3: Salisbury as Chancellor

Lord Salisbury

Throughout the controversy that has simmered, and finally boiled over, in the past five years regarding Lord Salisbury’s position as Chance|lor of Liverpool University, there has been little defence of his views. The doubts were centred on whether his views were merely “personal” or whether they had to be seen in a political context. In his address to students on 9th March, 1970, the Vice-Chancellor, Trevor Thomas, objected to attacks on Lord Salisbury’s views, arguing that they were his own personal business, and that such attacks offended the principle that each man should be free to express his own political views. To many these arguments were inadequate.

It is not in dispute that the position of Chancellor does not carry any tangible power, and that it is merely a symbolic position. Whilst nobody has explained the purpose of even having a Chancellor it can be assumed, as it was by Lord Salisbury, that a Chancellor is chosen because he is “regarded as having a respectable reputation in some sphere of public life”. (16)

In defending the choice of Lord Salisbury, the Vice-Chancellor reiterated this point. It is a rejection of such standards – that see Salisbury as having a “respectable reputation” – upon which the opposition to the University is founded. That the Vice-Chancellor should find the opposition to Salisbury offensive because it appears to be a personal attack is a mistake born out of complacency. When there is widespread anger and opposition directed at the recognised symbol or figure-head of an institution, it can only be an attack on the administration which chose that symbol.

In unanimously choosing Lord Salisbury to head Liverpool University, Senate and Court manifested their ideas and attitudes with a positive clarity that is only just being grasped by those working in this institution. The University chose someone who in their eyes was “respectable”, yet they chose a man who has stood out against the end of colonialism, who has supported white rule in Africa with its attendant evils of oppression, racism and exploitation. They chose a man whose presence at the head of a University protesting multi-racial values is a betrayal of the concept of multi-raciaIism.


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