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Graduates of life

Reading today’s blogs about the riotous behaviour last night (and Cranmer’s take is especially worthy of perusal) made me remember an incident from my own antediluvial student days.

Back in the late Eighties, the Queen Mother dropped by Royal Holloway for a visit (and, rumour ran, a pint). The Socialist Workers were naturally out in force. To cut a long story short, the protest used a few choice words and after the event the comrade leaders were hauled in front of the full conclave of the Students Union to defend themselves of charges of bringing the body into disrepute.

The debate proved a rather juicy event, in the course of which the President was forced to threaten to throw people out of the building for rowdiness. But what really shut people up was the threat to ban miscreants from the Union premises for the rest of the term if they didn’t calm down.

It wasn’t much of a Damoclean blade – there was only a week to go in the term – but it certainly proved powerful enough. You could see the palpable torment in the face of the fellow in front, forced to sit down just as he had been about to whip out a huge Union Flag banner and run patriotically amok.

The pressure point, of course, was that the Union was where the bars were.

As more details emerge on the criminals lately engaged in student activity (as opposed to vice versa), adding a litany of shame and dishonour to the vandalism and recklessness of the recent fire extinguisher day, I wonder whether the time has come for other authorities to step up and shoulder their responsibilities.

Having brought their colleges into disrepute, surely educational establishments must now review whether expulsions are in order (with correct form and procedure)?  In turn, student leaders should signal to their union members that vandalism, violence and disrespect for the nation’s dead are bang out of order – and merit a spell deprived of the luxuries and comforts that student premises can afford. Perhaps then the palpable punishment will temper the crime before it is committed, and a life is needlessly lost by an act of uneducated stupidity.


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