Fr McGoldrick replies

Following Professor Griffith’s defence of the Liverpool students in the 8 May issue of the New Statesmen, there were several responses. These appeared in the following issue of the journal on 15 May:

Sir,

The statement attributed to me in the article on ‘Student Bashing’ at Liverpool University by Professor Griffith (NS, 8 May) is quite correctly quoted but requires qualification from my side in view of certain information which came to my notice after I wrote the brief memorandum, from which it is taken. There is some evidence that at least as early as the previous Saturday, 7 March, a small group of students had decided on a ‘sit-in’ no matter what the result of the meeting of the whole university convened by the Vice-Chancellor for the afternoon of Monday 9 March.

It is still true however, that the rather abrupt termination of the meeting, coupled with the statement of the university treasurer referred to by Professor Griffith, rallied a good number of hitherto uncommitted students to the support of the sit-in and made the operation practicable. Of this I have abundant first-hand evidence. But it can not in truth be said that the meeting by itself had quite the spontaneous effect that I, and other independent observers attributed to it.  May I take this opportunity of dissociating myself completely from the attacks being made upon the newly arrived Vice-Chancellor, before he has had time to establish himself in his office and of calling upon your Liverpool student  readers to give Mr Thomas a fair hearing in the efforts hc is currently making to establish  fruitful dialogue between all sections of the university here?

TA McGoldrick, Catholic Chaplain to the University, Cathedral Precinct, Liverpool 3

Sir,

Professor Griffth’s article under the emotive heading ‘Student Bashing’ raises some important issues.  He seeks to mitigate the student action at Liverpool on the grounds that the occcupation of the Senate House was only all an inconvenience to the administration of the university and did not interfere with teaching or research. While this is not so militant as stopping all the activities of the university, it is clearly an application of force and a serious act of indiscipline, and one wonders how long a university can operate if its administration is unable to function. Professor Griffith concludes that in the long run strong disciplinary action is fatal to the purposes of university life. Why did he not also conclude that the use of force and indiscipline is also fatal to the same?

Had hc done so, his article might have been of constructive value and influence; as it stands, it is merely an incitement to ‘mini-violence’. One might well question whether a student guilty of serious indiscipline is worthy of receiving a university degree; is not self-discipline one of the essential qualities of the member of a profession, of the holder of an important post, a leader of the public and an ingredient of the life towards which higher education is an advanced base? The whole subject also needs to be considered in a wider context. Do we really believe in the maintenance and support of democracy and, if so, do we think that constant yielding to militancy – student or otherwise – is in the long run in the best interests of our beliefs?

WL Kent, Appleton, Warrington

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