Association for the Future of Liverpool University
News Sheet (late October 1970)
A copy of the enclosed leaflet has now been sent to each of the original subscribers, and we are trying to circulate it among students through Halls of Residence and Departmental Societies. Copies have also been sent to the officers of the Guild of Undergraduates. We hope that by the end of this term we shall have a substantial student membership.
The available finances have been exhaused by the cost of printing this leaflet, and we hope that those subscribers who have not already done so will signify their willingness to make a contribution to running costs.
We hope to organise the collection of such contributions through departmental representatives.
We are trying to encourage the formation of a number of discussion groups (for both staff and students). MrRT Davies (Dept of English Literature) would be grateful to have offers both to participate in and to lead such groups, and also for suggestions for themes for discussion.
Some of the themes we have at present in mind are:
- The NCLL-NUS report on Academic freedom and the law (mostly concerned with students)
- Extra-academic considerations in appointing University teaching staff
- Research in chemical and biological warfare
On the 3rd October 1970 the Inaugural Conference of the National Council for Academic Freedom and Democracy (NCAFD) was held at Imperial College, London. The following comments are taken from a Report written by J Simpson who attended the Conference as an unofficial observer for AFLU. Anyone interested in a detailed account of the proceedings may borrow copy 0f the full report from members of the AFLU committee.
A copy of the AFLU Declaration has been sent to NCAFD.
Kenneth Muir, Chairman; DR Bowsher, Sheila Kay, RTDavies, RA Harkins, PEH Hair, AA Quayle, JSimpson.
Comments on NCAFD
General comments regarding the ‘tenor’ of the NCAFD conference must necessarily be tentative, since they are interpretive rather than factual.
However, the following considerations might be relevant.
If one is attempting to compare NCAFD and AFLU, it is worthy of note that while ostensibly concerned with the same thing – the state of the universities – the stimuli which prompted their respective formation were significantly different: student disorders in the case of AFLU, the sackings of academic radicals at Birmingham, LSE, Hornsey and Guildford in the case of NCAFD. (NCAFD’s more general concern with all institutions of higher education is too obvious a difference to need much emphasis). It was significant that of the speakers at the Conference perhaps only Professor Dorsen pointed out that student disorders also present a danger to academic feedom.
What was also striking was that the conference’s predominant concern was with the authority structure in institutions of higher education and the way in which this threatened the position of radical or dissenting academics. My major criticism of the conference is that it failed to make any distinction between dissent and disruption: one might reasonably expect universities etc to tolerate the former, but hardly the latter.
Also, the Conference left the meaning of the term ‘academic freedom’ hopelessly vague; consequently it seemed to mean different things to different speakers. Furthermore, the Conference gave inadequate consideration to what responsibilities academic freedom entails both for institutions of higher education to the community,and for members of these institutions (teachers, students, etc) to each other. Disregard of these responsibilities can, after all, also constitute a breach of academic freedom .
The predominating concern referred to above tended to exclude from consideration not only problems of student disruption but also, for example, the growing power of patronage enjoyed by Industry in universities, the threat to academic autonomy implicit in the withholding of financial support by non-academic bodies such as local authorities, to say nothing of direct government interference in university affairs. (This is not to say that these matters were never touched upon, but simply that they were not given appropriate emnhasis.
It was also noticeable that most comments from the floor stressed the need to make “democratisation” of authority in institutions of higher education NCAFD’s overriding concern; not surprisingly speakers from Colleges of Art, Education, Further Education, etc, were particularly articulate in this respect.