Willetts forced to abandon Cambridge lecture after protest

David Willetts was forced to call off a lecture yesterday evening after the event he was due to speak at was disrupted by student protesters.

November 23, 2011

The universities and science minister was due to speak on “The Idea of the University” as part of a series of events celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH).

A peaceful “speak out” outside the Lady Mitchell Hall was followed by a carefully orchestrated “epistle” inside, recited by around 30 protesters from the Cambridge Defend Education campaign.

“You have transgressed against all codes of hospitality,” they chanted. “That is why we interrupt your performance tonight. Because nothing is up for debate here. Your mind is made up. You are not for turning. All your questioners have been planted. So we, too, have planted ourselves in your audience.”

Savaging Mr Willetts’ “commitment to the religion of choice”, the protesters went on to declare that “the university is no motor vehicle, to be souped up, ideologically re-tuned, intellectually re-fitted, cosmetically re-sprayed, and then sent out onto the highway, like some gaudy engine of the ‘knowledge economy’, emitting noxious filth and polluting the air”.

After the minister left the building, Simon Goldhill, director of CRASSH, cancelled the event.

The Cambridge Defend Education group has since claimed that five students sustained injuries, including cuts to their hands, after security guards dragged them by their legs across gravel.

The full text of the protesters’ “Go Home, David” speech has been posted online.

One comment posted underneath describes it “as positively Euripidean in places”. Another says: “You have nothing to say and you are saying it too loud!”


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