Kangaroo Court Slams Militants
On Saturday 11 April, after a week of closed hearings, the Board of Discipline announced the sentences imposed on the 10 members of the occupation victimised by the university.
The penalties are the most severe ever handed out to student activists at a British university. They represent the strength of the law and order lobby in and out of universities today, and are almost certainly the beginning of a severe clampdown on political opposition inside the university.
It is essential that the student movement remains strong and united against the threat of repression.
7 people were suspended for two years by the Board: John Apinall, Andy Black, Richard Davies, Danny Fishman, Phil Gusak, Sue Rossinger and Ian Williams were suspended for 2 years, as of 11 April. Andy Burton and Jon Snow werte suspended for one year. Pete Cresswell, former secretary of Socialist Society, was expelled.
In a significant news report on 13 April, The Times noted, ‘The view is certainly that Liverpool has acted severely…Several other universities are considering similar charges against students after demonstrations at the end of the spring term. Some consider that the Liverpool decision may herald a more severe approach to militant student action…Universities certainly recognise that they are under pressure to act firmly against student demonstrations …the decision of Liverpool shows the strength of the pressure.’
The Board issued the following statement with the verdicts:
“The students had made the cardinal error of deciding that because they felt keenly on certain matters they were entitled to take forcible action and place themselves above the statutes, ordinances and regulations.
The Board has not attempted to act as an arbiter on any social or political views held by those students. The Board of Discipline does not accept submissions that responsibility for the action of individual students rested necessarily on the occupying group as a whole.
The Board is of the opinion that each individual student is a free agent and must accept responsibility for his own actions.”
Other developments during the vacation were as follows:
- The university refused to make the hearings public, to hear all the defendents together, or allow a postponement until after the vacation. They also refused to allow a transcript to be taken of the proceedings by any means. The records we have got are eye-witness accounts.
- The ten decided to plead not guilty on the grounds that in their eyes they had not been guilty of ‘conduct detrimental to the discharge of the duties of the university’.
- The university created four new pro-Vice Chancellors to sit on the Board. This was an attempt to avoid the charge that certain members of the Board, like PVC Farmer who was removed, had pre-judged the issue in public statements during the occupation.
- Professor stocks, Dean of the Medical Faculty and member of the Board of Discipline, accepted the post of Vice-Chancellor of Natal University, South Africa. His presence on the Board was challenged on the first day, but the challenge was ruled out of order.
- Support was gathered from outside. A group of people visited a number of factories and construction sites on Merseyside to publicise the 5 Demands. The response was very heartening; letters of solidarity came in from a number of places. Some sent letters to the VC. Many gave financial support – eg, Dista, Speke, said they could have collected £500 for a legal defence (see letter from Dista below).
- The university employed a barister, Mr Stannard, for the prosecution. This probably cost them around £1,500. Fr McGoldrick, the Catholic Chaplain, was moved to condemn this manifestation of inequality in the hearings.
- Liverpool Trades Council, representing Merseyside trade unionists decided to send a delegation to the VC to express in the strongest possible terms their condemnation of the victimisation. They are also considering pressing for trade union representation on Council. Eric Heffer, Labour MP for Walton, is also to see the VC.
- A Fighting fund has been set up to raise money for the campaign – publicity, information, etc. The academic staff have been circularised about the fund. A meeting of the Socialist Medical Association contributed £2.10s to the fund.