Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Cambridge University Stamps on Dissent
English readers of this blog may remember that incident at Cambridge University last December when students and dons drowned out, by reciting a poem at him, the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, who has presided over further rapid marketisation of our universities over the last couple of years. In the wake of that mass protest, the University singled out one student, Owen Holland (pictured), for disciplinary proceedings, and its University Court imposed the extraordinarily vindictive sentence of two and a half years’ rustication upon him. Holland being a postgraduate student, the aim was clearly to destroy his future academic prospects.
What few of us knew then is that Owen Holland’s thesis is on William Morris, and a very fine section from it has already been published as ‘Utopia and the Prohibition of Melancholy: Mulleygrubs and Malcontents in William Morris’s News from Nowhere’ (MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities, vol 6, no 1, 2011, pp.36-45, available online). Clearly Owen’s spirited protest against David Willett’s destruction of university education as a public good comes from his Morrisian values, and Cambridge’s brutal reprisal against him is by the same token an attack on academic work on Morris and utopia. I suggest, then, that Morrisians should offer their full support to this brave young man and that we do our best to sustain his academic endeavours across the rustication period. An appeal against the sentence has been lodged, so Cambridge University has one last opportunity to reconsider its shameful decision.