Page 7: Members of the Board, this was a political trial

Most of the ten summed up their defence by reading to the Board of Discipline the following statement:

I have in my examination of the prosecution witnesses attempted to correct the factual errors in their evidence.  I have also produced certain evidence of my own to explicate the exact nature of the decision-making process within the occupation: namely, to show that not only did it illustrate the principles of equal responsibility for, and equal participation in, the decision-making process, but that these principles were its foundation and essence.  These are the very principles that those inculcated with the thinking habits of secrecy, distrust, back-stabbing and one-upmanship which evolve out of a powerful and unrepresentative bureaucracy such as in this institution, can never hope to understand.

Having then made these two points, I wish to offer no other formal defence, save the reading of this statement.

I have both pleaded not-guilty to this charge, and freely admitted on more than one occasion that I was a member of the occupation.  This may, to some people, appear to be a contradiction; however, the charge states that my conduct was detrimental to the discharge of the duties of the University by occupying Senate House, and it is this that I deny.  For, having committed myself to the struggle to sever the links this institution has with racialism, secrecy, Chemical and Biological Warfare research and oligarchy, what were the alternatives open to me after the dismal address by the Vice-Chancellor and Mr Chrimes on Monday 9 March?

But before I expand upon these alternatives, I think it is important to illustrate the links I have just referred to.

Racialism

There can be no greater proof of this link than the fact that the Chancellor of this university is a self-incriminated racialist and colonialist of the most pernicious type.  Throughout the occupation and before there were few of even our most loquacious opponents who were prepared to dispute this claim.

Secrecy

Again there is a clear indication that secrecy is an integral part of the university administration in its refusal to allow the members of this university to see where its six million pounds are invested.  The demands so far have not been met for any control of investments – just for information. So if you have they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear or be ashamed of.

C.B.W.

Our Vice-Chancellor was happy to tell us that this university has never had a policy on C.B.W. We believe this was a blatant lie!  In 1968 the Secretary of Defence knew that this university had a policy towards C.B.W. because he revealed that there were two research contracts being worked on here (Hansard, May 1968).  So the link exists and to to talk of never having had a policy or having one in the future is beside the point.  This university should have a policy – one of complete refusal of any of these odious and lethal contracts.

Oligarchy

Even the briefest examination of this university’s power structure will show that a small group of senior administrators wield the day to day power and exert a major influence on external policy decisions.  No-one else, certainly anyone who isn’t either on the senior academic staff or a local business magnate – bishops excluded – gets a look-in.

Now to get back to the alternatives to someone trying to cut these links.  Prior to 9 March, numerous attempts to raise these questions had been made through those channels that are sanctioned by the ordinances and statutes of this university.  Resolutions were passed, support was rallied, letters were sent to the Vice-Chancellor and representations were made to the Senate and Council meetings.  This constitutional approach reached its climax in the Vice-Chancellor’s speech, and its results became apparent.  It became quite clear that those procedures as approached by the university administration could prove to be inflexible and to contain the barriers of satisfying and safeguarding the status quo that frustrate any serious attempt to raise the question, ‘what is a university?’, a question which the administration seems hell-bent on avoiding.  Were they as willing to discuss this as they are to spend many hundreds of pounds on a barrister to ensure the victimisation of ten students, and if reason could once conquer their conservatism, prejudice and paternalism, then the occupation would not have become such an absolute necessity and the five demands would have been met long ago.

As it is, although these questions have been under general discussion for many months, the administration has declined to discuss them and only recently acknowledged their existence in the Vice-Chancellor’s attempt to sweep them under the carpet.

It was not possible to abandon my stated objectives because the administration had forced us to the point where any further action was outside the university statutes, and thus, in the total absence of any real willingness on the part of the administration to at least negotiate on the questions we raised.

My primary concern is still with these questions and not with this disciplinary board, and as these questions are inseparable from any consideration of the occupation I am more than willing to discuss them, but wish to make no legalistic defence to this charge.

Pete Cresswell added these words:

Earlier in this statement I referred to ‘the duties of the university’ which I am charged with impeding.  It is clearly central to my defence that I should state what I believe these duties to be, and what I believe they ought to be.  In the sort of society we live in it is clearly the function of a university to produce people who are going to serve, ideologically and materially, the interests of the tiny and unrepresentative minority of people who control this country in their own interests.  It is my desire and my political aim to change this sort of university and this sort of system.  My political goal is a university run by and for the vast majority of the people – the working class – in a society which they control, where they have for themselves the wealth which they have always produced.

I believe the occupation of Senate House to have been a tiny step forwards to the realisation of this goal – the establishment of a socialist university in a socialist society.  Far from impeding the duties of the university, then, I believe that I was aiding progress towards what I believe its duties should be, and one day will be.  I will not be deterred from my aims by the petty threats of  this or any other court or the regulations of this university.

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1 thought on “Page 7: Members of the Board, this was a political trial”

  1. The key questions raised in this statement have not changed in 40 years. Indeed they have not changed materially in 400 years. What is a University? What is it for? Who is it for? And whose University is it?

    Then, and frequently today, the answers are provided not by academics or students, but by administrators, managers and those for whom the University is merely a place of employment rather than a centre for intellectual expression, experimentation and enjoyment.

    The effect is to suck the life from a University, to atrophy its energy and sterilise its creativity. Academics are counted, measured and compared; students, merely inculcated. The University physically becomes just so many sheds filled to an approved capacity.

    But worst of all, the University loses its moral strength. Turned over to the bureaucracy, it becomes an inflexible, unforgiving workhouse, incapable of renewal but brittle in the face of change ahead.

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