Royal Holloway: support the students, and avoid violence

Since I last posted (a long time ago…) I have moved universities… And I have another post I wanted to make… But in the mean time, something more urgent:

Here is the text of another email which I have just sent to Prof. Paul Layzell, Principal of Royal Holloway. His email address is
To support these brave students, have a look at their blog here, or find them on facebook here (and like their page, and maybe leave a message of support), or follow them on twitter @OccupyRHUL #OccupyRHUL

Dear Professor Layzell,

You may remember that we corresponded some time ago about the future of RHUL Classics. Today I am writing about a related matter. At the moment, as increasing numbers of people in universities in the UK and around the world know, RHUL students are occupying your corridor with a set of demands including that the college should not make redundancies in threatened subject areas, of which one is Classics, and that you and the college should explicitly oppose policies of the present government which the occupiers (in my view rightly) consider to be detrimental to the promotion of true educational and academic values.

I share the views underlying the students’ demands, and I would encourage you to take them very seriously.

While it is doubtless an annoyance to you and some of your colleagues to have the students where they are, I would strongly encourage you to observe that the students are also making an unusual display of support for education. If, as I have, you may have complained in the past that too many students are apathetic, that they think of themselves as customers waiting to be served, that they do not pause to reflect on their studies and to take seriously the value and meaning of the work of a university, then I would encourage you to admire how much this view of students is falsified by those who are making a nuisance of themselves by occupying your corridor.

As I understand it, the students have been served with legal notices asking them to leave, so that they are now technically trespassers. I do not envy you the responsibility of dealing with this situation. Presumably at some point an attempt will be made to compel them to go away, so that the corridor can be once more an orderly space, and not clogged up by too many students thinking for themselves. Since you too have been a teacher, I expect that a small part of you will miss them, even while (in a wholly understandable way) another part of you will be pleased to have the disruption at an end. Can I ask you please to do whatever it takes to make sure that they are not removed in a violent way? We have all seen terrible scenes of excessive violence against student demonstrators in the USA recently (I think especially of the use of pepper spray at UC Davis) – violence perpetrated on behalf of universities on the bodies of innocent and peaceful young students. Please do whatever you can to make sure that this description could never be spoken of anything happening at Royal Holloway. The students may be a nuisance, and they may well be breaking the law – but they are not being violent, and I hope that you will act always such as to avoid the possibility that violence will ensue.

A long, inconvenient and expensive disruption is surely better than one which ends with injuries and with peaceful students violently evicted. Apart from the vastly more important moral considerations, it will not go unnoticed, and your reputation and the reputation of the college will be coloured by what happens.

Yours sincerely,
Richard Rawles

Teaching Associate in Greek
University of Nottingham


One Response to Royal Holloway: support the students, and avoid violence

  1. simonides says:

    It appears that, against the background of threatened action in the High Court, the occupation has now ended without violence:

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