Category Archives: Occupations

Oxbridge speaks out against Oldfield deportation proceedings

As staff, students, and alumni of Cambridge and Oxford Universities, we are calling on the Home Secretary to stop deportation proceedings against Trenton Oldfield for disrupting the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race in April 2012.

We neither believe that this action constituted an infraction serious enough to warrant such a heavy penalty, nor accept that it establishes that Mr Oldfield is ‘undesirable, has unacceptable associations and could be considered a threat to national security’.

The Boat Race is a game; its disruption should not result in any individual’s deportation. Certainly its disruption should not be cause to separate an individual from his family, which includes a recently-born child.

We note that the race was completed successfully and no one was harmed by Mr Oldfield’s actions. We do not wish this draconian penalty to be applied in the name of an event representing our institutions.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Professor Bill Adams
  2. Hilary Aked
  3. Pav Akhtar
  4. Dr Anne Alexander
  5. Jennifer Allsop
  6. Ed Anderson
  7. Fraser Anderson
  8. Thom Andrewes
  9. Dr Rosa Andújar
  10. Dr Houshang Ardavan
  11. James Arnold
  12. Nehal Bajwa
  13. Anushree Banerjee
  14. Alex Barker
  15. Jack Barron
  16. Professor Horace Barlow
  17. Professor John Barrell
  18. Jo Beardsmore
  19. Daniel Benjamin
  20. Abhishek Bhattacharya
  21. Anindya Bhattacharyya
  22. Ian Birchall
  23. Alex Blake
  24. Dr Adrian Boutel
  25. Kate Bradley
  26. Ruthi Brandt
  27. Richard Braude
  28. Maggie Bridge
  29. Callum Brodie
  30. Rachel Bower
  31. Harriet Boulding
  32. Dr Warren Boutcher
  33. Professor Andrew Bowie
  34. Christopher Bowlers
  35. Dr Deborah Bowman
  36. Simon Brackenborough
  37. Olivia Brogan
  38. Tarin Brokenshire
  39. Marianne Brooker
  40. Michael Brooks
  41. Abbe Browne
  42. Anna Bull
  43. Toby Bull
  44. Dr R E R Bunce
  45. Imogen Buxton
  46. Dr Brendan Burchell
  47. Revd James Buxton
  48. Dr Melissa Calaresu
  49. James Cameron
  50. Brian Cantwell
  51. Max Charles Compton
  52. Julian Cheyne
  53. Danny Chivers
  54. Dr Jean Chothia
  55. Jordan Laris Cohen
  56. Xavier Cohen
  57. Joshua Coles-Riley
  58. Dr Philip Connell
  59. Dr Sophia Connell
  60. Professor Steven Connor
  61. Andrew Conway
  62. Professor Helen Cooper
  63. Emma Claussen
  64. Dr Stephen J Cowley
  65. Dr Teresa Almeida Cravo
  66. Tim Cribb
  67. James Crowley
  68. Dr Martin Crowley
  69. Dr Ildiko Csengei
  70. Robert Deakin
  71. Dr Andreas Dimopoulos
  72. Bella Dimova
  73. Caitlin Doherty
  74. Cath Duric
  75. Jennifer Edmunds
  76. Hannah Elsisi
  77. Dr AL Erickson
  78. Ann Evans
  79. Nicholas Evans
  80. Dr Tom Eyers
  81. Hannah Fair
  82. Olivia Fletcher
  83. Dr Katrina Forrester
  84. Professor Alison Finch
  85. Dr Lorna Finlayson
  86. Felix Flicker
  87. Joey Frances
  88. Tessa Frost
  89. Paul Furnborough
  90. Dr Sinéad Garrigan Mattar
  91. Professor Vic Gattrell
  92. Amy Gilligan
  93. Dr Philip Gilligan
  94. Professor Heather Glen
  95. Louis Goddard
  96. Charlotte Godwin
  97. Simon Gomberg
  98. Dr Priyamvada Gopal
  99. Professor Robert SC Gordon
  100. Dr Abhijit Gupta
  101. Emily Hammerton-Barry
  102. Jeremy Hardingham
  103. Dr Rachael Harris
  104. Dr Paul Hartle
  105. Luke Hawksbee
  106. Ned Hercock
  107. Sarah Hickmott
  108. Sky Herrington
  109. Sean Hewitt
  110. Peter Hill
  111. Robert Hinde
  112. Dr David Hillman
  113. Professor Hugh Haughton
  114. Owen Holland
  115. Dr Alex Houen
  116. Elizabeth Homersham
  117. Dr Edward Holberton
  118. Robert Holman
  119. James Hooper
  120. Dr Sarah Howe
  121. Dr Michael Hrebeniak
  122. Dr Katherine Ibbett
  123. Professor Mary Jacobus
  124. Graham Jeffrey
  125. Dr Richard Jennings
  126. Peter Matthew James
  127. Dr Jessica Johnson
  128. Dr Charles Jones
  129. Sophie Jones
  130. Dr Anna Kemp
  131. Owen Kennedy
  132. Nada Kevlin
  133. Neil Kirkham
  134. Lucy Amber Kitching
  135. Professor Peter Kornicki
  136. Marie Kolkenbrock
  137. Thomas Lalevee
  138. Dr Mary Laven
  139. Daniel Lawrence
  140. Orland Lazar-Gillard
  141. Heather Lee
  142. Jia Hui Lee
  143. Roses Leech-Wilkinson
  144. Caroline Leonard
  145. Dr Helena Lima de Sousa
  146. Professor M M Lisboa
  147. James Lovedale
  148. Louisa Loveluck
  149. Gavin Lowe
  150. Peter Luca
  151. Rory Macqueen
  152. Claire Males
  153. Professor Willy Maley
  154. Edward Maltby
  155. Dr Andy Martin
  156. Kathryn Maude
  157. Vasiliki Mavroeidi
  158. Jack May
  159. Richard McAleavey
  160. Dr Maryon McDonald
  161. Dr Willia McEvoy
  162. Dr Laura McMahon
  163. Lucy McMahon
  164. Catherine Metcalfe
  165. Dr Drew Milne
  166. Agnieszka Mlicka
  167. Dr Sarah Monk
  168. Liran Morav
  169. Freya Morrissey
  170. Dr Joe Moshenska
  171. Ruby Moshenska
  172. Professor Clément Mouhot
  173. Dr Subha Mukherji
  174. Decca Muldowney
  175. Georgia Mulligan
  176. Dr Kamal Munir
  177. Fuad Musallam
  178. Edd Mustill
  179. Swiya Nath
  180. Dr Alex Niven
  181. Dr George Oppitz-Trotman
  182. John Parrington
  183. Matthew Parsfield
  184. Dr Ian Patterson
  185. Vaia Patta
  186. Rose Payne
  187. Dr Tom Perrin
  188. Harriet Phillips
  189. Ben J Platt
  190. Gabriel Polley
  191. Orla Polten
  192. Timothy Poole
  193. Kirsty Philbrick
  194. Sam Pritchard
  195. Ben Pritchett
  196. Ivan Rajic
  197. Dr Lucy Razzall
  198. Taz Rasul
  199. Nicola Read
  200. Dr John Regan
  201. Emma Reeves
  202. Dr Nicky Reeves
  203. David Renton
  204. Graham Riach
  205. Dr James Riley
  206. Ali Robertson
  207. Dr Josh Robinson
  208. Elly Robson
  209. Karlijn Roex
  210. Or Rosenboim
  211. Akram Salhab
  212. Austen Saunders
  213. Professor Raphael Salkie
  214. Dr W Owen Saxton
  215. Yasmeen Sebbanna
  216. Matthew Sellwood
  217. Dr Jason Scott-Warren
  218. Arianne Shahvisi
  219. Matthew Smith
  220. Brian Simbirski
  221. Dr Pritam Singh
  222. Tanya Singh
  223. Pakkamol Siriwat
  224. Dr Sophie Smith
  225. Dr Peter Sparks
  226. Lindsay Stronge
  227. Olivia Arigho Stiles
  228. Professor Tiffany Stern
  229. Helen Stokes
  230. Dr Hugh Stevens
  231. Dr Adam Stewart-Wallace
  232. Dr Bernard Sufrin
  233. Dr Helen J. Swift
  234. Arianna Tassinari
  235. Angelica Tatam
  236. Dr Trudi Tate
  237. Alex Temple
  238. Professor Jeremy Till
  239. Dr Deborah Thom
  240. Max Trevitt
  241. Professor David Trotter
  242. Dr Kate Tunstall
  243. Jo Tyabji
  244. Isobel Urquhart
  245. Rebecca Varley–Winter
  246. Dr Filippo De Vivo
  247. Dr Jennifer Wallace
  248. Dr Caroline Warman
  249. Laurence Watson
  250. Dr Peggy Watson
  251. Dr Hannah Weibye
  252. Caroline Williams
  253. Dr Daniel Wilson
  254. Dominic Williams
  255. Sophie Williams
  256. Jacob Wills
  257. Colin Wilson
  258. Dr Hope Wolf
  259. Johannes Wolf
  260. Harry Wright
  261. Waseem Yaqoob
  262. Musab Yunis
  263. Sophie Zadeh
  264. Dr Nicolette Zeeman
  265. Dr Andrew Zurcher
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Boat race protester threatened with deportation

Trenton Oldfield, the man who in April 2012 protested against the Boat Race by swimming into the path of the boats, is being threatened with deportation. He would thereby be separated from his wife and young child. The Home Office holds that his actions showed him to be someone whose presence in the UK is “not conducive to the public good”.

The following is the text of a letter which will be sent to The Guardian and posted online. If you are affiliated with Oxford or Cambridge and wish to sign, please send your name, title and affiliation as soon as possible to cache.campaigns@yahoo.co.uk

Please circulate to staff, students and alumni.

As staff, students, and alumni of Cambridge and Oxford Universities, we are calling on the Home Secretary to stop deportation proceedings against Trenton Oldfield for disrupting the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race in April 2013.

We neither believe that this action constituted an infraction serious enough to warrant such a heavy penalty, nor accept that it establishes that Mr Oldfield is ‘undesirable, has unacceptable associations and could be considered a threat to national security’.

The Boat Race is a game; its disruption should not result in any individual’s deportation. Certainly its disruption should not be cause to separate an individual from his family, which includes a recently-born child.

We note that the race was completed successfully and no one was harmed by Mr Oldfield’s actions. We do not wish this draconian penalty to be applied in the name of an event representing our institutions.

Police intelligence operations against CDE

A Cambridge undergraduate has been approached by police to inform on political groups at the university. The student secretly filmed the meeting, and the incident was reported in The Guardian. The University has not commented except to say that ‘it was a matter for the police’. Cambridge Defend Education (CDE), one of the targets of the failed intelligence operation, responded on their website and in a follow-up piece in The Guardian.

Here is more press interest in the case:

 
 
 
 

 

Bruce Beckles, ‘INDEPENDENCE ≠ ABSOLUTION’

INDEPENDENCE ≠ ABSOLUTION

In the prosecution and sentencing of Owen Holland, the University has repeatedly pointed to the independence of individual University Officers (the University Advocate [1]) or statutory bodies (the University’s Court of Discipline [2]), as though this somehow absolves it not only of all responsibility for their actions, but also of any duty to remedy those actions should they be faulty.  From a legal point of view, this is nonsense: should legal proceedings (whether criminal or civil) be initiated in response to the actions in this case of the University Advocate or the Court of Discipline, it is the University one would expect to be the respondent and to be held liable by the court.

Even the quasi-judicial Court of Discipline implicitly acknowledges this: the case before that Court was “University of Cambridge v Mr O Holland” not “Dr R Thornton v Mr O Holland”.  Furthermore, as the complaint against Mr Holland was made by the Proctors, the University’s own Ordinances make clear that in prosecuting the case before the Court of Discipline the University Advocate was acting on behalf of the University.  The relevant section of the Ordinances reads:

If a charge arises from a complaint made by the Proctors, the Advocate shall be responsible for presenting the case on behalf of the University. [3 – emphasis mine]

Indeed, the idea that an institution is legally responsible for the actions of those it has empowered to act on its behalf when they are carrying out their duties is hardly a new one: employment tribunals are only too familiar with this principle.  If a Head of Department were to go around “independently” victimising members of staff, would the University really claim before an employment tribunal that it was in no way responsible?  (If so, no wonder the University prefers to settle when staff and former staff haul it before employment tribunals.)

The Court of Discipline and the University Advocate receive their authority from the Statutes and Ordinances of the University.  The University is unequivocally responsible for its Ordinances [4] and, subject to Privy Council approval, for its Statutes[5].  To say it is in no way responsible for the behaviour of bodies and individuals empowered under statute would be like the government claiming it was in no way responsible for the prosecution and sentencing of homosexuals under anti-gay legislation.  We would not hesitate to reject such claims out of hand where a government was concerned, and we should not hesitate to do so where the University is concerned, either.

And even if the University Advocate and the Court of Discipline have somehow “gone rogue” – which the University seeks slyly to imply by distancing itself from the official actions of its Officers and Courts – it is still within the University’s power to curb their excesses and remedy any wrongs they have committed.  Specifically, the University Council could lay a Grace [6] before the Regent House [7] overturning or commuting Mr Holland’s sentence, or changing the Statutes and Ordinances under which the Advocate and the Court operate.  (Such a Grace would, of course, be subject to Regent House approval, so if the Regent House failed to approve it then, and only then, would the Council be able to say it was not responsible for what had happened.  Since, however, as far as anyone outside the Council can tell, this has not even been attempted, the Council should most certainly be held accountable for what has happened thus far.)

Finally, the Vice-Chancellor has the power under section 5 of Statute K [8] to nullify any action taken by a person or body operating under statute if he believes they have acted in violation of the Statutes, Ordinances or Orders.[9] So if a credible case can be made that the Advocate or the Court were acting in violation of the University’s Statutes and Ordinances then it is directly within the Vice-Chancellor’s power to remedy the situation.  As far as I’m aware there hasn’t been a detailed examination of the actions taken in Mr Holland’s case to see whether any were in violation of the Statutes and Ordinances – and, of course, it should be remembered that the Human Rights Act 1998 requires the University’s Statutes to be “read and given effect in a way which is compatible with the [rights and freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights]” [10], rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly (since the University’s Statutes are “subordinate legislation” for the purposes of that Act [11]).

Thus not only is it unreasonable for the University to imply or claim that it is not responsible for Mr Holland’s prosecution and sentencing, but we should also all be aware that remedy for these actions lies well within the University’s power, and may even lie directly within the Vice-Chancellor’s power.  The supposed independence of the University Advocate and the Court of Discipline do not absolve the University of responsibility, and they most certainly do not leave it incapable of correcting the injustice its Court has inflicted upon one of its students.

BRUCE BECKLES is a member of the University’s governing body, the Regent House; a University Officer; and an elected member of the University’s Board of Scrutiny from 1 October 2011 to 30 September 2015.

________________________________________________________

[1] http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/4534

[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/mar/14/cambridge-student-ban-protest-david-willetts

[3] Regulation 2(b) of Ordinances, Chapter II, UNIVERSITY COURTS,
Initiation of proceedings before the University Tribunal, the Court of Discipline, or the Summary Court (Statutes and Ordinances 2011, p. 200): http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2011/chapter02-section18.html#heading2-23

[4] Section 1 of Statute A, Chapter II (Statutes and Ordinances 2011, p.
5): http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2011/statute_a-section2.html#heading2-2

[5] The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge Act 1923: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/13-14/33

[6] A Grace is a motion for decision presented to the University’s governing body, the Regent House.  See http://www.cam.ac.uk/univ/works/graces.html.

[7] Section 1(e) of Statute A, Chapter IV (Statutes and Ordinances 2011, p.
7): http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2011/statute_a-section4.html#heading2-4

[8] Statutes and Ordinances 2011, p. 70: http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2011/statute_k-front.html

[9] Roughly speaking, Orders are Graces of the University which do not directly modify the University’s Statutes and Ordinances.

[10] Section 3(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/section/3

[11] As the University’s Statutes are made under the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge Act 1923, they fall into category (f) of “subordinate legislation” as defined in section 21(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/42/section/21

Bruce Beckles, ‘A World Away from the Court of Discipline’

A WORLD AWAY FROM THE COURT OF DISCIPLINE: A UNIVERSITY REGENT’S VIEW

I do not believe that Owen Holland – sentenced earlier this week [1] – did, as the University contends, or in any meaningful sense, “impede freedom of speech within the Precincts of the University”.  In particular, having seen the University’s evidence, I do not believe they have established this beyond reasonable doubt, which they are required to do for a guilty verdict.[2] (Compare, for instance, the protester Martin Jahnke’s acquittal before a Magistrates’ Court of a public order offence after he disrupted Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s speech at the University by blowing a whistle, shouting, and throwing his shoe at the stage.[3])

But even if Mr Holland were guilty of “impeding freedom of speech”, the sentence is out of all proportion to the supposed offence: for allegedly denying a government Minister free speech for 1.5 hours, the University has actually denied Mr Holland’s academic freedom and his rights to education, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly for 2.5 years. I observe that had Mr Holland been charged before a criminal court with some appropriate public order offence (probably under section 4A or 5 of the Public Order Act 1986), a guilty verdict would not have been accompanied by such a punitive sentence (a maximum of a 6 month sentence under section 4A or a fine under section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986).

Now, in the aftermath of this so-called “trial”, I find my thoughts keep returning to two questions in particular.  Firstly, how will my University colleagues respond when faced with such a blatant injustice inflicted in our name, supposedly for our protection?  And secondly, what justification will the University administration give for (a) the actions taken (or failures to act) by the administration, some University Officers and the Court of Discipline, that have led to this sentence; and (b) the sentence itself?

With regard to my colleagues’ reactions, I await with especial eagerness a public statement from Professor Goldhill, the organiser of the event at which the protest which gave rise to the charge against Mr Holland took place.  Immediately after the protest, Professor Goldhill said: “the protest, in the name of protecting the values of the university, destroyed the values of the university”.[4]  As it happens, I disagree with him about that.  But it is undoubtedly the case that this sentence will have the effect of silencing student dissent within the University, i.e. of undermining the University’s commitment to freedom of speech, expression and assembly. Thus, the University Court, presumably acting to protect the University and its values, has instead acted as a destroyer of those values.  Since I’m sure Professor Goldhill is not a hypocrite, I expect his ringing denunciation of this sentence to appear any day now.

As far as the University’s justification for this farce, the University administration will, I imagine, claim that the Court of Discipline is independent of the University; the argument will run, therefore, that the University is in no way responsible for this sentence.  Were the administration to do this, it would be a  failure of moral responsibility comparable to that of the government of the day in regard to the Derek Bentley case.[5]  If the law is wrong, or open to abuse, it is the government’s responsibility to rectify this.  Similarly, if the University Courts operate in a way which allows such egregious miscarriages of justice as this then it is the University’s responsibility to take prompt remedial action.

The University has also claimed that it is not responsible for the decision to charge Mr Holland.[6]  The implication is, of course, that it is also not responsible for the decision to charge only Mr Holland, even though the incident giving rise to the charges was one for which over 50 members of the University have publicly claimed some measure of responsibility.[7] This claim is disingenuous: having received a complaint, it is indeed the decision of the University Advocate whether or not to bring a charge before a University Court.  But it was not the University Advocate who made the complaint against Mr Holland; and, in particular, it was not the University Advocate who decided to make the complaint against only a single individual.

Imagine a police force which, having established that 50 individuals participated in a riot, decided to refer to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) the case of a single individual alone, and moreover an individual who had less influence and fewer financial resources than a significant number of the other rioters, an individual who was in many ways more vulnerable than his fellow rioters, a great many of whom admit equal responsibility.  It seems obvious that were such a police force to then claim that it was in no way responsible for the selective prosecution of that single individual, but that the responsibility lay entirely with the CPS, such a claim would be neither credible nor morally defensible.

In the current situation, the University is that police force, and its failure to take responsibility for its actions is just as morally indefensible.  And like a police force not subject to adequate oversight, the University has abused the power it holds over one of the more vulnerable members of our community, and, the abuse discovered, is attempting to deny responsibility.  If pressed, it will retreat to another of the classic justifications for morally reprehensible acts: “our intentions were good; we were acting to protect the community as a whole”.

The only coherent justification I can see for this punishment is if the University has decided it is beneficial to suppress the freedoms of expression and assembly of those whose opinions are either opposed to, or which, publicly expressed, might embarrass, the University administration.  So in light of this verdict, I am ashamed to be a member of the governing body of the University of Cambridge.  I would like to take this opportunity to distance myself publicly from this sometimes great institution.  As with other great moral failures of our time I want to shout from the rooftops: “NOT IN MY NAME!

BRUCE BECKLES is a member of the University’s governing body, the Regent House; a University Officer; and an elected member of the University’s Board of Scrutiny from 1 October 2011 to 30 September 2015.

__________________________________________________

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/cambridge-student-receives-unprecedented-twoandahalf-year-suspension-for-universities-minister-protest-7567590.html

[2] As required by regulation 5 of Ordinances, Chapter II, COURT OF
DISCIPLINE, Rules of Procedure (Statutes and Ordinances, 2011, p.
204): http://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/univ/so/2011/chapter02-section20.html#heading2-27

[3] http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1902486,00.html

[4] Originally posted on the website of the Centre for Research in the
Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities
shortly after the protest, this
statement has since been removed.  This apparent lack of respect for
the historical record is rather remarkable, given its author is a
classicist.  Fortunately, a copy of Professor Goldhill’s statement can
still be read on this site here: https://donsspeakout.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/prof-simon-goldhill-condemns-student-protests/

[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Derek_Bentley_case&oldid=481318443

[6] http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/4534

[7] https://donsspeakout.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/letter-to-the-university-advocate-and-to-the-vice-chancellor-7th-march-2012/

Letter to the University Advocate and to the Vice-Chancellor, 7th March 2012

Dr R Thornton
University Advocate
University of Cambridge
Emmanuel College
Cambridge

 7th March 2012

Dear Dr Thornton,


We understand that a student has been charged with “recklessly or intentionally impeding free speech within the Precincts of the University” in connection with the protest action which took place at Lady Mitchell Hall on the 22nd of November 2011 when the Minister for Universities and Science Mr David Willetts was scheduled to speak.

We regard the prosecution of a single junior member of the University as arbitrary and wrong: we wish to point out that this was a collective act and that we the undersigned were all involved in it – whether directly or indirectly, actively or in a supportive capacity. We therefore ask that the same charge be brought against each of us before the appropriate University court.

Yours sincerely,

RA Alexander
R Arnott-Davies, CC
M Barford, T
N Bazin, K
MB Beckles, K
D Benjamin, T
A Booth, R
RE Bower, CL
R Braude, PEM
S Carlo, CHU
A Diver, CC
CR Doherty, JN
A Odin Ekman, W
BK Etherington, CHU
L Finlayson, K
JB Frances, K
R Geuss
A Gilligan, JN
P Gopal, CHU
S Haf, HOM
M Hrebeniak, W
K Jenkins, EM
J Katko, Q
JV Kinsella, CHU
S Langsdale, K
M Laven, JES
A MacDonald, K
L McMahon, K
L McNulty, HOM
TJ Miley, DAR
M.J. Morey, F
G Mulligan, G
C Mouhot, K
D Morris, CC
F Musallam, JN
G Oppitz-Trotman, JN
O Oriogun-Williams, CL
B Patrick, N
C Page, SID
T Phibbs, K
JH Prynne, CAI
JE Riley, W
A Ring, N
LW Roberts, JN
J Scott-Warren, CAI
H Sillitoe, K
A Shahvisi, DAR
GM Stevenson, FITZ
S Stillwell, G
F Taylor, JN
I Urquhart, HOM
W Yaqoob, PEM
CH Walker-Gore, SE
J Whitfield, K
H Warner, CTH
A Wood, T
AE Zurcher, Q

Also see a variation on this letter published in response to news of Owen Holland’s sentence (third letter down): http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/letters/letters-life-in-the-city-piranha-tank-7575733.html

And leaked copies of the University responses to date: http://tinyurl.com/8xvyv4v


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

Cambridge
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.

Yours,

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.]