Christian Kerslake, one of the three suspended philosophy lecturers at Middlesex University, had his suspension hearing yesterday (Monday 14 June). He read this statement out after his hearing to the demonstration that had gathered in solidarity with him. Christian heard this morning that his suspension has now been lifted.
The demonstrations today and tomorrow are in defence of the right to protest within the university. The term ‘university’ basically means ‘a community of students, scholars and teachers’. It is a place for learning and teaching, and a place for the free exchange of ideas, including political ideas and including ideas about what a university should be, and how it should respond to the economic and social climate it inhabits.
If one cannot protest freely, peacefully and rationally within a university, and if one cannot protest within the university against the decisions made by the management of the university, then this is a sign that something has gone seriously wrong somewhere. What we have seen over recent weeks is the Vice-Chancellor of this University, Michael Driscoll, taking an authoritarian and intimidatory stance towards some of the students of this university. Michael Driscoll and the University Executive arbitrarily singled out seven individuals at the end of the occupation, and the doors of the Mansion Building at Trent Park still bear their names, barring them from the premises. The four students suspended after the library occupation remain barred from the premises, and after years of working hard at their courses, now have to write for permission to visit the University.
I would like to ask the University Executive to do the decent thing and immediately lift all suspensions from all the students involved in the occupations. Take those ugly legal notices from the doors of the Mansion Building at Trent Park and restore that building to its function: as a house for students and free thought. Until those notices come off those doors, the Mansion Building cannot be said to belong to a University.
Much damage has been done, and there are many things that the remaining philosophy students can legitimately demand from the University. What we need to do now is secure the conditions for a truly excellent undergraduate programme in philosophy at Middlesex over the next two years. But also we should not give up on the core goal of the campaign: to reinstate philosophy at Middlesex. We have a concrete goal that is quite achievable: to re-open philosophy at Middlesex in 2011, to start admitting students again, and to re-build the department from there.
For now, I would like to urge everybody here, if they can, to come along on Tuesday to support Peter Hallward and Peter Osborne and defend their right to protest.