Timeline of Events

For those who like things in a certain order, more or less. Click the links to individual timeline posts from the fiftieth anniversary roll-out here, or take an uninterrupted scroll down memory lane with the bumper amalgamated edition below…

21st-25th May 1968

he was pinned against the wall in the corner by a seething mass of demonstrators (Tribunal of Enquiry submission, 23rd May 1968) /Timeline entry

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27th May – 28th June 1968

We only have one political society and that by now is very much a non-society, namely the Socialist Society which just includes the whole place (Tribunal Hearings, 28th May 1968) /Timeline entry

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23rd (Friday) Visit by Enoch Powell, MP, disrupted and local Conservative MP Antony Buck’s car is damaged on campus. Powell’s talk is interrupted by a figure dressed as Guy Fawkes carrying a ‘bomb’ towards the front of the room (see image at Julian Harber and Chris Ratcliffe’s Essex May ’68 photos page).

27th (Tuesday) Enquiries into the Powell incident begin: Senior Assistant Registrar Roy Butler interviews 21 students and 4 members of staff over the course of the following week. According to interviews with participants, a number of students write to the enquiry confessing to crimes that they didn’t commit, or that simply never took place.

MARCH 1968

4th (Monday) Roy Butler reports on the Powell protest to the Dean of Students, who decides that a prima facie case exists against seven students accused of breaching the University’s disciplinary procedures. Letters outlining the charges and including requests to attend an interview with the Dean the following day are sent to six of them; the seventh (Peter Archard) is informed of his interview by Mr Butler in person, although the specific charges against him are not divulged in advance.

4th (Monday) Dean of Students Alasdair MacIntyre circulates brief memorandum on the seriousness of attempts to limit freedom of expression in university meetings, although rights of heckling and protest are acknowledged; the memo was subsequently invoked as more or less fair warning re the rustications that followed in May.

Locations: Box 16/1968;

Box 17/May 1968 (copy recirculated May 21st, along with Disciplinary Procedures as revised March 1968).

5th (Tuesday) The proposed interviews between Dean MacIntyre and the seven students accused of breaches of university discipline are prevented when MacIntyre’s office is occupied by around 50 students protesting both the methods and the very existence of the enquiry. The occupations and blockading continue to prevent the disciplinary mechanism from proceeding for over a week.

6th (Wednesday) Six of the seven accused students see the Vice Chancellor, with a list of grievances concerning procedural irregularities to do with the enquiry; the document ultimately blames outside pressure (from Antony Buck, MP) for the continuing pursuit of the students on what are seen as petty charges. A copy was later included among the submissions to the Working Party on a Code of Conduct (WPCC, established by the University in the 1968-69 academic year) along with a second anonymous student leaflet circulated at this point, ‘The main issue behind student demonstrations here in the last week’. This latter develops a more abstract argument against the University having any jurisdiction over non-academic student affairs, not least as this works to distort and mask the political nature of breaches of discipline (or indeed the law) that are directed towards the wider society, and not the University itself.

Location: Box 12/WPCC Submissions/WPCC #58 (‘Irregularities…’), WPCC #59 (‘The main issue…’).

6th (Wednesday) Senate meeting agrees that any student obstructing the disciplinary enquiries will be expelled without any right of appeal.

7th (Thursday) An open meeting is called to respond to the previous day’s announcement from Senate threatening expulsions for any obstruction to the Powell enquiries. According to a memo addressed to staff members by students shortly afterwards, 150 students proceeded to obstruct the disciplinary action following the meeting. Around this time, Dean MacIntyre decides to pass the handling of the enquiry to the University’s Discipline Committee, and communicates this to the students.

7th (Thursday) A General Meeting passes by a large majority a motion of no confidence in the University’s disciplinary procedures. The Powell enquiry is, for the students, without foundation: the university does not have the authority to enquire into what should be a matter for civil law, and the flaws in the procedures highlighted by the enquiry need addressing urgently. The motion includes demands for the enquiry to cease immediately, and for Senate to negotiate changes in the disciplinary procedures with a group of student representatives; changes to be ratified by the first Union General Meeting of the Autumn term, 1968.

Location: Box 12/WPCC Submissions/WPCC#60 (GM motions annotated with voting figures etc.).

8th (Friday) The following day a copy is attached to a note to all members of staff, requesting their consideration and support, and emphasising the need to avoid damage to the reputation of the university.

Location: Box 16/Campus Events (clean copy of GM motions attached to letter to University staff).

13th (Wednesday) Dean of Students Alasdair MacIntyre sends out a 4-page memorandum (‘An Account of Recent Events’) about student conduct, on the heels of investigations into the Powell incident of 23rd February. The memo defends the existence of disciplinary structures at the University as a need recognised and accepted by the elected student bodies and the wider university community (except for a ‘small minority’ seeking ‘to impose their views by force’), even if the structures and regulations may be (and are continuously) updated and improved. MacIntyre finishes by urging all moderate students to make their views known at a General Meeting scheduled for the following evening.

The memo is included in the papers of the Spring 1969 Working Party on a Code of Conduct, along with the two oppositional responses to the enquiries referred to above: the list of ‘procedural irregularities’, and ‘The main issue behind student demonstrations here in the last week’.

Locations: Box 12/WPCC Submissions/WPCC#58 (‘Irregularities…’), WPCC#59 (‘The main issue…’), WPCC#63 (‘An Account of Recent Events’);

Box 15/Revolutions/May1968 Events (‘An Account of Recent Events’);

Box 17/May 1968 (‘An Account of Recent Events’).

17th (Sunday) A contingent of Essex students joins the national protest against US military action in Vietnam in London’s Trafalgar Square. Clashes with the police ensue after the demonstration moves to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square.

Student authored publication, produced and circulated January 1968 (with thanks to Rick Coates)

APRIL 1968

Much of April is taken up with vacation. 

24th (Wednesday) – 30th (Tuesday) At the start of the summer term the student-produced Essex Arts Festival presents an impressive roster of theatre, music, poetry, and cinema from around the world; there are also talks and discussions, including one by the Dean of Students Alasdair MacIntyre, entitled ‘Against Existentialism’, as well as a Beauty Teach-In with the fashion editors at Honey magazine featuring ‘the famous wig designer Ramon’.

Location: Box 18/Ginger/Ginger#3.

MAY 1968

7th May (Tuesday) By lunchtime, the Chemistry Department have got wind of the fact that students are gravely concerned about the presence on campus of a research scientist from Porton Down, and that Dr Inch’s lecture on ‘The Chemical and Biological Properties of Toxic Chemicals’, organised by the student Chemical Society for that afternoon, is going to face organised opposition. Decisions are made to put Dr John Tillett in the Chair, and to relocate the lecture from the Lecture Theatre Block (LTB) to the Committee Room up the valley in Wivenhoe House, seemingly in the hope that this will put the demonstrators off the scent. This decision is quietly communicated to Chemistry Students by Dr Bowden, although two of them make it clear to him that the lecture will be disrupted anyway.

In the event, at around 4.30pm, the lecture began and was almost immediately interrupted by the arrival of large numbers of protestors, who had already been spotted through the windows of the Committee Room as they were marching up the hill to Wivenhoe House from the new campus below. A fragmentary tape recording of the start of the meeting was subsequently transcribed and submitted to the Tribunal of Enquiry into the events at the lecture, but the recording was inadvertently cut short while the demonstrators were still trying to gain access to the venue.

The Tribunal of Enquiry was convened on Tuesday 21st May, gathered written evidence for preliminary consideration on Friday 24th, held hearings and cross examinations all through the following week, and reconvened for one last cross examination on 6th June regarding allegations that Dr Bowden had grabbed and damaged the glasses of protestor Jem Thomas.

Accounts gathered by the Tribunal vary widely as to the sequence and nature of the events at the lecture, but it is clear that the demonstrators interrupted Dr Inch, with David Triesman announcing that the meeting was being diverted to take the form of a ‘War Crimes Tribunal’. An ‘indictment’ against Porton Down, co-researched and co-authored by the demonstrators, was read out by students in turn. The protestors had made and distributed multiple copies of the ‘indictment’, foreseeing the possibility that speakers would be silenced or bundled out of the room; they had divided the document up, marking locations in the margins where named speakers were to take up their sections, and many others subsequently claimed to be ready to pick up the reading at any point should it become necessary.

Before the completion of the reading, members of the Chemistry Department consulted with Dr Inch and decided to try to leave the room, but found themselves blocked by students. It was around this point that Peter Archard, acting on his own volition, ran to the front of the room and emptied a tin of mustard powder over Dr Inch and others, shouting ‘Mustard gas! Mustard gas!’ Most accounts agree that Dr Inch did eventually make his way out of the room, although he didn’t get far before he lost his escort in the winding corridors of Wivenhoe House and found himself face to face with the demonstrators once again. Some dialogue did take place at this point but was cut short by the arrival of the police, who eventually managed to gain access to Dr Inch and lead him from the building in spite of the large number of of students seated in the corridor and attempting to block the passage.

Wyvern #37 (May 10th, 1968)
Wyvern #37 (10.05.68)

Following the departure of Dr Inch there were one or two scuffles between students and police outside Wivenhoe House, although there were also subsequently reports of more constructive exchanges going on at the time as well. Many accounts by the demonstrators agree that some of the police, at least, were quite nonplussed about being called out at all. As the protestors dispersed and returned to the campus in the valley below Wivenhoe House, they distributed around 470 copies of a further co-researched and co-authored student document, ‘Oppose Chemical and Biological Warfare’.

Locations: Box 8 (Tribunal Report);

Box 9/Tribunal Written Evidence (written submissions, including promotional poster for event (Ref 35), transcript of meeting preliminaries from curtailed tape recording (Ref 78), annotated copy of the Indictment (Ref 4), ‘Oppose Chemical and Biological Warfare’ pamphlet (Ref 35);

Boxes 10 and 11 contain transcripts of all hearings (27th-31st May, 6th June); Box 10 also includes approx 1/2-hour tape of first morning of hearings – Peter Archard and some of Dr. Tillett (transcript pp. 24-37);

Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 1a (copy of the CBW pamphlet);

Box 16/1968 contains a note to the Tribunal of Enquiry specifying the number of copies made of the CBW pamphlet, circa 24th May, and a further, more brief and enigmatic note ‘To Fiona’ from ‘D’, advising her to hold back from doing anything about Chemists at Wivenhoe House for the time being…;

Box 17/May 1968 includes clean copies of the Indictment and the CBW pamphlet; this Box also includes full transcripts from the Tribunal hearings.

8th (Wednesday) Issue 10 of the student Socialist Society bulletin The Spark devotes p. 2 to Lee Calcraft’s ‘Porton – and Public Health in Reverse’, on the use of CS gas in Vietnam, and the complicity of scientists working at Porton. See also issue 5/February 22nd front page on ‘More British Collaboration in the Vietnam War’ (Gordon Blair), publicising the March 17th Vietnam Solidarity Campaign demonstration in London.

Students’ Council Chair Ian Brodie and ‘a staff member of the Chemistry Department’ are interviewed on the early evening edition of ITV’s regional Anglia News broadcast.

8th (Wednesday) The Times editorial, ‘Student Uproars in Paris – and in Britain’ (p. 11) chastises French police brutality and the use of force in Paris, while deploring any violation of free speech (in Sloman’s sense) on British campuses (‘quite simply the silencing of opponents by mob action’); such violations are seen as a mark of their failure, if the allegedly responsible majority don’t do something to remedy the situation. A key reference point here is the cancellation of a visit by Conservative MP Patrick Wall to the University of Warwick, mentioned also in ‘Police dogs sent to Essex University’ on the Inch affair, where the visitor is described as having been ‘pushed and jostled’ at Essex (p. 2, sub dated May 7th)

Locations: Box 18a/Students’ Council (issues of The Spark);

Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 2 (transcript of Anglia interview);

Box 21/BBC (transcript of Anglia interview).

9th (Thursday) is seemingly quiet on campus, although behind the scenes the demonstrators are continuing to research Porton Down, CBW, and the ethics of science for their public awareness campaign, as well as drafting articles for the next day’s issue of the student newspaper Wyvern. Meanwhile the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar are reaching the decision to single out and suspend Peter Archard, Raphael Halberstadt, and David Triesman for their part in the Inch demonstration.

10th Friday 1pm The three students receive notice of their suspension by letter and are invited to address any queries to the Vice Chancellor in writing. The Registrar’s account of the Inch visit/notification of rustications (‘Incidents at Wivenhoe House’) is posted on his notice board; copies are sent to Senate, Council, General Assembly, and Chair of Students’ Council. His account is subsequently challenged by Peter Wexler, Stanley Mitchell, Joan Busfield, and Chris Mullins; the rebuttal was included in a sheaf of documents handed to members of the University as they arrived on campus the following Monday; Mullins also submitted the rebuttal (with some hand-written additions) as written testimony to the Tribunal of Enquiry.

Excerpt of draft letter to David Triesman informing him of his suspension, effective 6pm on Friday May 10th 1968.
Draft of letter to David Triesman delivered May 10th

The University’s Information Officer Walter Evans is surprised (and clearly more than a little embarrassed) when the news breaks in the Hexagon restaurant, interrupting his lunch with Professor Gibson of the Chemistry Department, and (by unhappy coincidence) the science correspondent of the Daily Telegraph; he drafts a short note on the handling of P.R around the incident, which offers some detail on the preparation of the official University Press Release about the suspensions.

Student protestors hold meetings and draft a series of documents in response to the announcement of the rustications. ‘The Porton Down Affair’, an unsigned open letter, is distributed on dining tables in the Hexagon and posted at the University’s Information Centre. The document explains the demonstrators’ motivations and tactic, remaining skeptical about the University allegations around “free speech” (Cf the Official Secrets Act signed by researchers at Porton Down), and reasserting the need both for science to be held to account, and for Universities to play a role in this.

By the evening ‘A Statement’ by Andy Mack is also circulated (200 copies), arguing against ‘reasoned dissent’ as a futile liberal sop, and for the necessity of more direct action. Mack further offers an account of Tuesday’s dialogue with Inch in the corridors of Wivenhoe House, and refers to the secrecy surrounding research at Porton (20% of their research is classified). Ultimately, for Mack, scientific work cannot be compartmentalised and always has political implications.

11.55pm ‘The Porton Down Affair: Phase II’ printed for circulation next day, emphasising that the suspended students had no hearing, and that (in any event) the demonstration was a collective action that had no ringleaders: ‘A more blatant case of VICTIMISATION would be difficult to imagine.’ The rustications will extend until June 19th – AFTER the exams. The document is a fantastic chronicle of protestor activities and meetings during the day in response to the rustications. Meetings documented at:

  • Lunchtime (200 attended) – Administration offices obstructed and Keynes Tower blockaded to stop eviction of rusticated students;
  • 6.30pm Keynes Tower – decision to march on the Vice Chancellor’s house (see image above, Sloman was ‘apparently, not at home’);
  • Evening meetings at Wivenhoe House and the Library further resolve (1) to deliver a letter to the Vice Chancellor with a list of demands; (2) to call a mass meeting for Monday, 11.30am, in LTB6, with staff and students urged to skip classes and lectures to attend; (3) to distribute leaflets on campus and in Colchester Saturday and Monday mornings; and (4) to keep guard on the 3 students in spite of Chief Maintenance Officer Mr Lilley’s assurances that there would be no forcible evictions. The leaflet also gives details on how to support the students and who to contact.

Meanwhile, Anthony Barker (Department of Government) attempts to requisition a General Assembly of staff to hear a report about the rustications from Sloman, and to consider any implications for the University’s code of conduct. The attempt is blocked by the Registrar, but Barker (according to his note) continues to gather support for a meeting of staff to take place as soon as possible.

Finally, and perhaps most intriguingly, Walter Evans also drafted a note describing an attempt by David Triesman to speak with the Vice Chancellor, who wasn’t in his office at the time, about the suspensions. Triesman had noted that the letter he received proposed addressing queries to the Vice Chancellor in writing, although on returning the Vice Chancellor let Evans know he could simply make an appointment. By this stage, however, Evans was no longer able to reach the students, who had been barricaded into Keynes Tower to forestall any attempted forcible evictions.

This breakdown in communications had its consequences. A number of students not involved in the initial demonstration subsequently joined the protestors, and many because of the apparent lack of ‘natural justice’ afforded to the rusticated trio, who never got to put their case to the authorities. It is therefore possible that such a meeting between Triesman and Sloman, had it come about, might have helped to contain somewhat the events that followed.

10th (Friday) University advertises for two professors, two senior lecturers, eight lecturers, and five fellows in the Department of Chemistry. ‘General Vacancies’, The Times, p. 24.

Locations: Box 9/Tribunal Written Submissions/Ref 16 (rebuttal of Registrar’s account, with one or two hand-written annotations by Chris Mullins);

Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 3 (‘The Porton Down Affair’), Ref 4 (draft rustication letter), Ref 5 (‘Incidents at Wivenhoe House’), Ref 6 (University Press Release), Ref 6a (Evans on the news breaking at the Hexagon), Ref 7 (Barker’s note on requisitioning of General Assembly), Ref 8 (Evans on Triesman’s attempt to speak with Sloman), Ref 9 (‘The Porton Down affair: Phase II’), Ref 10 (Mack’s ‘A Statement’), and Ref 16c (rebuttal of Registrar’s account);

Box 17/May 1968 contains copies of Refs 3, 5 (annotated/date and time stamped), 9, 10, 16c;

Box 29/Press Releases (the official University statement on the rustications).

11th (Saturday) ‘Protest after three are rusticated: 250 in university march’, The Times, p. 3 (sub dated 10th May)

  • Identifies the three rusticated students, and recalls the recent Enoch Powell incident as triggering a clear warning;
  • The students remain on campus barricaded in towers, although chief bailiff promised no action over the weekend;
  • Claims 100 students barricaded the Deputy Registrar’s office, petitions refusing to sit exams are circulating, and 50 members of staff are threatening resignation.

11th (Saturday) A Press Release is issued by Rick Coates, appointed student Press Officer at one of Friday’s meetings. The statement makes the moral case for protest and against victimisation, and announces a mass meeting organised for Monday morning; the Vice Chancellor, staff and administrators are all invited. Students take to Colchester town centre to distribute their anti-Chemical and Biological Warfare leaflets, including ‘What is Germ Warfare?’

A Memo for Monday’s meeting is drafted by Joan Busfield, Herbie Butterfield, and Dorothy Smith. The memo warns of what it sees as the real possibility of the University’s self destruction and makes the case that there’s an urgent need for dialogue. The authors further propose a moratorium on University activities for 2 days from May 14th ‘devoted to generating dialogue, in a variety of forms, in which all members of the University participate.’

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 11 (student press release), Ref 14 & Ref 16b (call for moratorium and dialogue);

Box 17/May 1968 also contains copies of both documents.

12th (Sunday) A morning meeting of staff results in two key documents, the first of which is the rebuttal of the Registrar’s account of the events of 7th May (‘Incidents at Wivenhoe House’, see 10th May above) signed by Wexler, Mitchell, Busfield, and Mullins. The second is a letter to the Vice Chancellor co-signed by Brotherston, Busfield, Butterfield, Clark, Cox, June and Michael Freeman, Mitchell, Pearson, O’Toole, Smith, Thompson, and Wexler, circulated and ‘fairly freely available’ around campus. The letter suggests that Sloman’s actions had precipitated ‘both a constitutional and a moral crisis’: the Vice Chancellor must act according to the law of the land, but had not applied the principle of natural justice, and so had intensified conflict; ‘freedom of speech’, the authors claim, needs interpreting and formalising in University rules and procedures.

The document further proposes a Committee of Inquiry to investigate conflicting accounts, apportion responsibility, and interpret freedom of speech in this instance; the make-up of the committee should be properly representative, and the three students should be reinstated while the enquiry is ongoing, so that they can take their exams. These suggestions, proposed by Paul Thompson, soon became core demands through their adoption by both the Department of Sociology and by the university-wide General Meetings the following day.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 15 (letter to VC), Ref 16c (rebuttal of Registrar’s account);

Box 17/May 1968 also contains both documents.

12th (Sunday) A evening meeting of about 50 convenes to strategise for Monday’s General Meeting and, in advance of it, to arrange for leafleting at entry points to campus and for the picketing of lectures. They hear a report from the morning meeting of staff, formulate contingency plans for the eventuality that Sloman doesn’t shift his position, and work out preparations for a teach-in on Chemical and Biological Warfare. The need to avoid any hint of violence is repeatedly emphasised.

13th (Monday) ‘Rusticated students fight on’, The Times, p. 2 (sub dated May 12th)

  • Report on the calling of mass meeting/boycott of lectures;
  • Repeats Dr Inch was ‘pushed and jostled’ last week;
  • Now only 40 staff signatories threatening resignation, apparently.

13th (Monday) As members of the University arrive on campus they are met at all entry points by protestors and presented with an invitation to the General Meeting scheduled for 11.30am, produced by a meeting of students the day before. In the Internal Documents collection the leaflet is the first of a bundle of four, along with the call for a moratorium on regular university business, the rebuttal of the Registrar’s account written over the weekend, and a 1-page update on developments, ‘You May Think Nothing Has Been Happening Over The Weekend – You’re Wrong’.

These developments include some success with anti-CBW leafleting in Colchester, the arrival of support from Leicester University, and meetings to discuss strategy (including some liaison with staff members); readers are urged to support the picket of lectures and to attend the General Meeting called for 11.30am; the teach-in on CBW is announced for Tuesday afternoon and evening. A further small leaflet reproducing an extract from Brecht’s Life of Galileo is also circulating around this time, with the heading ‘to all scientists – chemists as well as physicists’.

9.35am A Sociology Department Meeting postpones all business to discuss the troubles and proposals for the Vice Chancellor drafted by Paul Thompson and others. Their resolution is presented to Vice Chancellor and published the same morning. The minutes also noted that outside telephone lines were at that point only available through the University exchange. The meeting closes at 11.15am, in time for the General Meeting in the Lecture Theatre Block at 11.30am.

11.30am and 6.30pm GENERAL MEETINGS in LTB6 and 7, the first as announced in ‘The Porton Down Affair: Phase II’, Saturday’s student Press Release, and ‘You May Think…’ above. Most sources agree that both meetings were attended by around 1,000 (or more) staff and students, which was at the time a significant majority of the University community.

11.30am A statement against the Vice Chancellor is read out, resolutions from Sociology deploring Sloman’s actions and absence, and accepting his invitation to host a delegation of six students that afternoon (to report back to the evening meeting) are passed overwhelmingly; Peter Archard reads the text of a letter (drafted to the Vice Chancellor in advance of the Inch protest and sent afterwards) accounting for his position on CBW research, and asking a central and recurring question at the time of the events, ‘knowledge for what?’

The ‘Thompson proposals’ for a representative committee of enquiry and the interim reinstatement of the three suspended students are put to the meeting and carried overwhelmingly; similarly carried is the proposal to seek formal advice on the legality of the suspensions, subject to the outcome of any meeting with the Vice Chancellor that afternoon.

A fringe meeting of 20-30 staff votes for the suspension of teaching and research for two days of an ‘Open University’ (draft programme appended); a letter from Stanley Mitchell appeals for wider staff support. The Sociology Department Meeting resolutions for the Vice Chancellor are also circulated, including the proposals put by Paul Thompson to the General Meeting.

The students have arranged a meeting to plan next steps, to take place half an hour after the end of the morning meeting. Peter Archard and David Triesman release unapologetic statements for the press reaffirming the centrality of CBW to the events, and arguing that both the issue and the form of the demonstration were justified. Both are interviewed for television news, and Archard will later ask for the media to be excluded from the evening meeting because of the television crew’s subsequent treatment of the interview footage.

Archard’s press statement is in the Internal Documents collection, and this copy of Triesman’s comes from Rick Coates’ collection, which he was generous enough to share with the project.


6.30pm At the evening meeting Peter Archard makes a further statement deploring the actions of the television news team which (he was informed) had re-recorded the questions put to him and a fellow student during an interview following the morning meeting. Archard claims that the focus was thereby drawn away from Inch and CBW and onto the issue of student violence; on this basis, he suggests, the media should be excluded from the meeting.

There is also an attempt to exclude members of staff, according to a note subsequently drafted by Anthony Barker (Government Department lecturer), about the meeting of staff the following day; Barker’s motion to keep the evening meeting open to all members of the university community (and not to exclude any non-students) was, he states, ‘accepted by acclamation’.

The meeting hears a report from the delegation of six to the Vice Chancellor’s house – the matter of the rustications and disciplinary action is now in the hands of Senate, although the calling of a special meeting of Senate for Wednesday 15th will, it is noted, shorten the period of exclusion.

The evening meeting votes unanimously or overwhelmingly:

  • to investigate the legality of the Vice Chancellor’s actions and press for a meeting of staff the next day, in time to prepare a brief for Wednesday’s Senate meeting;
  • for Paul Thompson’s proposals for immediate reinstatement, a representative Committee of Enquiry, and a ‘Free University’;
  • to demand steps for adequate representation of student views at the next meeting of Senate;
  • for Mike Gonzales’s 3 functions of the ‘Free University’ – to protest CBW and the rustications, and to discuss the implications of present troubles, all with a commitment to non-violence.

A group of about 100 students leave the evening meeting to barricade themselves into the Hexagon restaurant but return soon after, having sensed a lowering of support and morale, according to a further statement from Peter Archard.

Following the meetings, acting Chairman of the Finance Committee Alistair Blunt takes Chair’s action and instructs Students’ Council to ratify two resolutions, one from each of the day’s meetings, calling for legal advice and, if appropriate, counsel to secure reinstatement of the suspended students through recourse to the law.

13th (Monday) Eventually, the Registrar circulates a short statement from the Vice Chancellor announcing a special meeting of Senate on the afternoon of Wednesday 15th May to hear his report on the suspensions, and noting that any further action in respect of the students will be determined by Senate. The Registrar further gives notice of the calling of an extraordinary General Assembly for 5pm on 20th May to hear a report from Sloman on the rustication, and to debate any implications for the establishing of a working party to formulate a code of conduct in light of recent troubles.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Refs 16a, 16b, 16c, 16d (the bundle of documents in circulation at the University on Monday morning), Ref 17 (resolution from the Sociology Department), Ref 18 (motions from morning meeting), Ref 19 (Archard’s letter to the VC), Ref 20 (transcript of a recording of Archard’s statement to the evening meeting following the Hexagon occupation), Ref 21 (the report from the delegation of six), Ref 22 (motions from evening meeting), Ref 23 (Blunt’s note on legal counsel), Ref 24 (Archard’s statement to the press), Ref 25 (the statement against the Vice Chancellor),  Ref 26 (the VC’s statement);

Box 15/Disturbances/May events subfolder (extraordinary General Assembly call);

Box 16/1968 (handwritten note from morning meeting outlining Sociology resolutions);

Box 17/May 1968 includes minutes of Sociology Department Meeting, motions from morning and evening General Meetings, the call for a moratorium, the call for an extraordinary General Assembly, the statement against the VC, Mitchell’s letter to staff, and the leaflet citing Brecht’s Galileo on science and ethics;

Box 21 includes a transcript of Archard’s comments about his experiences with television news, which seems to have been recorded and transcribed by the University’s Information Officer, Walter Evans.

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’.

Letter to students from Maintenance Officer Harry Kilvington, May 1968 (courtesy of Rick Coates).

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’.

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.

18th (Saturday) The Times reports on Friday’s senate meeting as its second in two days, and thus as an ‘ingenious stratagem’ ending the rustications on a technicality (Brian MacArthur, ‘University Move Cools Dispute’, p.3 – MacArthur had been speaking to a teach-in at the University earlier in the week on improving press relations).

See also letters ‘Clash with Authority at Essex’ from Michael Lloyd (Dept. of Economics) deploring the disruption of the Inch lecture, and from Lord Alport writing in defence of Sloman, and claiming the subversion to be internationally organised and precipitated (‘Dr Sloman’s Action’; both letters p. 11).

18th (Saturday) Anthony King, Convenor of the Committee of Enquiry, circulates an announcement that the Committee’s next meeting will take place on the morning of Monday 20th May, and will be establishing the credentials of its elected membership, listed in full on the same document.

Location: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 49;

Box 17/May 1968 (copy with two brief amendments).

19th May (Sunday) The Observer (‘Crisis days for “dream” university’) reports on Friday’s Senate meetings, also Gabriel Pearson’s resignation; Friday’s Free University resolution for Senate demanding guarantee/assurance of full reinstatement by 2pm on Monday 20th May is described as ‘virtually an ultimatum’.

20th (Monday) Lord Alport describes more specifically a Communist hard core at universities such as Essex. The Registrar circulates a memo notifying readers that the General Assembly requisitioned for that evening has been cancelled.

The Committee of Enquiry meet and evidently certain issues are raised that prompt Senate to modify somewhat its terms of reference. The Registrar circulates an announcement that the Committee has been granted permission to appoint Counsel to assist in its investigation of the Inch incident, and to consider its findings in light of the principle of free speech as specifically articulated in point (2) of Senate’s report of the previous Thursday. The scope of the enquiry is also restricted to the events of May 7th, thus ruling out a number of wider issues the students felt were raised by the protest beyond questions of free speech in a university setting.

The Registrar circulates a further memo reminding staff of examination arrangements and confirming no alterations to the schedule. A memo is counter-circulated inviting staff to a meeting Tuesday 21st at 2pm to discuss the situation; Chair of the Sociology Department Peter Townsend circulates still two more memos, one calling for a staff meeting that evening, and the other to reassure students about arrangements for exams and the rescheduling of teaching.

A motion is passed at a General Meeting deploring the comments of Alport and Butler, requesting that the Committee of Enquiry ask for and report on any evidence the Lords can submit, and asking the University to note their responses and consider their suitability for office (see below, 25th May). This meeting passes a further motion calling for a General Assembly the following evening to consider proposals for structural reform and any relevant news from Senate

20th (Monday) BBC ‘Look East’, and ‘Town and Around’ (5.55pm) both feature the troubles at Essex, interviewing Rick Coates and Albert Sloman, and Student Council president Brian Downie and Professor Donald Davie, respectively. Coates denies Communist Party infiltration, while Sloman reiterates his defence of free speech, denies ‘a state of anarchy’ at the University, and raises the importance of student participation in academic matters; Downie and Davie discuss the reinstatement and the so-called ‘ultimatum’, communication failures, and the insidious influence of ‘wreckers’.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/ Ref 50 (Registrar’s memo on the Committee of Enquiry), Ref 51 (Registrar’s memo on examinations), Ref 52 (2xGM motions on one page), Ref 53 (‘Look East’) and Ref 54 (‘Town and Around’);

Box 17/May 1968 includes GM motions on separate documents, 2x Registrar’s memos canceling the GA and confirming exam arrangements, 2x Sociology memos and Literature staff letter on exams, also ‘Look East’ transcript);

Box 21 also includes transcripts of both broadcasts.

21st (Tuesday) BBC ‘Today’ interviews Albert Sloman. The Vice Chancellor has had no thought of resignation; he remains upbeat about the future of the University, and resolved to ‘crack down on any threat to freedom of expression’.

21st (Tuesday), both staff and students hold meetings to discuss the situation with exams. Students on the Common First Year of the Comparative Studies degree draft and circulate a memo detailing a motion rejecting their examinations (except on a purely voluntary basis), and calling for ‘a multiform structure of assessment’ and a further meeting the following morning. A petition to abolish second-year exams (again, except as a purely voluntary option) is circulated to second-year students, in light of the failure of the administration to heed the previous week’s demand that exams be postponed until at least a month after the reinstatement of the three rusticated students.

21st (Tuesday) BBC South East Regional News:

  • Exams will be held as usual in spite of boycott;
  • Boycott reaffirmed until rusticated 3 have records cleaned;
  • Requests for Butler and Alport to substantiate allegations of CP infiltration;
  • Announcer only – no i/vs.

21st (Tuesday) Tribunal Of Enquiry announced in Keith Trace circular, detailing membership (including a Barrister, to be appointed) and processes, including the gathering of written and oral evidence; the first meeting to consider written evidence is scheduled for 24th May. It seems that two documents from March (Dean of Students Alasdair MacIntyre’s brief memo from March 4th, and the revised disciplinary arrangements set down the same month) were also recirculated at this point, perhaps to provide a standard against which expressions of disgust (on either side) might be tempered.

21st (Tuesday) General Meeting hears proposals for a working party to formulate specific recommendations for democratic structural reform of the University’s governing bodies (Dorothy Smith, Department of Sociology); also more specific proposals for student representation in Department Meetings and on a remodeled, more democratic and representative Senate, in turn subordinated to the General Assembly as ultimate decision-making power (Mike Gonzales). A note at the foot of one copy of these proposals suggests the motions weren’t passed before the meeting adjourned to the bar. The meeting does, however, pass a motion by Gray Morris for the abolition of Part I and Progress Exams; Morris’ motion further suggests that third year students meet and formulate their own proposals for exams.

21st (Tuesday) Not all leaflets circulating around campus are entirely in earnest; participants in the events recall the influence of the Surrealist and Situationist Internationals. One leaflet proposing ‘Home Rule for Wilts’ is based on the conceit that the ancient people of the county of Wiltshire have suffered centuries of oppression at the hands of the colonising English; includes a reference to ‘nerve gas centres’, but also laments the neglected state of the roof of Stonehenge.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 55 (CFY exams motion), Ref 56 (Tribunal announcement), Ref 57 (GM motions: Smith & Gonzales), Ref 58 (Morris on exams), Ref 58a (BBC SE Regional News transcript);

Box 15/Disturbances (second-year exams petition);

Box 16/Campus Events (‘Home Rule for Wilts’);

Box 17/May 1968 (CFY exams motion, Tribunal announcement, MacIntyre memo, revised Disciplinary Procedures, Smith and Gonzales motions, annotated);

Box 21 includes the BBC’s ‘Today’ and SE Regional News transcripts.

22nd (Wednesday) A motion from third year students is passed and circulated, calling for all Departments to meet with final-year students to agree a way forward (in terms of the relative weighting of their exams and coursework) that will limit any damage arising from the impact of the recent events on tuition. 

22nd (Wednesday) Senate meet for what would have been its first scheduled meeting following the rustications. A note is distributed through the student pigeonholes reminding readers that a General Assembly the previous week had passed a motion declaring this afternoon’s meeting to be an open one, and inviting all to attend. Information Officer Walter Evans reports that the matter was referred to the Registrar, and details the ‘laconic’ action taken in response.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 59 (Evans’ report);

Box 17/May 1968 (third years exams memo, and note circulated through pigeonholes). 

23rd (Thursday) The Times, ‘Senate calm students’ unrest’, p. 3 (sub dated 22nd May): ‘Today students busily read up their subjects in an effort to catch up on lost time to meet the examination schedule.’ The same article nonetheless goes on to report on the motions circulating for the re-weighting or boycotting of exam papers.

23rd (Thursday) BBC ‘In the Public Eye’ (Radio 4, 9.30-10pm) extended interview with Albert Sloman including comments on on the recent events, the idea of a liberal university, student participation and disciplinary procedures

Location: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 60

Tribunal of Enquiry submission, May 1968

24th Friday First meeting of the Tribunal of Enquiry Panel meets to discuss written evidence submitted on Dr Inch’s visit and the events leading up to the demonstration at the Chemical Society meeting.

24th Friday Acting Dean of the School of Social Studies Richard Lipsey circulates a memo to students reminding them that exams will take place as scheduled, and in accordance with the Rules of Assessment approved for the year the previous December; Lipsey points out that extenuating circumstances may be taken into account by the boards of examiners, and that any unexpectedly low drop in performance on the part of final year and MA students might result in the offer of an oral re-examination.

Locations: Box 9/Tribunal Written Evidence/Refs 1-79;

Box 17/May 1968 (Lipsey exams memo)

25th Saturday Assistant Registrar and Tribunal Secretary Robin Dixon writes to Lords Alport and Butler, requesting clarification of their comments in the media over the previous weekend about Communist infiltration in student unrest, and asking for any  evidence they might offer to support such claims (see 18th, 20th May, above); Butler’s response is placatory, while Alport remains persistently outraged at the request, even following Lord Gifford’s subsequent personal endorsement of Dixon’s request in a letter dated 31st May; Alport nonetheless offers to explain to a small delegation of students ‘the facts of political life as I see them’.

25th Saturday BBC ‘Outlook’ interviews Rev. Malcolm France, Anglican Chaplain at the University, who outlines the recent events as he sees them: France points specifically to the lack of channels for young voices to be heard at a wider societal level, and the need for a debate about the nature and function of universities.

Locations: Box 9/Tribunal of Enquiry Submissions/ToE Ref 52 (Dixon and Butler), Ref 63 (Dixon and Gifford to Alport);

Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 61 (BBC ‘Outlook’), Ref 62 (Dixon-Butler correspondence).

27th-31st May (Monday-Friday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears oral testimony from participants in the events of 7th May, allowing the panel to cross-check accounts and to put questions arising from the written evidence already submitted and available for the public. Over 30 witnesses are cross examined over the course of the hearings, with John Tillett (who was chairing the Chemical Society meeting on 7th May) taking the stand on no less than four of the five days. Approximately 32 minutes of the questioning are recorded on a tape reel, including Peter Archard and John Tillett (pp. 24-37 of transcripts).

27th May (Monday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
1-34 Pete ARCHARDGovernment graduate student11, 35
60-64John N. BRADLEYChair of Chemistry Dept.1
65-74John TILLETTChemistry staff23
84-91Reginald WYATTAdmin Assistant/Maintenance Officer25, 75
91-101Chris MULLINSPhysics graduate student16
102-114W. DAVISHead Porter26, 79

Locations: Box 10 (tape recording);

Box 17/Tribunal Hearings (complete set of transcripts).

28th (Tuesday) Letter to The Times from David Stephen defending the University as (positively) different, if not the ‘few extremists’, and affirming collective accountability (‘Disorders at Essex’, p. 11).

28th (Tuesday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
44-49John TILLETTChemistry staff23
115-116W. DAVISHead Porter26, 79
117-134D. F. GREENSLADEChemistry staff14
135-157Paul HOUGHTONComparative Studies student21, 54
158-177Colin ROGERSStudents’ Council20
178-182David LEWISChemistry Fellow17, 73
182-212Keith BOWDENChemistry staff36
212-213R. G. JOSCELYNEChemistry 2nd-year student8
214-226David TRIESMANGovernment 3rd-year student42
259-260Mike GONZALESLiterature graduate student44
260-265Lucia JONESStudent19

Location: Box 17/Tribunal Hearings

29th (Wednesday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
227-237Janet STEELStudent18
238-246Manfred GORDONChemistry staff37
247-250Alasdair MACINTYREDean of StudentsN/A
251-258Mike GONZALESLiterature graduate student44
266-271J. A. LILLEYMaintenance Officer24

Location: Box 17/Tribunal Hearings

30th (Thursday) Dean of the School of Comparative Studies Jean Blondel circulates a brief memo to students in light of recent rumours of the leaking of exam questions, which are to be amended as a result.

30th (Thursday) A renewed call for Tribunal contributions is issued by Robin Dixon, Assistant Registrar and Tribunal Secretary (deadline 5pm the following day); Dixon expresses an especial interest in the planning of the demonstration, about which details are apparently a bit scarce.

30th (Thursday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
75-77John TILLETTChemistry staff23
77-83Reginald WYATTAdmin Assistant/Maintenance Officer25, 75
272-276Derek WIGGINSChemistry student3
276-278Brian REEVEComparative Studies 2nd-year student40
282-284John S. BENTLEYStudent46
284-291Alastair HATCHETTStudent30
292-296Joan BUSFIELDSociology graduate student16, 51

Locations: Box 14/ Internal Documents/Ref 63 (Blondel), Ref 64 (Dixon);

Box 17/Tribunal Hearings.

31st (Friday) Tribunal of Enquiry hears evidence from:

Transcripts pp.NameDept./OccupationSub Ref(s)
278-281John S. BENTLEYStudent46
297-299Dorothy E. SMITHSociology staff58
299-300R. A. WHITEComparative Studies 1st-year student39
300-301Phillip HOLDENStudentN/A
302-307R. M. G. ROBERTSChemistry staff31
308-313John TILLETTChemistry staff23
314-315F STEPHENSChemistry staff73
315-322Raphael HALBERSTADTStudent64
323-326Gordon BLAIRStudent45
326Ian BRODIEStudents’ CouncilN/A
327-328Julian HARBERSociology student49
329-331Paul GOODCHILDStudent, photographerN/A
331-333Reginald WYATTAdmin Assistant/Maintenance Officer25, 75
333-337Chris RATCLIFFE Comparative Studies 2nd-year student65
338-342Islay FULLERTON3rd-year Sociology student68
343Mr MARKSDeputy-Head PorterN/A

c. 31st (Friday) A leaflet is circulated by Common First Year students on the Comparative Studies degree protesting Dean Blondel’s memo (above) on the decision to amend exam papers; the leaflet calls for a boycott, in light of the potential psychological impact of the uncertainty around the summer exams, and makes a case for the abolition of exams altogether.

Locations: Box 17/Tribunal Hearings;

Box 17/May 1968 (CFY Exams protest).

JUNE 1968

6th (Thursday) Tribunal of Enquiry reconvenes to cross examine Jem Thomas on the matter of his spectacles (Thomas’ testimony is on pp. 344-345 of the transcripts); these were taken from him by Dr Bowden at the Chemical Society meeting on 7th May (witnessed by David Triesman and others) and, according to Thomas’s testimony submitted on 4th June, returned seriously damaged: ‘they were bent at the bridge, so that the lenses were looking at each other, the stalks were bent too…. I was fortunately able to straighten them out however the lenses remain slightly chipped.’

A series of near-identical statements denying that the spectacles were ‘bent parallel (with the lenses facing each other)’ prior to being returned to Thomas is swiftly gathered, presumably by Bowden, from chemists and other scientists, as well as porters and maintenance staff involved.

Wyatt, Northage, and Davis are contacted for further written evidence about the condition of the glasses, and all admit that these were in fact bent at the bridge, to one degree or another, by the time they finally arrived at lost property.

Locations: Box 9/Tribunal of Enquiry Written Evidence/Ref 71 (Thomas), Ref 42 (Triesman), Ref 73 (Northage et al.), Ref 75 (Wyatt), Ref 77 (Northage, again), and Ref 79 (Davis);

Box 17/Tribunal Hearings (Thomas’ cross-examination).

Final exchanges of the Tribunal hearings, Jem Thomas answering questions.

10th (Monday) Committee of Enquiry receives report of Tribunal of Enquiry.

10th (Monday) Information Officer Walter Evans reports on a meeting to plan ways to continue the discussions that had begun around the time of the Inch Incident and Enquiry; the document lists many of the names of those present, and some suggested topics for such discussions.

Locations: Box 8 (Tribunal Report);

Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 65 (Evans on the Free University meeting).

11th (Tuesday) Committee of Enquiry circulates a memorandum (signed K. Trace, Committee Chair) to all members of University (as per p.1 of circular of 21st May); the circular canvasses responses to a proposed three-part statement of principles concerning freedom of speech “as it applies to public meetings within a university.” The memo claims the Committee’s interest lies purely in gauging consensus, and that there will be no intention to apply any new principles retrospectively; that is, it wouldn’t be used against the three rusticated students, although the wording of clause (c) came under much closer scrutiny than that of either (a) or (b). The deadline for responses is set for 10am, Monday 17th June.

Broadly the statement proposes:

  • (a) every group or individual has the right to express views and knowledge, however repugnant (although subject to law);
  • (b) every group or individual is free to invite whomever to speak on whatever topic, and nobody has the right to stop a talk on the subject of the speaker’s choosing;
  • (c) there may be a (rare) moral imperative to divert discussion, but this still breaches the principle and University regulations; hence offenders are subject to disciplinary procedures (which may take into account “The extent of ‘moral justification’ if any”).

11th (Tuesday) The ‘June 16th Committee’ circulates a document, ‘Make a Desolation and Call it Peace’; the last item in the Internal Documents collection is an attack on Porton Down, euphemistic government language, and poor standards of civilian defence in case of CBW attack; the Committee further urges the British government to cease sharing CBW research and information with its partners in North America, in accordance with its agreed obligations.

Locations: Box 14/Internal Documents/Ref 66 (‘Make a Desolation…’);

Box 17/May 1968 (Trace’s memorandum).

c. 14th (Friday) Another leaflet from the June 16th Committee (‘care of Socialist Society’) giving details of a demonstration against Porton Down outside the Ministry of Defence on 16th June, and suggesting some theatricality might be welcome.

Location:Box 15/Revolutions/May 1968 subfolder.

16th (Sunday) Around 200 students and other supporters join the demonstration against Porton Down outside the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, where protestors handed in a petition, and were involved in minor scuffles with the mounted guards.

17th (Monday) Deadline for receipt of written submissions on freedom of speech to Committee of Enquiry; by far and away the most controversial of the three paragraphs (above) is 3 (c), which raises the issue of ‘moral justification’ for interrupting a speaker.

Along with the written and oral statements gathered by the Tribunal of Enquiry, and the Internal Documents collection, the 47 responses to to Trace’s memorandum of 11th June constitute the last of the University Administration’s major collections to do with the May 1968 events.

Freed to an extent from the Tribunal’s purely factual remit, the submissions in this collection perhaps best illustrate the wide-ranging multiplicity of perspectives on more abstract questions about the nature of a university and why it exists, as well as how its members should conduct themselves (and how it should discipline perceived infractions).

Location: Box 8 includes all 47 responses to the memorandum; the final item (Refs 40-47) is a table summary of eight responses that simply indicated agreement or otherwise with each of the three paragraphs.

c. 20th (Thursday) A schedule for a further four days of Free University discussions (24th-27th June) is posted on noticeboards; ‘nightly dancing and festivities’ are promised, along with a meeting between students and industrial and trade unionists the weekend prior.

Location: Box 15/Revolutions/May 1968 subfolder.

24th (Monday) Committee of Enquiry reports on freedom of speech. The report is bookended by a cover note, signed by sixteen members of the Committee, expressing their hope that the University might now start to move on from the events of 7th May, and a minority conclusion taking a more hard-line approach to breaches of discipline, and rejecting a number of the findings in the report itself.

Location: Box 8.

c. 27th (Thursday) A further, seemingly mock Free University schedule for 1st-3rd July is circulated around this time, promising (among other attractions) a live guest appearance from Che Guevara.

Location: Box 15/Revolutions/May 1968 subfolder.

28th (Friday) SUMMER TERM ENDS