Administrative errors (1 of 2)

October 18, 2012

Regarding Sir Richard J. Evans' opinion piece about the disastrous royal visit to the University of Stirling in 1972 ("A right royal rumpus", 11 October): Lord Wheatley was the chairman of Stirling's court, not the chancellor.

Additionally, I believe that the article is unfair to Tom Cottrell, Stirling's vice-chancellor at the time. Providing easy access to alcohol while denying services to students was quite simply an administrative fiasco. When planning the university's Silver Jubilee in 1992 as its deputy secretary and registrar, I had unexpected access to closed files that clearly pointed the finger of blame not at the young and committed principal but at the administration, which at the time was run by a retired general, Major General Sir Derek Lang, and local government officers, none of whom had been students. Arguably Cottrell should have seen it coming, but the papers made it clear that the important decisions were taken by the general.

Nowadays it would be ridiculous to arrange such a visit without full consultation, proper risk assessment and a "Plan B", and moreover to mount the hopeless kangaroo court that followed. But now is not then: the older generation deferred to the monarchy, while we students were only just emerging from the glorious days of "soixante-huit". Obviously those ensconced in that little backwater were out of touch with reality, locally and nationally.

The Stirling debacle was at a stroke responsible for a great deal of antipathy towards students, and set back by at least a decade the excellent work done by Cottrell et al. The fiasco is a salutary lesson to academics not to leave important matters to unqualified and inexperienced managers because the long-term effects fall on academic shoulders, not managerial ones.

Dennis Farrington, Rye, East Sussex

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