Gilbert speaks!

Vice Chancellor Alan Gilbert’s found his tongue. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like he has too much to say. We’re going to meet and formulate a response to this soon so keep checking back for updates.

A notice from the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester to student protestors
10th February 2009

This communication seeks to clarify the University’s position in relation to protests on the campus. To do this, let me begin by reminding you of the underlying values and principles that inform our position.

Academic Freedom
Our Statement on Academic Freedom, adopted in December 2007, sets out the “fundamental commitment” of the University of Manchester “to the academic freedom of all its members, without fear or favour, to express unpopular opinions, advocate controversial views, adduce provocative arguments or present trenchant critiques of conventional beliefs, paradigms or ideologies… An authentic university is an institution that so respects the potency of truth and the efficacy of open, rational inquiry, that it can also respect and defend the expression or advocacy of any lawful idea, opinion or argument”.

While individuals and groups within the Univeristy community are empowered and encouraged to express lawful views on any issue whatsoever, the University as a University may not, and will not, issue statements about any matter not directly related to its core educational mission.

This is a principle that protects academic freedom.

The Right to Protest
As an institution embracing academic freedom, we welcome the lawful expression by students and staff of strongly held views, and accept the right of those advocating such views to assert them in ways designed to confront the rest of us with the issues involved. I am pleased to be President and Vice-Chancellor of a University whose students think deeply and feel strongly about current issues facing their own or other societies. In particular, I accept the right of groups of students to organise protests as means of drawing attention to their causes. All such students must, however, remain peaceful.

The Rights of Others
The right of lawful protest in The University of Manchester is restricted, not by any limit to freedom of expression, but by the fact that a judgement has to be made eventually about the balance between the rights of the protestors on the one hand and, on the other, the rights of all the University’s other students, staff and visitors to go about their business safely, unimpeded and free from harassment.

The judgement required is particularly acute where a protest is taking place in a University building. In these circumstances, we must ensure that protestors have a reasonable opportunity to assert their views while also ensuring that the University’s ability to conduct its normal business is not unduly disrupted over an extended period. Along with my senior colleagues, I have as President and Vice-Chancellor the responsibility for managing this delicate balance, knowing that it is never possible to satisfy everyone. Balancing competing interests: In any prolonged and disruptive protest, there will come a time when the University has to act to safeguard the interests of the majority of staff and students not involved in the protest. The University will, at that point, instruct those concerned that their continuing protest may be treated as “misconduct” under the regulations of the University.

I should also make it clear that as President and Vice Chancellor, I will not engage in discussions with any advocate of matters related to a protest about substantive issues or demands being made by or on behalf of protestors, as long as any protestors remain inside University premises.

I hope that this letter is accepted as a serious effort to explain the University’s position.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Gilbert
President and Vice Chancellor

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5 Comments »

  1. Joe Vera said

    That’s a very lame statement. I don’t get why the Uni won’t commit to any of the demands…

  2. Tom said

    Er..what was that?
    It took him how many days to come up with this?!
    Anyway, seriously impressed by your resolve- you may end up becoming the longest occupation of all institutions!

  3. Robin Ryder said

    What’s the problem?
    He underpins the right of students to protest.
    He supports their right to free speech.
    At the same time he mentions in reasonable language, his duty to do the job he is paid to do.

    Now let me lay out my position: I see Gaza as a place where jewish Israel has inflicted a holocaust on the inhabitants, whilst conducting a policy of Lebensraum in the West Bank.
    I couldn’t be clearer than that, and I bet some jews find my sentence offensive. It is meant to be. But if someone came up and occupies my property and “DEMANDS” that I agree with them, I will politely tell them to f**k off while I do it my way. I would be ruder and blunter than Alan Gilbert.

    Whichever way you look at it, the students’ occupation in Manchester has been an abject failure. The students failed to get their actions prominently covered even on local TV. It is a non-event. The protest has been a faint glimmer of a shadow of Paris 1968, the benchmark for student protest, because it sent shivers of fear down government. This one hasn’t even disturbed the dust in the John Owens Building.

    This is all meant to be positive. Too many of you have no grasp on reality. It is so politically naive to demonise the University boss who probably agrees with you hook, line and sinker.

    Robin.

  4. Pete said

    Who is this Robin? His/her post is weird!

  5. Rachel said

    @Robin. If “the University boss who probably agrees with you hook, line and sinker” why doesn’t he say so? He’s been silent for over a week.

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