Four students were suspended on Friday 21 May: Ali Alizadeh, Nicola Goodchild, Johann Hoiby, and Hoi Yen Voong. The suspension blocks them ‘from entering any part of the University’s premises without written permission’ from management. The students have been informed by the Head of Student Services Fiona Fall (F.Fall@mdx.ac.uk) that ‘we are writing to only a few of you so far but will write to others similarly involved when they can be identified.’
Three members of staff were also suspended on Friday afternoon: Professors Peter Osborne (head of the CRMEP) and Peter Hallward (programme leader for the Middlesex Philosophy MA programmes), and senior lecturer Dr. Christian Kerslake (who learned about his suspension over the weekend), pending investigation into their involvement in the occupations. This means that half of the Philosophy staff have now been suspended from duty.
There are a number of striking things about the staff suspension notices. First of all, staff have been suspended in anticipation of (rather than following) ‘an investigation surrounding the occupations’ at Trent Park. The notices do not refer to any specific allegation of wrong-doing, and do not indicate a timetable for the investigation.
Second, the notices do not formulate a ‘proportionate’ response to the circumstances. For instance, they do not simply prevent staff from communicating with colleagues and students about further occupations or ‘disruption’ at Middlesex. Instead, they command staff to ‘refrain from contacting in any way any University employee, student or any University contractor or supplier without the prior agreement of the Dean or a member of Executive.’ It is hard to see how this command respects basic rights of association and contact. In order now to conduct a routine supervisory meeting with a research student, for instance, staff must now request permission from their Dean and provide him with details of when any supervisory meetings will take place, so that (as a recent management instruction puts it) ‘arrangements can be made for their attendance at the University.’
Third, the notices indicate that ‘the suspension is not a disciplinary penalty in itself and does not imply any decision about the merits of the case’. They instruct staff to continue to ‘ carry out all reasonable duties specified by the University in relation to the delivery of your role’ (in other words, they simultaneously suspend staff from duty and instruct them to carry on working more or less as normal). Osborne and Hallward, however, have now specifically been denied permission to attend a regular once-a-term meeting of the University-wide Professors Group, scheduled for Friday 28 May. This is a group constituted and organised by academic (as distinct from managerial) Professors themselves several years ago, originally in opposition to a previous round of management cuts. The great majority of the University’s academic professors already signed a strongly-worded letter condemning the closure of Philosophy, and they are unlikely to appreciate this extraordinary and unprecedented managerial intervention in the operations of their group.
Savemdxphil@gmail.com has already received scores of outraged letters about the suspensions from academics all over the world. We will post a few more of these later today.
The implications of these suspensions extend far beyond the fate of the Philosophy programmes at Middlesex. Students and staff have been suspended for the ‘crime’ of campaigning to save their own courses and jobs. Since it is hard to imagine a more innocuous occasion for student protest than a library sit-in designed to mount a symbolic defence of endangered books and programmes, it is hard to escape the conclusion that what is at stake here is nothing less than the right to protest itself – or at least, the right to protest in ways that might have some actual impact. When he was informed of his suspension shortly after the sit-in ended on Friday, one of the students was told by management that he was indeed entitled to protest the closure of his programme by ordinary, ‘legitimate’ means, e.g. by writing letters, organising petitions, and so on. But he was also told that when thousands of people sign a petition or ‘push a button on Facebook’, this doesn’t indicate a meaningful expression of support.
It looks, then, as if the Campaign will have to continue to provide alternative opportunities for such expression. The issues at stake in this struggle are matters of urgent and far-reaching principle. If you oppose the closures and their implications for humanities teaching, if you oppose the suspensions and their implications for academic freedom and the rights of association and protest, then please attend a rally at on Thursday 27 May, from 4pm onwards, at Middlesex University’s Hendon campus.
Tuesday 25 May 2010.
Just like at Sussex. You didn’t do anything wrong, but you’re being punished in advance. Why? Because they want to silence you. Be prepared for any ‘investigation’ to be postponed and postponed just like it has been at Sussex, the better to leave it until everyone’s gone home for the summer. University managements everywhere are exactly the same: incompetent, greedy, and malicious.
We didn’t let this stand at Sussex, and we will not let it stand at Middlesex. These intellectual fascists (if they can even be called intellectual) have no idea what sort of power we are capable of, especially when our fellow activists have been victimised.
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I’m wondering–perhaps naively–what official policies are in place for when somebody can be suspended, by whom, for how long, on what grounds, etc. We can all guess pretty well what motivated the suspensions, but doesn’t the administration have to give at least some sort of pro forma justification that refers to university policies? Or can the administration suspend anybody on whim at any time? I’ve been involved in several student disciplinary hearing here at my university in the States, on grounds ranging from academic dishonesty to sexual assault, and we have tons of procedural niceties spelled out that we’re careful to follow, not only for fairness, but also to ensure that we’re not open to a lawsuit.
I don’t recall seeing more brutal treatment of students than this.
“Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the Camp, the Court & the University: who would if they could, for ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War.”
William Blake wrote the above and he knew that in his time it served the interests of the power brokers to promote what he calls Corporeal war __ versus the Mental fight and combat : free thought:: ___ free thought and learning is what the Authorities atand Middlesex and elswhere are trying to shut -off _ Thought and the freedom of thought
Bon courage a les etudiants a Middelsex
A little correction to the above as I write in haste
“free thought and learning is what the Authorities at Middlesex and elswhere are trying to shut -off _ Thought and the freedom of thought__ poetry and philosophy are both threatened and hemmed by the harbingers of war
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I was appalled to hear of the management-driven escalation of events at Middlesex and the suspension of students and staff in this latest instance of brutal, arrogant, pig-headed behaviour by a bunch of administrators clearly engaged in some kind of self-promoting power-game. I hope that Dean Esche knows what he is doing in lending his name and office to the victimization of three academics who are without any doubt among the most distinguished and influential philosophers working (or, sad to say, currently not working) in this country today. I salute those students and staff who have had the courage to stand up against this blatant case of managerial harassment and intimidation.
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Now the game turns ugly. Now the whole point of it becomes flouting the rules – of administrative prudence, of professional conduct, of logic, of rationality; for only a naked act of managerial retaliation, unadorned by flimsy public rationalizations, can drive home the point to all of us that anyone who exercises his or her right of peaceful protest against the deliberate debasement of academic and educational standards will pay. The point is to isolate individuals without regard to rank or reason; to make examples of them, object lessons to the international audience of scholars and intellectuals who are witnessing this debacle, in order to warn the rest of us not to find inspiration in their resistance.
Of course this strategy can’t work if the rest of us refuse to be cowed, and insist, rather, on regarding them as setting an activist standard. So long as the friends, colleagues, and professional acquaintances of Professors Peter Osborne, Peter Hallward and Christian Kerslake and the four suspended students refuse to tune out (with excuses about their having deserved it – for acting importunately, for doing the wrong kind of philosophy, for failing to genuflect to the right people at the right professional moments, for failing to know their places, etc., etc.), the Middlesex University administration’s ugly exercise of unjustified power can be blocked.
I, for one, would like very much to know more about the specific individuals responsible for these suspensions: their names, affiliations, backgrounds, and professional interests. These individuals never did deserve the shield of public anonymity, and they most certainly should not enjoy it now. For example, who is Head of Student Services Fiona Fall, author of the message to the four students informing them that the rest of them would be hunted down as well? What is her professional agenda and to whom does she answer in the Middlesex University administration? Who informed the three faculty members of their suspension, and who authored this decision in the first place?
After all, it is not only the suspended faculty and students who provide the rest of us with object lessons – in courage and integrity. The specific perpetrators of this outrage among the Middlesex University administration also supply us with object lessons – in cowardice, opportunism, stupidity, and moral bankruptcy. We all have a lot to learn from these individuals – administrators at other UK universities perhaps most of all. But in order for them to learn the right lesson for their own universities, we must keep public scrutiny trained on the parties responsible in this case.
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