Thursday, 29 April 2010

Bob Dowling's Remarks at the Discussion

Some of the speeches made at the Discussion on Tuesday the 27th will be posted here. Here is the first, that of Bob Dowling of the University Computing Service and a Member of Council.

"Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Regents,this is a disgraceful Report. Originally there was a fuss about a lift. A Grace was proposed by 79 Regents of the University regarding it. Following that, the Council of the University of Cambridge could have proceeded in one of two ways. It could have debated the issue. If could have made the argument that, regardless of what possible errors of process or ill-advised actions there had been, the financial costs of reversal were too great. We could have had a rational debate about principles versus costs. We could have talked about it.

Alternatively the Council could have attempted to suppress the issue. At an institution that claims to uphold the right of argument no matter how unpopular the opinion, they could have tried to stop that rational debate. To its eternal shame Council took the latter option and elected to suppress the original Grace signed by the University’s Regents.

This Discussion is not about a lift any more. The title of the Report, while inevitable, is misleading. The original Grace, signed by more than fifty Regents — literally the rulers — of the University, was about the lift. This Report is about suppressing the Regent House’s right to force that Discussion.

In its response to this Discussion Council may choose to permit the original Grace to proceed. I’m not optimistic. Having allowed criticism to start with the building of the lift, Council seems unable to face up to that criticism and instead has chosen to compound its problems by sticking its fingers in its ears and singing la-la-la very loudly hoping this troublesome incident will just go away. Regrettably, I expect the Regent House will have to force the issue with another round of signatures.

The University’s Regent House is established in Chapter III of
Statute A. Its first paragraph reads simply, and in totality, “The
Regent House shall be the governing body of the University.” Council
seems to need reminding of this fact."

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