The 170: proposed disciplinary measures

This draft document, dated 6 May 1970, comes from the files of the Registrar, HH Burchnall. The document sets out his proposed response to the 174 students who had signed and submitted the statement of ‘equal responsibility’ for any action taken in accordance with the the wishes of the corporate body of the occupation’.

There is a covering note from Burchnall to Professor FJ Odgers (Professor of Law) which reads:

Dear Freddie,

We shall be meeting on Monday, and possibly earlier, to discuss the 170 students.  I enclose a copy of a draft statement I have prepared which could form a basis for our discussions, and I should be grateful for your views on it.

There are, of course, a number of policy matters to be decided and, in the light of these, the draft may need considerable amendment.  It may not, for instance, be desirable to impose a £10 fine on some 160 students. Alternatively, it may be desirable to proceed against two or three of these through our normal disciplinary machinery.  However, one has to start somewhere amd this is a start.

Yours sincerely

The draft proposal reads:

DRAFT

On 15 April, arising on the recent forcible occupation of the Senate House, I wrote to 170 students who themselves had written to the Vice-Chancellor stating that they were each ”equally responsible for any action taken in accordance with the wishes of the corporate body of the occupation”. In my letter I asked the students whether they intended by this statement to admit that they were guilty to a charge of which 10 students had been found guilty by the Board of Discipline, namely ”that you are guilty of conduct which was detrimental to the discharge of the duties of the University in that on 9th March, 1970, and succeeding days you occupied the Senate House and excluded the staff of the University with the intention of hampering the discharge of these duties”. I have received 127 replies to my letter.

Only one student pleaded guilty to the charge, and there are indications that his part in the occupation may have been less considerable than that of any other students. Some students admitted that they had been present in the Senate House but claimed that their participation was minimal – one or two visits for two or three hours at a time. Others claimed that the occupation was not ”forcible” – in spite of the exclusion of the staff and the barricading of the doors. Others claimed that they had not hampered the University in the discharge of its duties, since the University was not carrying out its duties as they conceived them. Many students refused to make any statement until formally charged.

Predictably, the University has been accused of victimisation. But disciplinary proceedings can only be instituted if there is sufficient evidence to support them. The University is advised that the various statements volunteered by these students from time to time do not constitute ”sufficient evidence”. It has therefore been decided to take no further action on the basis of the charge that the 170 students concerned intended to hamper the University in the discharge of its duties.

However, the occupation of the Senate House for a period of eleven days constitutes a serious offence, and x students have each been fined £10 for their admitted part in this occupation. In addition, they have been warned that any further misconduct on their part will have the most serious consequences.

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