Letter to the Vice-Chancellor, 21/02/2012

February 21, 2012

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

It is our understanding that, following a complaint lodged by the Proctors, the University has initiated disciplinary proceedings against a student for ‘impeding freedom of speech’ in the course of a protest action against the Minister for Universities and Science, Mr David Willetts, which took place on November 22, 2011 at Lady Mitchell Hall.

Although the event at which Mr Willetts was to speak was cancelled, over fifty senior members of the University issued a statement in which they agreed that ‘given the destructive policies of the present government, enacted without due consultation, we believe that the disruption of the Minister for Universities’ address and the subsequent occupation [were] proportionate and justified actions’. Therefore we again call on the University authorities not to persecute those involved in the protest; and ask that the University strike a more appropriate balance between protecting its members’ rights to freedom of assembly and association and the right of others to freedom of speech.

We wish also to express grave concern that one individual is being singled out for disciplinary action when a great many members of the University, both junior and senior, were involved. In the circumstances, we deplore the decision to prosecute one individual as either arbitrary (and so inherently unfair), or as an attempt ‘pour encourager les autres’ (and so itself an attack on freedom of expression within the University). By choosing to proceed in this way, the University has embarked on a course of action which could reasonably be supposed to intimidate this individual, and which therefore represents a failure of the University’s moral duty to them.

Finally, we are also concerned that the University seems to hold both photographic and audio-visual records of parts of the protest, as well as of individual members who were present, and that it is not clear whether this material was collected in a manner which accords with the restrictions and obligations imposed by the Data Protection Act 1998. We are further troubled that the collection of this sensitive personal data might be indicative of a move towards a ‘surveillance culture’ within the University. We believe that such a development would be incompatible with freedom of expression within the University, and with the general expectations of its members.

We believe these are serious issues, and that a failure to address them in a timely manner will damage the University’s reputation. In particular, we ask that the decision to punish this student be reconsidered. Given the exigency of this issue, we look forward to hearing from you in the near future.


Dr Anne Alexander
Dr Anna Alexandrova
Dr Maike Albertzart
Dr M Atature
Dr H Azerad
Dr Tarak Barkawi
Dr Debbie Banham
Mr Bruce Beckles
Dr Duncan Bell
Dr Rowan Boyson
Dr Pam Burnard
Ms Sarah Cain
Dr Sophia Connell
Dr PJ Cunningham
Mr Will Davies
Dr Elizabeth Duignan
Dr Ben Etherington
Dr Lorna Finlayson
Dr Linda Fisher
Dr Alex Flynn
Dr Christophe Gagne
Professor Raymond Geuss
Dr Priyamvada Gopal
Dr Boris Groisman
Dr Jochen Guck
Mr Jeremy Hardingham
Mr Ronald Haynes
Dr David Hillman
Dr Edward Holberton
Dr Jana Howlett
Dr M Hrebeniak
Professor Simon Jarvis
Professor Cindi Katz
Dr Ruth Kershner
Professor John Kinsella
Dr Jessica Leech
Ms Mel Legatt
Professor John MacBeath
Dr Sinead Garrigan-Mattar
Dr Jeff Miley
Dr Clément Mouhot
Dr Subha Mukherji
Dr Kamal Munir
Dr Ian Patterson
Ms P Pointon
Mr JH Prynne
Dr Rory O’Bryen
Dr Jonathan Oppenheim
Dr George Oppitz-Trotman
Dr James Riley
Dr Josh Robinson
Dr Corinna Russell
Dr Jason Scott-Warren
Dr Adam Stewart-Wallace
Ms Isobel Urquhart
Dr Bert Vaux
Dr Isabel di Vanna
Dr Chris Warnes
Dr Ruth Watson
Mr Steve Watts
Dr David Whitley
Dr Andrew Zurcher

[This letter was sent to Vice-Chancellor Boryziewicz and the Proctors of the University on 21st February, and posted here one week later. To date no reply has been received.]

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