CAM 62 Letters
I was entranced by the article on the Ural winds, and the academic and meteorological firepower deployed upon this oft heard quip.
I’m an architect and wondered whether there might also be very local factors that make Cambridge feel colder. My recollection is that Kings Parade, Trinity Street and St Johns Street are on an alignment perfectly to channel the effects at ground level of the bitterest nor’-nor’-east winds, and so to maximise the wind-chill on pedestrians and cyclists (i.e. most of us).
Many of the very fine and venerable listed buildings also had (still have?) historic single glazing, solid stone walls and antique heating systems. Despite the regular application of large subsidised meals (and alcohol), one felt conscious of being inadequately sheltered under the wide East Anglian skies.
(St Johns 1984)
Reading my husband’s (John Marsh Fitzwilliam 1971)Â copy of CAM, I was very interested in the Autumnal Heights article. As a student at another East Anglian University, I well remember the shock of the biting wind that swept through the campus. Coming from the warmer, wetter West Country I was unprepared for the cold but sunny autumn. But very early in that first term, I learnt the reason for this different climate â there was nothing between Norwich and the Urals!
(University of East Anglia 1972)
What price justice?
Yes, we all want to reduce harm. Yes, many prison sentences are expensive and pointless.
1. The upshot of public protection sentences under the Criminal Justice Act of 2003, as amended, is that the prison system is cluttered up with defendants who have been deemed dangerous but who have not been given access to the therapy or programmes to enable them to become less dangerous and so to earn release.
2. In your brief article, sentencing was presented as a choice between punishment and harm prevention. I trust Professor Sherman wouldn't want to overlook other sentencing aims, in particular rehabilitation. Without that, harm reduction would be little more than a recipe for long term incarceration for public protection. Supervision should not be restricted to low risk defendants who get the Professor's green light.
3. Lastly, the trouble with sentencing on a basis of risk is that a defendant is dealt with not just for crimes which have been committed but for crimes which haven't. As your title implies, that's hardly justice.
Paul Houghton, probation officer, Leicester Crown Court
(St. John's 1969)
Interesting though I found your article on Lawrence Sherman, and keen as I am to see anything that discourages societies from locking people up, I do shudder at the phrase “scientific method” particularly when applied to people.
I then read that: “... this calculation has to be done by an advanced computer model, like the kind used in advanced weather forecasting ...” Are we really to decide a person’s future on the basis of that sort of accuracy?
And, talking of weather: the element that was missing from Bea Perks’s article on the Cambridge climate was the Damp - with a Capital D. I was brought up in Cambridge from the age of one. Much though I enjoyed my time as an undergraduate, I never want to endure that damp ever again. In winter it gets into every gas flame and kills it; in summer, the slightest hint of a heatwave turns into a tropical sweat - though without any of the associated magic.
I have always suspected that whoever decided it would be a good idea to put a university in the middle of a swamp must really have hated students.
The survival of Cambridge is almost as remarkable as the survival of Venice. Maybe there is something about fever-ridden marshlands that stimulates a peculiar determination to survive.
Congratulations on being named the top alumnus magazine in the world. I receive four such magazines and must say that CAM is the only one of them that I read for the articles.
Lawrence Sherman's argument that we should reduce the size of our prison system seems to be based on his observation that, for many convicted criminals, the risk of re-offending is low. For those individuals, we would be better off spending our resources on rehabilitation than on incarceration.
But this argument misses the important point that one of the most important roles of prison sentences is deterrence. There is ample statistical evidence to indicate that the threat of punishment reduces the rate of criminal activity (especially for property crimes). If we commute the sentence of a convicted criminal on the ground that "he is not likely to commit that crime again," we are sending a signal to other, potential criminals that the punishment for crime is low.
Dr Christopher Bruce
Congratulations to Professor Sherman on an excellent and thought provoking article. In my view, his research would be enhanced by taking into account studies on the effect of evangelical crusades. His focus is on “producing less harm to society at large”. If he encouraged the application of Judeo-Christian values to society at large, alongside his wish to use the criminal justice system to reduce the total harm in society, he would discover an extremely cost-effective method of achieving his stated aim.
It is not difficult using the internet to uncover many studies across the world (starting in the USA in the 50’s) showing that the presentation of the Christian Gospel is usually associated with a decrease in crime for a period of months, if not years, after any evangelistic crusade. There have even been reports of some US cities not having enough for their police forces to do in the aftermath of such events.
Dr John Etherton
What a piece of work is a man?
I liked Vivienne Raper’s article on man and intelligence.
However, it seems to me there are two obvious ways that set man unambiguously aside from any attempt at artificial intelligence:
1) A sense of self-concern and awareness. Would a computer, however intelligent, ever start to worry about the reasons for its own existence, it’s future, whether it might owe any allegiance to an imaginary unseen all-powerful being?
2) The power to be intuitively wrong. Would a computer ever play with the idea that some of its fundamental constants might have been different in the first few nanoseconds of its existence? Or when you cut and paste some text in Word, the computer decides to experiment with a different style or choice of words? Would it ever flout its own programing rules, risking being executed, in pursuit of an ideal?
Sean Holden, quoted in CAM 61, suggests that today's mobile phones would seem incredible 20 years ago. However, they were predicted fairly accurately by Harold Osborne in 1952, and arguably by Nikola Tesla in 1909. The usual error in such predictions is to be overoptimistic about time scales.
Prof. Morris, quoted in the same article, thinks that the Earth has not had alien visitors. However, if human scientists were to discover an isolated colony of intelligent apes, would they march into the middle of it and make contact? I hope not. I would expect them to observe the apes carefully but covertly. So I would guess that any intelligent aliens in the vicinity are already here, observing us.
However, we will probably never know. Since they are watching the development of our science and technology we have little chance of ever catching up with them.
Edmund Grimley Evans
In this article Vivienne Raper quotes Professor Goswami as saying that "You don't have in any other species the combinatorial ability humans have where you have a section of sound-like syllables, for example, 'an-i-mal' or 'cat' that share no sensory features with a cat or with animals".
In fact, while true of English, this is not the case with all languages. In Thai, for example, Cat, cow and crow are, respectively à¹à¸¡à¸§ (meow), à¸§à¸±à¸§ (wooa), and à¸à¸² (gaa), which have obvious references to their meaning.
“‘For some inexplicable reason, we don’t seem to have had any visitors at all,’ Conway Morris says, ‘I think we are completely alone.’ Perhaps humanity will remain more uncommon than we ever imagined,” ends the author of the above article.
Is it perhaps time she reconsidered the Biblical text: Genesis 1:26-27: ‘Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likenessâ¦ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God, He created him, male and female He created them.’?
Exploring the DNA or the fossil record for as long as time exists will never lead to the discovery of man’s uniqueness.
Garden House riot
Perhaps I might add a postscript to the article on the Garden House ‘riot’. I preached the Assize Sermon at Great St. Mary’s before Mr. Justice Melford Stevenson. I took as my text Solomon’s famous judgment in 1 Kings 3 â a perfect example of the Hebrews’ understanding of wisdom, namely seeing the order in things. After the trial, the then Vice-Chancellor, Owen Chadwick (a predecessor of mine), wrote me a one-line note expressing regret that the judge had not listened to my sermon.
At the beginning of the following Michaelmas term, I found among my mail an invitation from Mr. Justice Melford Stevenson to drinks in his lodgings at Trinity for a date three months earlier. Naturally I wrote and apologized for my apparent discourtesy explaining that the invitation had only just reached me. The judge replied that perhaps in his condemnation of various parties in the University, he should have included the porters at Trinity.
The Revd. Canon Dr. Anthony Phillips Anthony Phillips
(Dean and Chaplain, Trinity Hall 1969-74)
The CAM article on the Garden House demonstration brought it all back for me, because I was there, too, when a history student at Queens’. I was milling around at the back, trampling on the hotel garden. I’d been told that among the hotel dinner guests were Greek army officers, a direct connection, in other words, to the military junta running the country. Although I wasn’t an Anarchist (or ‘Situationists’ as they were known in Queens’) or a Marxist, I certainly read the ‘Shilling Paper’, because it was by far the most interesting and counter-establishment student publication of the time, and I did get involved in other carefully-staged and orchestrated ‘Situationist’ capers, such as all night protests against gate hours at Queens’.
The legacy of the ‘riot’ was largely internal to Cambridge, I think: the end of the internal policing of undergraduates by the Proctors, and the end of a time when my academic supervisor, acting then ‘in loco parentis’, could fine a student for failing to keep his girlfriend off the college staircase on a Sunday morning. I attended the trial with my father, who was a magistrate, and I can confirm that Melford Stevenson’s performance was disgraceful, though not in a way which could be picked up from the transcript of the trial, as the article makes clear. He treated the defendants, and academic staff, and their evidence, with contempt; a filmed record of the trial would have made a foregone conclusion of any appeal against judgement and sentences. Most of the Queens’ ‘Situationists’, necessarily few as a self-styled revolutionary vanguard, ended up working for Radio Four, I think.
As Nick Emley's Tutor at Clare in 1970, I attended the Garden House trial at the Hertford Assizes, and well remember Mr Justice Melford Stevenson's contemptuous attitude towards students and academics alike. Some such phrase as "over-cultivated academic minds" has stuck in my mind for the past forty years. By bizarre coincidence a parallel trial at the same session of the assizes was of a clergyman in his nineties who had discharged a shotgun at his wife in his vicarage while she tried to encourage him to go to bed.
Rt Rev Mark Santer
(Queens' 1957; Fellow and Dean of Clare 1967-72)
I was interested to read your article on the Riot at the Garden House and in particular the involvement of Rod Caird "then reading Oriental Languages at Queens' and part of the circle that produced the Shilling Paper".
Did closely located Queens' provide the nucleus of the rioters? When I was at Queens', it was widely believed to be fact that the then Senior Bursar of the College, Andy Cosh, had thrown the first missile at the Garden House Riot. Whether true or not (does he feature in your research for the article?) this belief was particularly galling in light of his position in the College, and the substantial fines imposed on undergraduates for occasional high-spirited misuse of fire-extinguishers, etc.
William Ham Bevan’s interesting article on the Garden House riot rightly refers to the media attention that the affair provoked. The BBC’s periodical The Listener for 1970 provides evidence of this. Then edited by Karl Miller (Downing 19??), it published a talk that I gave in the Radio 3 series ‘Law in Action’, as well as an article by a young barrister (Stephen Sedley, Queens’ 1958) and a very different piece by a legal journalist, Fenton Bresler.
An insight into the two last pieces is given by Stephen Sedley, now a Lord Justice of Appeal, in the introduction to a collection of his papers that is in the press (Ashes and Sparks: essays on law and justice, CUP, due Spring 2011).
Sedley writes:Â “The unanticipated gateway to writing about law as well as practising it was an invitation from Karl Miller â¦ to write a piece about the conviction and gaoling of the Cambridge students in the Garden House riot trial in 1970. I never knew, and he can no longer recall, why he decided to ask me; but the BBC’s head of public affairs ordered him to publish an article in reply by Fenton Bresler, commissioned by the Home Office, which in those days considered the administration of criminal justice to be its responsibility and the BBC to be its fief. Miller, who did not welcome the interference with his editorial independence, went on in 1979, with Mary-Kay Wilmers, to found and for some years co-edit the London Review of Books.”
The five-page article on the Garden House riot contains just two lines mentioning injuries. While at school in Cambridge I lived for 10 years in a council house opposite Sgt Kenneth Paige. He was a lovely man, husband to Wyn and father to two daughters. A couple of years before the Garden House riots, 28th Oct 1967, he was ordered to protect Harold Wilson who was leaving the Cambridge Guildhall after a meeting. Sgt Paige was violently attacked by protesting students, he never fully recovered. He left the police force early and died much sooner than he should have. His widow still lives in Cambridge.
Mr Emly and the others had a choice as to whether to go to the Garden House that night. They should have serious and meaningful “regrets” about what they did to the injured policemen who were just doing their jobs on our behalf. The students who attacked Sgt Paige and the students at the Garden House were the forerunners of the idiot who threw the fire extinguisher this week. That could have killed a policeman or innocent bystander, but perhaps Mr Emly and friends would still have “no regret at all about what happened”.
Attending University is meant to promote rational thought; intelligent students should be able to devise peaceful ways of making their point. Anyone can be a yob.
Your article about the Garden House Riot prompted some nostalgia for me as the beginning of my involvement in student politics and also memories of the occupation of the Senate building a couple of years later which might be considered the end point of the radical phase in Cambridge student affairs.
Perhaps an article about the sit-in and the subsequent university trial of some of the organisers would make a good follow up. I am sure there are several of us who were closely involved who could contribute.
I did not find Riot at the Garden House an appropriate or welcome article. The subjective prejudiced recollections of 40 years ago did not seem to me to be wholly accurate, and the excuses or explanations or justifications advanced and the lack of regret for the crimes seemed to me to be unpleasing and unpersuasive.
I hope that none of us support dictatorship. All of us support lawful peaceful demonstration. But resorting to violence, terrifying and injuring innocent people, attacking and injuring police officers who are only there in order to maintain the peace, trespassing and damaging property cannot possibly be justified or accepted in a civilised democratic society. The participants in the social occasion were only promoting or interested in holidays in Greece, they were not involved in any political matters at all. And even if they had been, which they were not, there can still be no possible justification for violence.
On 10 November 2010 we saw more student violence, this time not even over a good cause. If you cannot persuade by evidence and argument, if you cannot persuade government to make somebody else pay for your beneficial and voluntarily chosen university education, resort to coercion and violence. What a philosophy.
Alec Samuels (Magdalene 1949)
“We didn't intend to intimidate the guests,” says Stephen Amiel. How would he feel, I wonder, if a group of youths surrounded his home and started chanting, bashing on the doors and windows, and perhaps letting off a few fireworks? Wouldn't he feel intimidated? Wouldn't he call the police on the grounds that there was a riot outside his house? And what would he do if, say, the front door gave way and one of the youths tumbled into the hallway? Help him to his feet and offer him tea and biscuits? Or would he grab some heavy object â perhaps a walking stick, or a soup ladle â and give the intruder a good whack, not only to teach him a lesson but also to make sure that he couldn't do any more harm?
I had no sympathy for the rioters who ended up in one of H.M.'s no-frills hostels at that time, and I have even less now. There is a certain naivety and arrogance in their self-righteous outlook. One has to wonder how Ensslin ever came to be at Cambridge â presumably he “forgot” to mention in his interview or on his C.V. that he was a veteran of student activism in West Germany and “had taken part in many actions, many demonstrations.”
Having read Alice Ryan's article about the riot in the Cambridge News (13 February 2010), I am inclined to think that the CAM article doesn't really convey the true extent of what went on that night. For example, the figure quoted for the damage done, Â£2000, is the value at that time â it would be over twenty-times that value by today's standards.
The bestâ¦ sign in Cambridge
Charlotte Runcie's "Best Sign in Cambridge" in CAM 61 reminded me of the two Cambridge signs that had intrigued me. One was (and probably still is) about six feet up on a wall in Garret Hostel Lane, carved on the fabric of Trinity Hall, and indicating which areas of ground were laid claim to by the college. I never saw an equivalent on any other college, and wondered what had happened at Trinity Hall to make them feel the need for the sign.
The other is, sadly, no longer with us and I suspect it vanished with the final phase of improvements around the Lion Yard development. It was a paving slab, on the west side of St. Andrew's Street, roughly opposite the entrance to Christ's. It instructed both north-bound and south-bound pedestrians to "Keep Left", but the pavement was frequently too crowded for the sign to become visible before it had been disobeyed, so what could have prompted which authorities to place it there, and when?
O the innocence of female youth! [Charlotte] wonders about the sign in the alleyway linking Queens’ Lane to Trumpington Street that says simply “No”. I hope she will find the answer a relief for her rumination on the inner meaning of the shortest negative sign in Cambridge â relief being the operative word, when one realises that this sign is exclusively aimed (another operative word) at the male of the species. Add to this knowledge the fact of the proximity of hostelries frequented by such, and you have the complete picture. All one now needs to reflect on is the queue for the Gents’, and there it is. Thus, the originators of the sign wished to convey the message “No, don’t even think of relieving yourself in this alley...”
To continue; I went up to Fitz, known for its friendliness and low-key approach to dictum. Thus the older colleges’ signs state “No...” and “Do not......” However, a typical Fitz sign states “Bicycles may not be left here”. A wonderful ambiguity. For the student this indicates a discretion as to the location of the bike. For the don, it is a negative dictum!
Dr John Etherton
I was disappointed to see in Diya Gupta's article on Roman Cambridge that you endorse the foolish political correctness of referring to dates AD as dates CE. By all means adopt Islamic dates, Judaic dates or - perhaps moreappropriately - dates Ab Urbe Condita, but please not this fey nonsense. The first century AD did not occur in the "Christian Era"; and renaming dates AD as dates CE does not conceal that you are numbering from the estimated birth year of Jesus Christ.
As a former Nuclear Power worker and former Liberal DemocratÂ member it was nice to read on page 17 that not all Liberal Democrats are narrow minded technophobes. Well done on Dr Huppert MP for not totally rejecting Nuclear Power, if only we had someone like Dr Huppert as our Liberal Democrat candidate in my home town I might still be a Liberal DemocratÂ member and voter. I just hope that when Nick Clegg reads his copy of CAM he doesn't kick Dr Huppert out of the party!
Dr Tony Bell
As an experimental scientist (retired) I have found Popper's concept a practical way of approaching problems. Experiments are designed to test a hypothesis. If the results are not those predicted by the hypothesis, then the hypothesis needs to be revised - unless other factors should be taken into account. These may include the experimenter forgetting to spit into the test tube at the correct time, or (even more significant) starting an important experiment on a Wednesday. Any other day should be fine, but on Wednesdays anything that can go wrong will go wrong. This does not take into account the problem that Wednesday may fall on other days.
Reading the Vice Chancellor’s article in the Michaelmas Cam, I was surprised and saddened by his reference to the University’s Mission as being “to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research”.
When my father John Burnaby was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity in 1953, he used part of his inaugural lecture to discuss the meaning of the clause in the University Statutes requiring teaching officers “to promote the interests of the University as a place of education, religion, learning and research”. The inclusion of religion in this clause had only been adopted in 1949, though it was already familiar in College Statutes.
My father likened the four functions in the clause to the four members of a string quartet “the several parts of which only acquire their meaning and display their virtue when they are performed together”, acknowledging that education is the leader of the quartet. He was at pains to stress that religion in this context should not be taken to refer exclusively to Christianity or any other particular faith, but that it should have a meaning acceptable to all.
He quoted from John Oman, who maintained that if we look for “any one mark” by which the religious attitude may be distinguished, it can only be the “judgment of the sacred”, which he defined as the ascription to certain things of absolute value. This religious valuation “speaks to man of another reality than that which he knows by his senses and judges by his appetites”: it is “not to be weighed or bargained with”: its claim is peremptory, it refuses to make terms with private convenience or ambition. For the sacred is just “that which is of incomparable worth, and incomparable is not merely super-excellent, but what may not be brought down and compared with other goods. The moment we ask how this sacred value compares with pleasure or ease or prosperity, it ceases to be sacred”.
All would surely subscribe to this definition, and it is with this meaning that religion should keep its place in the Statutes.Â Â Â
WHO IS THIS FROM??
Have we gone mad?
As I skimmed the latest CAM, I was struck by the contrast between the powerful SmileTrain 'call to action' for those requiring cleft surgery and an advertisement that fell out of the envelope inviting me to buy a gold pen memento of my time in Cambridge for UKP 1300.00.
My sense of optimism for the future is dampened if I think some of the best trained minds in the world may be buying one thousand pound pens when there are so many other ways of using that money to help make the world a better place. As for mementos, I have some great memories, a few photos and some enduring friendships.
Peter Kerridge (Christ's 1985)
I am very disappointed with Cambridge.Â I recently read about five years of back numbers of CAM and took away from this a severe impression of a University bent on uncritical self-congratulation. I find it incredible, in the context of the present economic and social upheavals of our world, and the self-avowed involvement of Cambridge Alumni in the highest places, that there should be no self-examination in your columns.Â Is it too much to expect some critical analysis of the extent to which a Cambridge education may have contributed, in some way, to the current predicament?
(New Hall 1968)
My memory may be at fault, but I seem to recall having read somewhere that in earlier centuries some students (sons of gentry?) could proceed to the M.A. Degree without sitting any examinations at all. If so, to say that one was a Cambridge M.A. might have meant anything or nothing.
Then, too, the M.A. today requires only the possession of a B.A., plus five years' good behaviour and a fee to the University. When anyone asks about this I always say that a Cambridge B.A. is at least equivalent to an M.A. elsewhere, and that the ornament of an M.A. is overlaid later so that the general public is not misled into thinking that it is academically inferior.
It would be of interest to know the history of our Graduate Degrees.