5th Jul, 2022

Warwick University Vice-Chancellor overheard calling student protesters 'yobs'

Coventry Editorial 17th Mar, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

A VIDEO has emerged of Warwick University Vice-Chancellor allegedly calling a group of students ‘yobs’.

In the video, Professor Nigel Thrift, who had a microphone on, can be heard to say: “This shows you what we’re dealing with – these are just yobs.”

The Vice-Chancellor’s comments come at end of the Warwick Summit on Protest, an event organised by the University’s Centre for Human Rights in Practice to bring together affected parties to address the issues raised as a result of the protests on the University’s Coventry campus in December last year.

Professor Thrift’s comments can be heard being spoken into a microphone in the footage released by activist group Warwick for Free Education, as students repeatedly chant ‘348K, Nigel Thrift go away’, in reference to what they have previously called his ‘obscene’ salary.

Professor Thrift did not speak directly to The Observer.

In a statement by the University’s Registrar, Ken Sloan, who was also on the panel at the Summit event, said Professor Thrift’s response to the chants was ‘a very human one’.

Mr Sloan went on to claim the Vice Chancellor had been ‘personally and directly’ targeted in the run-up to the Summit.

He added: “The Vice-Chancellor has been targeted both in work and at home, with an escalating series of intimidatory acts including being spat at, being confronted and shouted at aggressively by multiple people very close to his face, and being verbally abused late at night near his home when his family were in residence.

“A reference to him being killed was also uploaded onto a public website.

“These acts, some of which clearly go outside of the law, are far beyond what is reasonable for any individual, however senior, to be expected to take.

“Despite the chair of the Summit’s hope that it would be a forum that would “enhance mutual understanding”, a large number of participants concluded the event with megaphone-led chanting and a continued series of personal attacks.”

But a spokesperson from Warwick for Free Education, the group behind the initial sit-in style protest which was attended by officers from West Midlands Police, said Professor Thrift’s comments highlighted a clear lack of regard for students.

They said: “His comment distills the patronising and dismissive attitude sustained by management throughout the entire summit and demonstrates the total contempt they feel for their students.

“It seems that objecting to being CS gassed and threatened with tasers makes us ‘yobs’.

“If that is the case, we’d rather be yobs than authoritarian managers who run universities like businesses and treat angry students like an irrelevant inconvenience.”

They also went on to refute the idea that Professor Thrift had been the victim of alleged attacks.

The spokesperson said that while the group take videos of themselves attempting to ask the Vice-Chancellor ‘jokey questions’ their actions could not have been miscronstrued as violent.

They added: “In truth it is us who have been attacked with tasers and CS gas, us who were threatened with unlimited legal costs via an injunction, us who were arrested and given prohibitive bail conditions, us who have been systematically denied a voice, and us who carry the burden of £44,000 debts.”

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