Burchnall gets his ducks in a row

Several papers in the archive of HH Burchnall, the Registrar, point to him marshalling evidence for the charges. For example, this undated handwritten note:

(a) Occupation by force of numbers

(b) 11 days – red flag

(c) Barricaded

(d) Entry refused

(e) Force applied

(f) Notice on door – “no admittance”

(g) Aspinall a leader – took my notice

(h) Snow – ditto

(i) Davies – ringleader


In another document, Burchnall highlights this sentence from the leaflet issued on the first afternoon of the occupation:

The administration of the University will not function in the building during occupation

He annotates this: ‘evidence of intent’.

It’s possible that this typewritten document is also part of the same process (and not, as suggested elsewhere, a report from a ‘mole’):

The seizure of Senate House

The Senate House was illegally occupied by students from Monday 9 March to Friday 20 March.  It has been said that the decision to occupy was taken at a mass meeting following a talk by the Vice-Chancellor to some 200 students in the Union building at 12:30pm.  This is false.

A decision to occupy the Senate House on the Monday, without regard to anything the Vice-Chancellor might say on that day, had been taken by a group of dissident students during the previous week.

The decision had been referred to by ring-leaders in Liverpool on the previous Thursday, and had been quoted in Cambridge before the weekend.

While the Vice-Chancellor was speaking, an advance guard was already lurking in the Senate House.

This has been admitted during the subsequent disciplinary proceedings.

One student has claimed –

[blank space]

Prominent among the occupying students were a former student and a number of outsiders.

The ‘equal responsibility’ statement

More evidence of the Registrar considering what course of action to take is to be found in the several versions of the list of those who signed and submitted the ‘equal responsibility’ statement witnessed by Fr McGoldrick. He made several versions of this list, classifying the respondents in different ways.

Breakdown of 174 students submitting ‘joint responsibility’ statement:

Faculty of Arts

  • Political Theory & Institutions: 23
  • Geography:  4
  • Architecture: 12
  • Social Sciences: 17
  • Psychology: 8
  • Philosophy: 3
  • Economics: 11
  • German: 1
  • Combined Studies: 5
  • English: 9
  • Business Studies: 2
  • History: 5
  • French: 1
  • Latin American Studies: 1
  • Civic Design: 1
  • Joint Honours: 9

Former students from Faculty of Arts

  • History: 2
  • Political Theory: 1
  • Architecture: 1

School of Education: 1

Faculty of Law: 8

Faculty of Engineering & Science

  • Mech Engineering: 1
  • Elect Enginneering: 2
  • Faculty of Science
  • Life Sciences: 5
  • Psychology: 6
  • Maths: 2
  • Botany: 2
  • Theoretical Physics: 1
  • Chemistry: 8
  • Computing & Statistical Sciences: 1

After the statements were submitted, the Registrar wrote to each student on 15 April asking them whether they were  “guilty of conduct which was detrimental to the discharge of the duties of the University”.  He received 127 replies, which he classifies here:

  • Number of signed statements (excluding those who are no longer students of the University): 171
  • Number of replies received: 127
  • Number of interim replies: 1
  • Number of replies awaited: 43

He also offers a different classification:

  • Those who played a minor part and have expressed regret for the inconvenience caused: 11
  • Those who pleaded guilty unconditionally to the charge as framed: 1
  • Those who say “No answer until charged”: 105
  • Miscellaneous responses: 13

After all this work, Burchnall wrote up a draft document, dated 6 May 1970, in which he set out his proposed response to the 170 students who had signed and submitted the statement of ‘equal responsibility’. Finally, an official document was issued, Disciplinary proceedings against the 171.


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