1. This evening at least one further student has been suspended, ‘because of [his] alleged part in the occupation of the Mansion earlier this month and, despite the terms of the injunction served, [and because he has] further disrupted University business by occupying the Library at Trent Park.’ His hearing is scheduled for Tuesday morning, 8 June. We should have more details about this soon, along with a report from the hearings last Friday.
Several other students received emails from management this afternoon, requesting ‘a written statement describing the events as you witnessed them leading up to and during the occupation [of the Mansion building at Trent Park]. We are particularly concerned about injuries suffered by staff and would ask if you witnessed this.’
2. The campaign will post a more detailed notice about these alleged ‘injuries’ shortly. Management has repeatedly evoked violent ‘assaults on staff’, and University spokespeople have referred to ‘broken bones.’ To the best of our knowledge they have yet to provide any significant evidence for these allegations, and campaigners who witnessed or were involved in the occupations firmly deny them. According to the University a police investigation is now under way.
What’s already clear is that investigation of these ‘injuries’ hasn’t yet been much of a police priority. Management called police to Trent Park on three occasions: around mid-day on Tuesday 4 May, around 6:00pm on Wednesday 5 May, and around 8pm on Thursday 20 May. On each occasion, management accused students of assault. On each occasion, the police who visited Trent Park declined to interview let alone detain any protestors in relation to these or any other accusations.
Earlier today, several members of Middlesex staff wrote to Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll, asking management to publish the pertinent police and medical evidence it has presumably obtained in relation to these allegations. So far (as far as we know) there has been no response.
3. External examiners for several additional Middlesex programmes have now threatened to boycott next week’s assessment meetings, if the suspensions are not lifted without further victimisation.
4. This afternoon, the UCU’s national congress unanimously passed a motion condemning the closures and suspensions, which reads as follows:
“Congress notes the decision by Middlesex University to close philosophy programmes and the related protest campaign and occupations.
Congress condemns the decision to suspend 3 members of philosophy staff and impose disciplinary sanctions on students.
Congress condemns the wider attacks on philosophy and humanities provision across the HE sector.
Congress resolves to:
Urge all UCU branches to write to the VC and governors calling for the suspensions to be lifted.
Urge all UCU branches to send messages of support to Middlesex UCU (firstname.lastname@example.org) in its continuing efforts to achieve a framework for a negotiated settlement and to the Save Middlesex Philosophy Campaign.” [endquote].
The Middlesex UCU branch will hold its AGM tomorrow (Weds) at 2pm. At noon tomorrow, the deadline set at the branch EGM last Friday for the lifting of the suspensions will expire.
5. One of the suspended members of staff was intercepted by Hendon campus security when he broke the terms of his suspension by attending this union EGM on Friday – he was ordered to leave the campus but security apparently decided against a direct confrontation with a roomful of outraged UCU members, and did not interfere with the meeting. On Saturday the suspended staff member received a further letter from Human Resources, reminding him that his attendance at Thursday’s rally and Friday’s EGM violated the terms of his suspension and thus constitute a ‘disciplinary offence’.
6. Thousands of people have now signed petitions or letters condemning the suspensions of Middlesex students and staff as an illegitimate and inappropriate abuse of managerial power. Letters of support continue to arrive from all over the world, including (to give some random examples) from Chungbuk National University (South Korea), the Croatian Society for Philosophy, the Department of Sociology at the University of Mimar Sinan Guzel Sanatlar Istanbul, the Union of Asian Philosophers, the French embassy in London, the Seminar of Aesthetics at the University of Oslo, the School of Geography at the University of Exeter, the Philosophy Faculty at the University of Cambridge, etc.
The petition for an international academic boycott put together by John Protevi and Todd May has now garnered 1800 signatures, and the original petition in support of Philosophy at Middlesex has been signed by 18,000 people.
7. By contrast, at 5:20pm on Friday 28 May Middlesex Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll sent round a different sort of message to all university staff, confirming once again the definitive closure of the Philosophy programmes. He also confirmed that management would continue to try to coerce students into ending their participation in the campaign. The students will respond in due course.
8. Late last night, in an email to all university staff, the director of programmes for Philosophy, Stella Sandford, refuted Driscoll‘s highly misleading account of the process that led to his decision to close Philosophy. Professor Mine Dack, a colleague in Music, also circulated a strong challenge to Driscoll‘s contentious description of the suspensions as undertaken ‘in accordance with the University’s Staff disciplinary Procedure’.
9. On Thursday evening, 3 June, 6pm to 9pm, members of the campaign will protest outside the University’s annual art show, at The Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane in east London. All supporters of the campaign are warmly invited to attend!
The campaign continues to expand in breadth and depth. What is at stake is now less the immediate fate of the Philosophy programmes and more the general fate of the humanities at Middlesex and at universities in a similar position to Middlesex; less the closure of Philosophy than the way the decision to close it was taken, and the way similar decisions may be taken in the future; less the specific punishments meted out to a few students and staff members, and more a direct confrontation between managerial coercion and collective resistance across the university as a whole.
The longer this confrontation continues the more uneven it appears.
Tuesday evening, 1 June 2010.
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Good work, keep it up! Academic life (or what’s left of it) needs to be safeguarded as one of the few remaining islands of sanity and decency in the neoliberal order.
I’d like to offer my respect not only to those who stood up for their academic freedom and importance (thats kinda obvious), but the police who were sensible enough to see that there was no crime being committed by the protesters, whatever the administration says.