20 years ago

March 6, 2008

Violent scuffles at Wolverhampton Polytechnic, at a private meeting of the Conservative Student Association addressed by South African Embassy Secretary Louis Mullinder, raised questions about free speech on campus.

The meeting, to discuss "dismantling apartheid", broke up in disarray after it was stormed by protesters.

Michael Harrison, Wolverhampton's director, said that the incident showed the ineffectiveness of 1986 legislation, which laid an obligation on universities and polytechnics to guarantee freedom of speech for visiting speakers on campus. Mr Harrison said: "The legislation is flawed. There is no means of enforcing free speech and no penalty for a breach of it."

University of East Anglia vice-chancellor Derek Burke was having a tough time being taken seriously. Having recorded a "substantial interview" with Anglia Television to allay local fears about grant cuts, he was rather put out to have the broadcast cut short to make way for an item on Ken the Gerbil, the newly elected student president at the university.

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