The Senate House Discussion on Owen (I)
With Owen’s appeal taking place tomorrow, its worth remembering how wide condemnation of the sentence – and the decision to take him to trial in the first place – is among staff and academics. One example was the calling of a Discussion at Senate-House on Tuesday 24 April by thirty-seven Regents – members of the University’s governing body. Here is a small selection of their criticisms. We’ll put more up later. A transcript of the entire session is available here.
I believe the punishment is utterly disproportionate to the crime, for indeed, there was no crime. At worst, there was a minor violation of some University regulation, which I would offset against the way that the voices of young people have not been listened to in the fees debate. Young people do not want the forthcoming fees, and the weight of that opinion is not properly reflected in the government’s documentation, nor even in the weightings of our democratic procedures which naturally exclude the young.
what appalls me is this. How can anybody inflate such a minor matter as the events of that evening by invoking the hallowed concept of ‘freedom of speech’ in the way that it has been done?
“There is no Article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that says that a Minister of State has the right to give an evening lecture without being interrupted”
– Mr F. A. Mcrobie (Department Of Engineering And St Edmund’s College)
At a time when the critical function of the academy is facing an unprecedented threat from government policies that cast all education as training, and all research as business entrepreneurship, it is dismaying to discover that this kind of disciplinarian narrow-mindedness lies somewhere near the core of the University.
– Dr J. E. Scott-Warren (Faculty Of English and Gonville and Caius College)
Again, bad administrative practice has related to an action which had sought to protest government policy
– Dr B. K. Etherington (Churchill College)
I have a particularly acute awareness of just how promising an academic career this savagely disproportionate sentence is calculated to wreck…Seven Oxford undergraduates (including myself) were rusticated for the last two weeks of Michaelmas Term in 1964 for ‘violently protesting’ the visit of the South African Ambassador. That was bad enough. This is an outrage!
When we look at the sentence before us – a sentence of seven terms’ rustication imposed on a single student, for taking part in a collective, non-violent political protest – it is painfully clear that the difference between Cambridge in the twenty-first century and Oxford in the last millennium is not in Cambridge’s favour.
– Dr C. J. Gonda (Faculty Of English And St Catharine’s College)