The Senate House Discussion on Owen (II)

Following on from the earlier post, here are some more comments by staff and academics on Owen’s case. Taken from the April 24th Discussion at Senate House. Full transcript available here.

The sentence imposed in this case ‘by the University’ has made us all responsible; all of us by default share in the ridicule, opprobrium, or indeed approval which it has occasioned.

those of us with a particular interest in admissions, access, and widening participation simply have to grit our teeth, as the task of explaining to prospective students, and their parents, that Cambridge isn’t completely arcane and out of touch just got a little bit harder.
– Dr H. M. M. Lees-Jeffries (Faculty Of English and St Catharine’s College)

I wish simply to register my grave concern that at a time when universities and higher education have been under unprecedented attack, both academic freedom and the right to protest also appear to be in such danger at our institution. While we honour these fundamental rights and freedoms in name, the singling out of a lone student protester in a collective action for quite extraordinarily disproportionate and harsh punishment gives the lie to our protestations.
– Dr P. Gopal (Faculty Of English And Churchill College)

I was hampered by the University’s refusal to provide me with any details of the Court of Discipline’s reasoned decision. Fortunately for me, less so for the student concerned, it appears that some kind member of the University administration or the Court has leaked a signed copy of this document to various student newspapers, one of which seems to have helpfully made it available verbatim on the Internet.
– Mr M. B. Beckles (University Computing Service)

Even if one adopts the most narrowly legalistic approach to this sentence, there seem to be at least two ways in which it is inappropriate:

First, there is an issue of fairness. One student, and one only, is being singled out and scapegoated. He is being punished for something many other people also did, and even more people, like me, approved of.

Second, there is the issue of the proportionality of the punishment to the action. No one has claimed that anyone was harmed or even that any property was damaged during the events in question. Whatever one might think of the action, it was a reasoned response to what many of us feel is a concerted attack by the government on the higher education system. Suspension seems a disproportionate reaction and one motivated by vindictiveness or loss of face rather than anything else.
– Professor R. Geuss (Faculty Of Philosophy)


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