Throughout the crises of early 1970 there had been disquiet about the growth of confrontation in the University and the deep divisions revealed by the collapse of Guild government, the occupation, the trials and their aftermath. During the summer term soundings were taken amongst various academics about the need to establish some kind of organisation that would seek a more consensual way forward.
These moves were initiated by Professor Hair of the History Faculty, and it was at this time that he began to gather the material that formed the archive, ultimately deposited with the University Library that now provides the raw material of this blog. An early expression of the ideas that led to AFLU can be seen in the letter which Professor Hair wrote to The Times after the trial verdicts, in response to the Bishop of Whitby’s letter.
In September 1970 the provisionally named AFLU, Association for the Future of Liverpool University, was launched. This leaflet was circulated among members of the University – academic staff, students and administrators – with the invitation to subscribe to the association. The leaflet was in two parts – an introduction to the ideas behind AFLU, and a declaration of principles:
Recently many people have come to feel that there is a prevailing uncertainty as to the nature of a university and its function in society, and that this uncertainty may have been a contributory factor in the troubles last year. It seemed worthwhile, therefore, to attempt some definition of the university and its role and in doing so to reassess certain values which of late appeared to be threatened.
With this in mind, a small group of academic staff conceived the idea of a forming an association on the basis of subscription to a number of very general fundamental principles. It was envisaged that the association would be made up of members from all areas of university life – students, teaching, administration and library staff – and would include people of widely differing political convictions. The association would address itself to the problems and issues which confront the university during the coming years.
It thus became necessary to formulate these principles and to do so in such a way that they would be acceptable to as large a number of people as possible. For this purpose, a draft declaration was drawn up and exposed to the critical scrutiny of two open meetings. The Declaration [below] is the result.
At present the association consists of some 200 signatories and is being run by a provisional committee whose names appear below.
To many, the contents of the Declaration will seem unexceptional, even ‘obvious’ but this does not detract from its importance. At a time when the values of intellectual tolerance and liberalism, vital to an academic community, are threatened by violent extremism, it represents an attempt to find an area of agreement, some common ground on which a fruitful exchange of ideas can take place. If this can be achieved we are that much closer to the kind of university, and ultimately the kind of society, in which everyone would be happy to live and work.
Kenneth Muir, chairman
Sheila M Kay
Being members of British universities in various capacities and concerned about the future of the universities:
- We consider that the communication and advancement of knowledge and learning is the primary purpose of a university in a society such as ours, where we look to the peaceful development of parliamentary democracy.
- We consider that the idependence of the academic community is essential to its primary purpose.
- We affirm that no person should be excluded from membership of a university on grounds of race, religion or politics; and that every member should be free to express his beliefs, provided that this is done in a way which does not conflict with the primary aim of a university or the rights or liberties of others.
- We affirm that political discussion and controversy are a part of the life of the university, but we are opposed to violence and disruption.
- In the university we consider that there should be experiment in forms of consultation and decision-making among all its members.
- We ask those outside universities who are of the same mind to support us, particularly by encouraging and pursuing policies in Parliament and before the electorate which indicate confidence in parliamentary democracy and in liberal universities.
- We ask those within universities who are of the same mind to join us in affirming these beliefs, in dissuading others from violence and disruption, and in seeking to solve university and governmental problems through rational and civilised discussion.
- Fact-finding and circulating
- Considering principles and policies
- Encouraging the expression of our views at meetings with students, in groups called together by ourselves or others
- Making representations, when appropriate, to university authorities and outside bodies encouraging the formation of similar groups in other universities.
A year later, AFLU had folded, having made very little impact. Two Newsletters were produced – the second, dated June 1971, suggests the organisation was about to be wound up. The newsletter stated:
An archive of material on developments at Liverpool since 1969 has been assembled: this and £15 in the bank represent our tangible assets.
Professor Hair died in 2005.