14th-15th May 1968

14th (Tuesday) ‘“Free university” planned’, The Times, p. 1

  • Report on Monday’s meetings: 700 students and 35 staff support free university;
  • Students to seek legal advice;
  • Mentions the 100 students who occupied the Hexagon temporarily.

14th (Tuesday) Peter Townsend (Dept. of Sociology) circulates a memo to Sociology colleagues requesting that any teaching missed as a result of participation in the Free University should be rescheduled.

14th (Tuesday) FREE UNIVERSITY puts into action the proposals in the call for moratorium and dialogue by Busfield, Butterfield and Smith, in Stanley Mitchell’s letter to staff, in Thompson’s motion passed at General Meeting the previous evening, and see also Sociology Dept Meeting minutes of that morning.


  • 10am-12.30pm: Parallel sessions on University Structure, Free Speech, Demonstrations, Knowledge for What?, and Social Psychology of Conflict.
  • 3.30pm and 8pm CBW teach-ins pass resolutions:
    • deploring the use of CS gas in Paris (and see also leaflets on subject, one naming Porton as patent-holder);
    • worrying about lack of ethics and dangerous trend toward academic specialisation, proposing need for broad education;
    • Senate to encourage ‘[discussions of(?)] the problems of war and peace;
    • Immediate declassification of Porton records and stop to MoD or Ministry of Technology grants to universities in UK (Stephen Rose).
  • Physics student Chris Mullins circulates leaflet ‘On Enlightened Disinterest’, deploring ‘Liberal apathy and ineffectiveness’ among staff members who refuse to come to the defence of the rusticated students, in light of the horrific and little-publicised nature of CBW.
  • 1-page statement addressed to townspeople on the protests and the ‘Free University’, inviting support and views.

14th (Tuesday) 11am A memorandum is circulated to members of the General Assembly proposing an informal meeting that afternoon at 2.30pm, to allow staff to discuss the suspensions in time to inform the next day’s Senate meeting of any coherent view. The afternoon meeting of staff takes an hour to consider an unexpected request from students to be admitted to the discussions (according to a record of proceedings by Anthony Barker, who also notes the eventual decision to admit students prompted the walkout of a mathematician and four chemists) but it does eventually adopt the ‘Thompson proposals’.

14th (Tuesday) Moderates Keith Ives and Brian Downie draft a memorandum to Senate prior to its meeting the next day to discuss Sloman’s report and his actions. The memo articulates the double grievance (no hearing & no ‘ringleaders’) felt by a majority that includes staff as well as students – Sloman’s motivations appear unclear. They emphasise the twin necessities, deeply-felt on the part of the majority they claim to represent, for both reasonable limits on behaviour and ‘manifestly fair’ punishment. The authors further claim that attempts to mobilise the felt sentiment of injustice to back ‘minority ideology’ were ‘decisively rebuked by majority’ on Monday 13th, but caution Senate about the need for visible justice or support will grow

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 27 (‘On Enlightened Disinterest’), Ref 28 (informal GA call), Ref 29 (schedule of discussions), Ref 35 (CBW Teach-In motions), Ref 36 (letter to Colchester); Ref 37 (Barker’s notes on the informal GA), and Ref 38 (informal GA resolution ‘Carried by 95 votes with 5 abstentions’);

Box 16/1968 includes a handwritten list of over forty staff, which may have originated at the unofficial GA, but is undated and without a heading;

Box 17/May 1968 includes copies of almost all of the documents listed under Box 14 above (without Barker’s notes, and with a slight variation in voting figures from the unofficial GA), plus Townsend’s memo to the Sociology Department, and the memo from Ives and Downie (also in Box 18a/May 1968). 

15th (Wednesday) 10am FREE UNIVERSITY continues.


  • 10-11.15am ‘The Idea of a Democratic University’ (Tony King).
  • 11.15-12.30pm ‘Reassessment and Further Decisions’ (discussion).
  • 2pm Press Teach-in, Brian MacArthur (The Times) et al. on the reporting of student political activity.

At some point during the Free University, the assembled staff and students are addressed by Harry Kilvington, a member of the University’s maintenance staff who is on the verge of leaving the University. Kilvington is ready to relate his experience of what he sees as two years’ worth of victimisation at the hands of ‘the so-called Gentlemen of the Military Club in their rotten pigeon hole loft’. Given the nature of his descriptions of the hierarchical behaviour of senior maintenance staff, it seems as though the kinds of comments Kilvington had to offer (see image below, by courtesy of Rick Coates) would fit into this morning’s discussion of ‘The idea of a democratic university’.


15th (Wednesday) 2pm The meeting of Senate requested to advise Albert Sloman receives two letters from Chairman of Students’ Council Ian Brodie. One is an apology to Mrs Sloman for any distress caused to her by a gathering of students around the Vice Chancellor’s residence the previous Friday – a BBC Radio report (see below, Thursday 16th) on the Senate meeting and the demonstrations suggests a brick had been thrown through one of the windows of the residence.

The second is a letter from legal firm Cunningham Son & Orfeur suggesting that the Vice Chancellor’s action is ‘in breach of natural justice’ and that ‘there has been abuse of the quasi-judicial powers of the Vice-Chancellor.’ Brodie’s cover note states that he had tried without success to secure access to the Senate meeting to discuss the contents of this letter specifically.

15th (Wednesday) 6.30pm LTB7 meeting for all members of the University to hear a report back from the Senate meeting and to decide on next steps, in case of any continued refusal to reinstate rusticated students immediately. An anonymous leaflet circulated that afternoon explains why the students are demanding of the Senate nothing less than full reinstatement of the three suspended students (with restoration of maintenance grants and the expunging of the disciplinary action from their academic records). At 6.30pm, though, the Senate is (as it turned out) barely halfway through discussions for the day, and the students are kept waiting.

Later in the evening the meeting continues outdoors on Square 4 – there is some impatience with Senate’s continued delay, but plans to blockade the meeting are voted down, according to Anthony Barker. Towards 11pm, the Registrar finally emerges to read a short statement to the effect that Senate will reconvene in the morning, before vanishing, leaving any further announcements or discussion to Barker and Dean of the School of Comparative Studies Jean Blondel.

Mr Wyatt (administrative assistant/Maintenance Officer) agrees to permit students to sleep over in the Hexagon following a further meeting in there later that evening, disrupting a dance, again according to Barker’s account.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 39 (‘Why Only Re-Instatement Will Do’), Ref 40 (solicitors’ letter), and Ref 41 (Barker’s account of the evening meetings on Square 4 and in the Hexagon);

Box 17/May 1968: Free University schedule, letters to Senate with Brodie’s cover note, and a copy of ‘Why Only Re-Instatement…’, annotated ‘Wednesday 3.20pm’.

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