Student anger as Government Minister visits Cambridge

10 March 2011

Anti-cuts protesters attempted to invade a talk last Thursday by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.

Willetts was invited to talk on “The Coalition’s Vision for Science and Technology” by the Cambridge University Scientific Society. Daniel Rothig, co-President, thought members “would be very interested to hear directly from the new Minister for Science the new government’s plans for science in the UK. We also hoped to contribute to the wider debate about the future of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Jeremy Prynne, a fellow at Gonville and Caius said of the speech: “He was rapid and vapid in all his responses … I just felt miserable at the total exclusion of even a passing thought for the rejected and damaged and rubbished margins of success story”.

Rothig responded: “We don’t expect you to agree with our guest speakers, but we give them a chance to make their point.”

Protesters initially held placards and chanted behind the barriers that had been erected outside the lecture. Once the talk had begun they traversed the barriers, and tried to enter the theatre amidst scuffles with security guards and proctors.

Röthig commented: “We respect that the protests were mostly peaceful and put across the views of the protesters without hindering the event. Though we think that the protesters could potentially have made a stronger statement by contesting Mr Willetts with arguments rather than noise.”

Ben Taylor, an alumnus of King’s College attended the protest and said “It’s not enough for students to debate with him because he doesn’t listen – our only option is to show him that he’s not welcome at our university”.

Devon Buchanan – TCS Reporter

Image: Devon Buchanan