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

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.

Materials 22/11/2011 – 01/07/2012 [Incomplete]


On 22 September 2011, a speech to have been given by David Willetts MP, Minister of State for Universities and Science, was subject to a protest by some thirty or so students and academics. An epistle was read to the minister and the stage afterwards occupied. Immediately after the event ended, an occupation of the venue – Lady Mitchell Hall – began. Some months later, a prosecution was begun by the University of Cambridge against a single graduate student, for his part in the initial protest. After pleading ‘not guilty’ to ‘impeding freedom of speech’, he was sentenced to seven terms’ rustication (suspension) by the University Court of Discipline. Following an appeal, as well as several active campaigns against the sentence by student and staff of the University, the University’s highest court, the Septemviri, reduced the sentence to one term’s rustication, while upholding the initial verdict and making ‘no criticism of the Court of Discipline, which conducted its proceedings with care’.
The following is a list of sources and documents pertaining to the case. The  University’s handling of the affair has been criticized by many people concerned by the lack of transparency and accountability in the way it effected its statutory duties. This page attempts to redress this deficit by bringing together as many of the known sources as practical and legal.

The editors of this blog would be grateful should readers choose to contact them with observations about completeness or accuracy. For the sake of clarity, discursive materials like articles and public arguments have been omitted, except where these were deemed to be produced in association with some sort of official or disciplinary capacity relevant to the University’s internal processes.

the protest






Prof. Goldhill, Director of CRASSH and organizer of the event

University Council statement: http://bit.ly/uvKxQV


Description of the Court of Discipline: http://bit.ly/17h4tTv

Leaked record of the proceedings: http://bit.ly/J30gGE

Various documents relating to the University’s response to the protest: http://bit.ly/1f8AJx4

Other relevant documents: http://bit.ly/1jgNnra


21 March 2012: Silent protest on the day of Lord Sainsbury’s installment as Chancellor of the University

24 April 2012: Discussion in the University Senate-House


Description of the Septemviri


Jeremy Prynne, who attended the appeal hearing as an observer, responds.

Other material, including analyses of the University’s disciplinary procedures and letters of concern written to the Vice-Chancellor.

130 Cambridge academics raise concerns about police spying

A letter has been sent to Vice-Chancellor of the University, urging him to clarify the University’s position after it was revealed that Cambridgeshire constabulary had approached an undergraduate to become an informer on the political activities of students. The letter has been signed by 130 senior members of the University, and can be read below:  

November 18, 2013


Dear Vice-Chancellor,

We are writing to you with regard to the story published on the Guardian’s website on November 14, 2013 entitled “Police tried to spy on Cambridge students, footage shows.” (The link is available at http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/14/police-cambridge-university-secret-footage [1]). Based on secret filming, the story indicates that Cambridgeshire Constabulary has engaged in covert surveillance of what one of its members terms “student-union type stuff.” Cambridge Defend Education, environmental groups and UK Uncut appear to have been among the groups targeted for highly invasive practices.

We know that as the head of an institution which is committed to protecting a diversity of legitimate and peaceful student activities, including political and social campaigning, you will share our grave concern at the level of intrusion that appears to be intended in such covert monitoring of legitimate activities. We cannot help but feel that the very threat of such unjustifiable surveillance will have a chilling effect on students involved in or hoping to join campaigning organisations. As teachers and researchers at this university committed to the highest standards of academic and personal freedom, we ask that you issue an official statement condemning such covert practices, which infringe the traditional boundaries of University self-governance, and call for an official explanation and apology from both the Home Office and from Cambridgeshire Constabulary.

We hope that you will make it clear that the University is in no way involved in supporting such practices.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Dr Anne Alexander
  2. Dr Anna Alexandrova
  3. Dr Salim Al-Gilani
  4. Dr Lori Allen
  5. Dr Mete Atature
  6. Dr Hugues Azerad
  7. Dr Debby Banham
  8. Professor Basim Musallam
  9. Mr Bruce Beckles
  10. Dr Andrew Bell
  11. Dr Duncan Bell
  12. Dr Patricia Pires Boulhosa
  13. Dr Adrian Boutel
  14. Dr Deborah Bowman
  15. Dr Siobhan Braybrook
  16. Dr Brendan Burchell
  17. Professor Bill Burgwinkle
  18. Dr Catherine Burke
  19. Dr Christopher Burlinson
  20. Dr Sarah Cain
  21. Dr Adam Caulton
  22. Dr Jean Chothia
  23. Dr Mike Clark
  24. Dr David Clifford
  25. Dr Philip Connell
  26. Professor Helen Cooper
  27. Mr Tim Cribb
  28. Dr Jon Crowcroft
  29. Dr PJ Cunningham
  30. Dr Mark Darlow
  31. Dr Susan Daruvala
  32. Dr Christine Doddington
  33. Professor Brad Epps
  34. Dr Katrina Forrester
  35. Professor Alison Finch
  36. Dr Lorna Finlayson
  37. Dr Christophe Gagne
  38. Dr Sinead Garrigan-Mattar
  39. Professor Vic Gatrell
  40. Professor Raymond Geuss
  41. Dr Martin Golding
  42. Mr David Goode
  43. Professor Raymond Goldstein
  44. Dr Caroline Gonda
  45. Dr Priyamvada Gopal
  46. Professor Robert Gordon
  47. Dr Mia Gray
  48. Professor Nicholas Hammond
  49. Dr Fride Haugen
  50. Mr Ronald Haynes
  51. Dr Anita Herle
  52. Dr Adam Higazi
  53. Dr David Hillman
  54. Dr Edward Holberton
  55. Dr Alex Houen
  56. Dr Sarah Houghton-Walker
  57. Dr Sarah Howe
  58. Dr Jana Howlett
  59. Dr Michael Hrebeniak
  60. Dr MEJ Hughes
  61. Dr Joel Isaac
  62. Professor Mary Jacobus
  63. Dr Hubertus Jahn
  64. Dr Ian James
  65. Professor Simon Jarvis
  66. Dr Charles Jones
  67. Dr Ewan James Jones
  68. Professor Martin Jones
  69. Dr Alexandre Kabla
  70. Mrs Anny King
  71. Professor John Kinsella
  72. Professor Peter Kornicki
  73. Dr Mary Laven
  74. Dr Sian Lazar
  75. Professor Angela Leighton
  76. Dr Elisabeth Leedham-Green
  77. Dr Malachi Macintosh
  78. Professor Maria Manuel Lisboa
  79. Dr Raphael Lyne
  80. Dr Maryon McDonald
  81. Dr Robert Macfarlane
  82. Dr Jane McLarty
  83. Dr Laura McMahon
  84. Dr Leo Mellor
  85. Dr Roderick Mengham
  86. Dr Renaud Morieux
  87. Dr C W R D Moseley
  88. Prof Clément Mouhot
  89. Dr Drew Milne
  90. Dr Subha Mukherji
  91. Professor Basim Musallam
  92. Dr Eva Nanopoulos
  93. Dr Mary Newbould
  94. Dr Sebastian Nye
  95. Dr Rory O’Bryen
  96. Dr Roger O’Keefe
  97. Dr George Oppitz-Trotman
  98. Dr Fred Parker
  99. Dr Ian Patterson
  100. Dr Adriana Pesci
  101. Dr Brechtje Post
  102. Dr Robert Priest
  103. Mr Jeremy Prynne
  104. Dr James Purdon
  105. Dr Judy Quinn
  106. Dr Surabhi Ranganathan
  107. Dr Lucy Razzall
  108. Dr Nicky Reeves
  109. Dr John Regan
  110. Dr James Riley
  111. Dr John Robb
  112. Professor Ulinka Rublack
  113. Professor Simon Schaffer
  114. Dr Jason Scott-Warren
  115. Dr Sharath Srinivasan
  116. Dr Zoe Svendsen
  117. Dr Trudi Tate
  118. Dr Deborah Thom
  119. Professor David Trotter
  120. Dr Eva Urban
  121. Ms Isobel Urquhart
  122. Dr Vincenzo Vergiani
  123. Dr James Wade
  124. Dr Christopher Warnes
  125. Dr Ruth Watson
  126. Mr Steve Watts
  127. Dr Teresa Webber
  128. Dr Flora Willson
  129. Dr Ross Wilson
  130. Dr Hope Wolf
  131. Dr Oliver Wort
  132. Dr Nicky Zeeman
  133. Dr Andrew Zurcher


Boycott the next REF

A new Facebook group for those who have had enough…

This is a group for academics who are interested in organising a multidisciplinary, cross-institutional boycott of the next Research Excellence Framework exercise, which is likely to take place in 2019 or 2020. Members of this group believe that, whatever laudable aims the REF and its predecessor the RAE were intended to serve, they have repeatedly failed to take account of the diversity of forms taken by academic research in the modern university. The effects of the system have been highly demoralizing and divisive and have distorted academic priorities to such an extent that they ought no longer to be tolerated by members of the academy. The ‘rules of the game’ in these waves of assessment have frequently been either obscure or vacuous, and new elements (such as ‘impact’), added to the assessment criteria at short notice, have only made the bankruptcy of those criteria more obvious. It is time to call a halt to the REF with the 2013 exercise.

You can join the group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/boycottref/

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:



Jeremy Prynne, ‘The Lower Tribunal Vindicated’

The Lower Tribunal Vindicated

Regarding the appeal just concluded, let no one be deceived that this is a ‘good’ result. The archaic and persecutory machinery of the judicial apparatus has been upheld as intact and beyond challenge; the lower tribunal has been vindicated and its officers commended for righteous spirit. The discussion of principle has been cogently muddied by staging a contrast between the right of free speech on the one hand and the right to freedom of expression on the other, as if the conflict of values between these two positions was the fundamental issue in dispute. But of course this is certainly not the pivotal issue. Free expression can, as the Chairman of the kangaroos maintained, be pursued at sundry different occasions and in sundry different ways, there is no absolute need for this to cause significant disruption to discussion involving other persons. Ergo, to insist on a right of free expression in such way as to damage or impede general discussion is destructive and selfish.

But the issue is not right of expression, it is right of public, interventionist protest. The difference here is that, to contest the authoritarian structure of control and repressive privilege in managed public discourse, a protest intrinsically and purposefully must entail contesting polite manners and conventional underpinning of implicit values within the control echelon. It cannot be a sideshow, a personal debating manoeuvre. It has to be forceful and to contest the very idea of order that would repress it, so as to get a hearing beyond the mere chatter of disagreement. It has to confront the liberal pretension of ‘free speech for all’ because it must uncover the gross disparities of authority and intimidation that lie below the skin of reasonableness. Without doubt these are dangerous manoeuvres, within an institution nominally committed to open exercise of reasoned debate; yet when the preferential allocation of opportunity to speak becomes very deeply prejudicial to core values, protest is necessary and salutary and needs to occur exactly in the right place and at the right time.

Within a rational community, the right of emergency protest, of socially conspicuous dissent, may be equally as important as free speech and freedom of expression. An institution, and even its legal regulatory framework, needs to recognise the particular and special significance of protest, and to judge the boundaries of specific episodes with close attention. Threats of violence or vengeance-behaviour may be more than enough to outlaw protest incidents, not because they are protests but because they have been mounted with ancillary features which are rightly objectionable.

Protest is thus essentially political in its nature, a response to power often, as in this case, deployed against democratic entitlement to equal credit and argument-time. The programme of massive alteration to UK university structure advanced and fiercely pressed into effect by Willetts is completely authoritarian, and for inexplicable reasons our University authorities have lined up in endorsement of these governmental projects. The machine is driven by such drastic compulsions that only protest can make alternatives properly heard; reasonable counter-argument has been tried over and over, and has made no headway.

It’s not necessary to agree with the programme or propositions of a protest incident, in order to have grounds to defend the necessary right for dissentients to mount a public protest. There do need to be certain outer limits to what a protest may legitimately include (i.e. probably excluding material violence, et cetera), and a notion of proportionality in matching methods with targets. But to criminalise protesters is the sure sign of a repressive regime, confident in the control and intimidation that will confirm the upper levels of a hierarchy against alternative or grass-roots perspectives. The anti-Willetts protest was fairly spectacular (a necessary tactic) and was aimed at the government’s attempted destruction of intellectual communities, a crisis issue at the present time. No material violence of any kind was threatened or at any point took place.

This specific convergence of reasons for strenuous public protest should unquestionably exempt those involved in this case from being harrassed or criminalised for their parts in the episode; and the right of protest as a conceptual category should be incorporated into the thinking and practice of the institution in all its branches. For it is not the same as a general (qualified) right to free expression. The right to protest is fundamental to democracy, and to protest in such a way as to mobilise public opinion and to open closed structures to public view. Otherwise there is no check on the social repression that can be practised under cover of sweet reason, of decorum and good manners and persuasives to compliance.

These are the reasons why the judgement of the Septemviri in the instant case is not a good result, in any sense or to any degree. The sentence has been reduced, as a sop to leniency and to avert public outrage, but the verdict of guilty as charged had been resoundingly endorsed, leaving the apparatus unchallenged and its legitimacy beyond reach of objection. This is a bad result for Cambridge as a history and an idea, for the community here and for students and others within university systems worldwide; it’s a bad result for justice and democracy; and the deliberate intimidation behind this sentence will inevitably have its effect, on students and others who can now see even  more clearly the force of authority mounted up against them. Do not let us be mollified by a remission of sentence, which should be seen as an insult to justice and not a welcome sweet mercy. We are stuck with this for the moment and should not deceive ourselves that all is somehow mostly or nearly alright: for it is very wrong.