Cambridge Dons denounce Holland rustication

26 April 2012

Academics assembled in the Senate House on Tuesday to air their views regarding the seven-term rustication of student protester Owen Holland (pictured above).

The discussion was entitled: ‘The selective and unreasonable punishment of a single student for a collective act of protest by students and senior members’, and saw a mixture of academics take to the stand, the majority of which stated their allegiance to the St. Catharine’s student “singled out” from last November’s protests.

Presided over by Pro Vice-Chancellor, Prof John Rallison, the proceedings saw each fellow read out a statement of their views.

No members of the University spoke in defence of the Court of Discipline’s decision, made in March of this year. Only Senior statements from Senior Proctor Dr Alan Winter and Professor Gillian Evans, relayed by Pro-Proctor Owen Saxton, gave support to the ruling.

Both complained the discussion was premature given the pending decision of the Septemviri, the University’s court of appeal, on Holland’s sentence, the former remarking “I very much regret that this discussion is held at this time.”

Dr Winter’s statement argued that the proctors were charged not only with upholding free speech, but also “good order”, and that “the protection of free speech, free assembly requires the maintenance of discipline and good order.” He also branded those who excused Holland’s actions in the ensuing days as ‘apologists’ and closed stating:

‘It is our overwhelming collective view that wrecking seminars is wrong’.

Nine academics gave speeches condemning the court’s decision, including six from the English Faculty, many of whom noted it was the first time they had felt impelled to speak at a meeting of the Senate House.

Dr Jason Scott-Warren, English fellow at Gonville and Caius College, called the singling out of only one student as a “labour-saving device” and asked “Is it reasonable for the University to disavow responsibility for the Court of Discipline?”

The sole student voice, CUSU Education Officer Morgan Wild, claimed that if the decision to rusticate Holland remains, his “academic career will lie in tatters”.

Daniel Matore – News Reporter

Photo – Devon Buchanan