16th-17th May 1968

16th (Thursday) BBC ‘Today’ (2nd ed.) interview with overnighting reporter Jean Goodman on the previous day’s marathon Senate meeting, and the students’ apology to Mrs Sloman for any distress caused to the Vice Chancellor’s wife the previous Friday:

  • student disappointment with 11pm Senate statement the previous evening;
  • only about 50 or so stayed on through the night, more determined than angry, and with very little drunkenness;
  • discuss policy, hopes for the University, watched films, and held a seminar on improving press relations.

16th (Thursday) At lunchtime Senate finally reports back from its extended meeting, and ‘fully endorses’ the Vice Chancellor’s actions; committees will nonetheless be established to investigate the events of 7th May, the issue of freedom of speech, and the University’s disciplinary procedures; Senate also commits to pursuing at its next meeting ‘a number of other points arising out of the very welcome discussions among members of the University over the past few days.’

Senate has agreed to establish its Committee of Enquiry into the events of 7th May with equal representation of students and staff; Anthony King (Government Department lecturer) is appointed ‘convenor and rapporteur’.

The report further notes that one effect of Senate’s special meeting is to bring forward the end of the students’ period of rustication, to the date of its next scheduled meeting on 22nd May.

Robin Dixon reads Senate’s announcement about the establishment of a Committee of Enquiry, calling for Staff-Student Liaison Committees to meet at lunchtime so as to appoint members in time for its first meeting at 2.30pm that same afternoon

16th (Thursday) Following the announcements a mass meeting in the Lecture Theatre Block is addressed by Vice Chancellor Albert Sloman, and Deans Donald Davie and Richard Lipsey. According to The Times the next day (see below) and a write-up in a later edition of Ginger published in the autumn (‘Albert’s Famous Thursday Balls-Up’, image below), the senior academics are less than persuasive in their dealings with the assembled students and staff.

Ginger #4 (October 1968)

The meeting passes overwhelmingly a motion calling for an open meeting of Senate the following morning to discuss the matter, in the event that the three students are not by then reinstated. The motion further calls for the continuation of the Free University, with campus occupations day and night until the three students are reinstated, for all exams to be postponed until at least a month after such reinstatement, and for structural changes to democratise Senate and other bodies of the University.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 42 (‘Today’ transcript), Ref 43 (Senate report), Ref 44 (Committee announcement), and Ref 45 (motion from afternoon meeting);

Box 17/May 1968 also includes all of the above;

Box 18a/May 1968 also includes a copy of Senate statement annotated for student meeting by Keith Ives [see partial image at head of this timeline entry].

17th (Friday) ‘Essex Students Boycott Goes On’, The Times, p. 4 (sub dated 16th) May) on Wednesday’s Senate meeting, summarises Thursday’s report and follow-up meeting (c.900 students and staff) addressed by Sloman, Donald Davie, and R. G. Lipsey to little avail:

  • No explicit reinstatement by Senate – purely by default/technicality;
  • Meeting dissatisfied with several answers on especially the legality, processes and principles of the action: ‘The feeling was that the senate had misjudged the mood’;
  • Meeting overwhelmingly adopts motions to continue the Free University, and to refuse to sit or mark exams until one month after reinstatement (‘fewer than 20 dissentients’);
  • Cites polling stats on previous resolutions from staff and students adopting Thompson proposals as 800/1150 students, and 95/167 staff.

See also The Times editorial, ‘Student Discipline’, p. 13:

  • Warns of a‘real danger of a mood of anarchy spreading through British universities, as it has done elsewhere’;
  • Cautions need for rigorous, but fair, discipline – Committee of Enquiry a ‘wise’ step;
  • Potential positive outcome would be a focusing of attention on the need to formalise discipline in (especially modern) universities more generally.

17th (Friday) Two special meetings of Senate today: the first is a reconvening of Senate’s adjourned special meeting requested by a member of the body; the second is called to hear Anthony King’s progress report from the Committee of Enquiry.

A memo and a University press release circulated by the Registrar highlights Senate’s acknowledgement that its extra meetings have effectively automatically terminated the period of exclusion of Archard, Halberstadt and Triesman; no action is to be taken against anybody until at least the next scheduled meeting on 22nd May, when Senate will hear a further update from Dr King.

17th (Friday) Free University resolution reaffirming principle of natural justice, noting ambiguities in statements from Senate and its members, and interpreting these as implying full reinstatement and a properly constituted enquiry, ‘free to find any member of the University guilty of moral misconduct’. The meeting will reconvene at 2pm on Monday 20th May and operate on the assumption that its interpretation is correct, unless this is formally denied by Senate and the Vice Chancellor before that time.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 46 (Registrar’s memo), Ref 47 (University press release), Ref 48 (Free University resolution);

Box 17/May 1968 also includes all of the above.

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