of the very few came to be attributed to the student body as a whole.” Mr Thomas concluded, “I prefer to believe that the majority recognise that the way for more effective participation by the student body in the life and work of the University is through a willingness to discuss, compromise and work for a solution that will be lasting and not merely “relevant to a passing phase.”

At the NUS Conference held last weekend at Margate, copies of a confidential letter drawn up by a group of academics inviting university teachers to sign a manifesto for the ‘preservation of  freedom in the academic community’ were circulated by students from York University. The manifesto, which has attracted 150 signatures of academics from 20 universities states that university authorities should sack persistently rebellious students and attacks sit-ins as unacceptable forms of protest.

It calls for new disciplinary codes which students must agree to before admission. Infringements would be punished and continual breaking of the rules would lead to students being sent down. “Some universities have already established such principles and are putting  them into practice.”

A new code of conduct was established here at Liverpool at the beginning of term and it will be remembered that ten students were disciplined and suspended last year without committing any prior offences.

”University authorities should not negotiate under duress,” states the manifesto and declares that while some consultation with students may be welcomed, “the ultimate decision-making responsibility must rest and be seen to rest entirely on the appointed staff of the university.”

NUS President Jack Straw commented, “I think the most objectionable part is that which relates to student non-involvement in university life. It means they must be seen but not heard. Students have been fighting against this sort of reactionary attitude for some years.”

One of the original drafters of the manifesto, Professor Cox of Manchester University, co-editor of the Black Papers on education (which recommended maintenance of the old public school and Grammar School systems) denies what many delegates at the Margate Conference considered the manifesto to be – proof of the establishment of a new international committee of “reactionary academics”.

A League of Freedom of Science formed last week to “combat student revolt in Western European universities” includes 100 professors from Britain, the USA, France, West Germany, and Italy. It denied an accusation from the West German Students Association that it camouflages Right-wing aims and is financed by West German industry, and called the VDS (as the Association is known) a communist controlled organisation.

The VDS has published a letter from the West German League of  Employers’ Associations urging its members to send money to the new academic group as “the voice of reason in the explosive situation in the universities.”

In America an international ‘trouble-shooting brigade’ called the International Committee on the University Emergency has been set up by 103 leading academics, aiming to help any university that finds itself in trouble from extremists, subversives, interfering politicians of Left or Right or outside pressure groups. It is financed by the Rockefeller Foundation.

According to one member, Mr Charles Frankel, former United States Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, it is, “in no way a backlash movement springing from recent  campus disorders. There has been extreme polarisation in our universities and we are trying to fill the vacuum in the middle.”

Students in America are however doubtful of these claims or of the exact nature of the Committee’s support. They also think the members to be misguided to think any university is going to consult an oujtside body like this when dealing with student demands.

The Association for the Future of Liverpool University, set up last term [by Professor Hair of the History Faculty] is also “opposed to violence and disruption” and asks other universities to join in “dissuading others from violence and disruption”.

ln a publicity handout AFLU state they are convinced of the need to give new meaning to the old values of intellectual tolerance and liberalism.

History students point out that to give a new meaning to these permanent values is to lead to two political extremes of Right or Left.

AFLU originated from academics in the history department yet though AFLU wants to encourage discussions between themselves and students the history department staff-student committees are described by the students as a farce which merely satisfy the wooly minded liberalism of the staff. The dissatisfaction of the Joint honours students are also totally ignored.

It seems that a general pattern of repression, intolerance of students’ rights to question what they see as wrong, is emerging both abroad and in this country, and particularly at Liverpool University.

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Garden House ‘riot’ sentences

The Times carries a report on the severe sentences handed out to the students arrested in the Garden House hotel ‘riot’ in Cambridge in May this year:

Six Cambridge students were sentenced to terms of imprisonment ranging from nine to 18 months today for their part in a riot at a Cambridge hotel in February. They were convicted yesterday on charges arising out of a demonstration against the Greek regime during a Greek week event at the Garden House Hotel. Two of those sent to prison were also recommended for deportation.

Footnote

The trial was presided over by the notorious Justice Melford Stevenson.

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.

Mrs Thatcher urges sit-in prosecutions

Another indication of the mood among some politicians and academics in this report from today’s Times:

Students and other demonstrators who occupied buildings and put them out of normal use should be liable to prosecution in the courts, Mrs M Thatcher, shadow Education Minister, said last night.

Addressing more than 600 members of the National Association of Head Teachers at their annual conference in Scarborough, she said that the Government should give a lead to the nation by tipping the legal system in favour of the moderate and law-abiding citizen.

Mrs Thatcher said that her suggestion might mean changes to the law of trespass.  She told me after her speech that she was thinking of recent evidence at Liverpool Iniversity and in Ulster where buildings had been put out of use by demonstrators.

Footnote, 2009, from the Margaret Thatcher Foundation website:

Margaret Thatcher had a rough ride as Education Minister. The early 1970s saw student radicalism at its height and British politics at its least civil. Protesters disrupted her speeches, the opposition press vilified her, and education policy itself seemed set immovably in a leftwards course, which she and many Conservatives found uncomfortable. But she mastered the job and was toughened by the experience.

Cricket Council call off tour ‘with deep regret’

Today The Times reports the announcement that the South African cricket tour has been called off – a triumph for the Stop The Seventy Tour movement:

The Cricket Council yesterday cancelled at the Government’s request the South African’s cricket tour. A statement said that the council withdrew their invitation ” with deep regret “. African and Asian countries which had threatened to boycott the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in July if the tour went on are now expected to attend.

A barrister said he would launch a private prosecution at Bow Street Magistrates’ Court next week against Mr. Peter Hain, chairman of the Stop The Seventy Tour Committee, accusing him of seditious conspiracy.

The Cricket Council last night Called off the South Africans’ tour this summer. After a meeting at Lord’s lasting 90 minutes, Mr S C Griffith, secretary of the council, read out a statement. It said that the council had considered “the formal request from her Majesty’s Government to withdraw the invitation to the South African touring team this summer”, adding:- ” With deep regret the council were of the opinion that they had no alternative but to accede to this request and they are informing the South African Cricket Association accordingly.”

The council was grateful for the overwhelming support of cricketers, cricket lovers and many others, and shared their disappointment at the cancellation of the tour.  At the same time it regretted the “discourtesy” to the South African Cricket Association and the inconvenience caused to so many people.

“The council see no reason to repeat the arguments to which they still adhere, which led them to sustain the invitation to the South African cricketers issued four years ago”, the statement said. ” They do, however, deplore the activities of those who, by the intimidation of individual cricketers and threats of violent disruption have inflamed the whole issue.”

The meeting was attended by 25 of the council’s 29 members, including Colin Cowdrey, the England Test player. No vote was taken on the decision. Mr. Griffith read out the text of a terse letter sent to Mr. Callaghan, Home Secretary, who on Thursday met the council’s officials and asked them to cancel the tour.

The letter said: ” The Cricket Council today considered the formal request of her Majesty’s Government to withdraw their invitation to the South African Cricket Association to tour the United Kingdom in 1970 contained in your letter of May 21 1970. “The council were of the opinion that they had no alternative but to accede to the request and are informing the South African Cricket Association accordingly.” It was signed by Maurice Allom, chairman of the Cricket Council. Mr. Griffith, who met the press in the Long Room at Lord’s, invited questions but was reluctant to enlarge on the feeling of the council about its decision. […] When the name of Mr. Peter Hain, chairman of the Stop the Seventy Tour Committee, was mentioned Mr. Griffith said quietly: “I am not the faintest bit interested.” More than 500 telegrams, nearly all in support of the council’s decision to go ahead with the tour arrived at Lord’s yesterday.

Instead of the Test matches against South Africa England will now play five matches against a Rest of the World team. The council hopes to recoup some of the revenue lost from the tour. Mr. Griffith estimated that in normal circumstances the South African tour would have produced a profit of about £200,000. He could make no estimate of the cost of defences put up at the grounds due for matches but said that although they were quite expensive they were not astronomical. […]

Mr. Quintin Hogg last night blamed Mr. Callaghan and Mr. Wilson for bowing to threats and yielding to blackmail over the South Africans’ cricket tour. The cancellation, he said, came because of persons who threatened extra-legal action to disrupt perfectly lawful activity and resorted to bullying for the purpose of imposing their decision upon an independent body of sportsmen. The decision by the Cricket Council was taken under duress, Mr. Hogg said. It was a sad day for British freedom. He accused Mr. Wilson of deliberately encouraging the threats and being ” responsible in part for the situation out of which he has now sought to dodge. ” The whole operation is a classic illustration of the inability of this Government to preserve freedom in this country, or to maintain law and order ”

Mr. Peter Hain, chairman of the Stop the Seventy Tour Committee, said it was extremely courageous of the Government in acting to pull the situation out of an entrenched position. “I would hope the Conservative Party will come out in support of the Labour Party in these circumstances.” He described it not as a backing down for British cricket but an advance to a situation where racialism would be rejected in international sport.

Mr. Dennis Brutus, president of the South African Non-Racial Open Committee for the Olympic Games, said: “The way is open to real progress towards non-racial cricket in South Africa.” Mr. Jeff Crawford. secretary of the West Indian Standing Conference, commented: “I would hope that the momentum we have gained for the fight against racialism will go on in Britain.”

The Bishop of Woolwich the Right Rev. David Sheppard, Mr. Reginald Prentice and Sir Edward Boyle, of the Fair Cricket Campaign, said: ” This wise decision is a victory for reason. It is not a surrender to intimidation or blackmail. By its decision the Cricket Council has committed itself firmly to the principle of non-racial cricket in the future.”

Internationally the decision had immediate repercussions. All 12 African countries will now take part in the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Officials there were jubilant at news of the cancellation. Within British cricket there were some strong comments. Mr. J. C. Clay, president of Glamorgan County Cricket Club, said: “It is a sad day for English cricket and England when a combination of polities and rowdies can blackmail two harmless sets of cricketers playing their own game”‘ Mr. C. R. Yeomans, chairman of the Council of Cricket Societies said in Leeds: “The Government,  not the Cricket Council, have capitulated to anarchy.” […]

Mr. Francis Bennion, a barrister, of Warlingham, Surrey, said yesterday he would launch a prosecution at Bow Street Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday against Mr Peter Hain, chairman of the Stop the Seventy Tour Committee, accusing him of seditious conspiracy. Mr. Bennion said he would do so “‘under provisions of the criminal law which make it seditious to conspire to provoke tumult and disorder in furtherance of any object, to promote breaches of contract and acts of trespass, and to insult or annoy law-abiding people”

‘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’.

Don’t view sentences in isolation from the national scene

Two letters with contrasting viewpoints appear in Letters to the editor in today’s issue of Guild Gazette. The first, from Joe Paley, a Law students, puts the sentences of the Board of Discipline in the national context:

Don’t view the sentences in isolation from the national scene

Sir,

In the light of the recent discipline proceedings that have taken place at Liverpool as a result of last term’s occupation of the Senate Building, there has been much well meaning indignation at the severity of the sentences.

It is distressing, however, to find that the majority of the feeling generated has tended to view the sentences in isolation from the national scene.

It is indeed surprising that whilst few would disagree that the student disorder was a national issue last term, few will now accept that the reaction to this has been nationally planned.

Whilst not wishing to impune the integrity of the Board of Discipline and the independent nature of their decision, there are certain facts which should be brought to the attention of both the Board of Discipline and those who still see the Liverpool situation in isolation:

  1. The Law and order campaign (Tory initiated) which is grinding up to full swing in this country.
  2. The Vice Chancellor’s meeting which took place on March 13th, almost immediately after the Liverpool occupation began.
  3. The meeting between the Vice Chancellors and the Prime Minister.
  4. The militant line which has suddenly been taken throughout the British campuses against dissident students.

With reference to point 4, it is not coincidental that in the last few weeks Paul Hoch has been committed to prison by the LSE authorities, Cambridge students are coming up on a riot charge, three Essex students have been committed to Borstal, one suspended at Keele, 50 sent down at Edinburgh, Bolchover expelled from Oxford, six Swansea students on a conspiracy charge (relating to the Christmas Springbok demonstration) and elsewhere on all campuses, students have been warned that if they cause trouble, they face discipline.

We are experiencing the changeover period from discipline for selected ‘offences’ which takes into account the reasons for the trouble to a non selective blind reaction against student militancy of any sort.

The only correct term for this situation is proto-fascism – reliance on fear authoritarianism in the complete absence of an understanding of the situation.

Criticism of the University structure and allegiance to business is now per se dangerous to the administrators and will be treated as such. Bearing this in mind it is surely naive to see Liverpool in isolation from the rest of the universities or indeed from the industrial scene.

There can be little doubt that Liverpool is being used as a test case, an experiment in militant bashing, to see the effect of the heavy hand policy, as against the soft glove policy which has proved to be a failure.

For this reason, it is critical that Liverpool does not take this victimisation lying down, since this would only encourage the national Vice Chancellor’s committee to make vicious reaction their long term policy.

Yours sincerely,

Joe Paley (Law)

Vets say too lenient

Sir,

On behalf of the Veterinary Society we would like to point out that at a recent meeting, the Society voted by 1 20 votes to 1, with five abstentions, to dissociate themselves from the motions passed at the Council Meeting on 23rd April. A motion was also passed fully supporting the procedure and findings of the Disciplinary Committee. Finally, we consider the behaviour of the students involved in last term’s sit-in disgraceful, and prejudicial to the good name of this fine University.

Yours faithfully,

John Hine (President), C J Brown (Secretary)