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Report of the Proctors for 2002-03

The Proctors attended the Chancellor at the admission of new members to the Guild of Benefactors in November and again at the Congregation for Honorary Degrees in June. In November, they accompanied the Vice-Chancellor to Ely Cathedral for a service marking the retirement of James Crowden as HM Lord Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire and to Great St Mary's for a service on Remembrance Sunday. In May, the Proctors attended a Civic Dinner in honour of the retiring Mayor. As required by Statute or Ordinance or in their capacity as the formal representatives of the Regent House, the Proctors or their deputies were present at all Congregations, Discussions, and University Sermons.

The retiring Proctors hope that members of the University accept that our public ceremonial continues to be of a high standard and believe that when the University strives for excellence in all that it does, the formal aspects of its life must seek to reflect this aspiration. In this context, the Proctors wish to pay tribute to the work of Geoffrey Skelsey and Peter Tee in the Old Schools and to that of the Esquire Bedells, John Emmines and John Williams, in the Senate-House. They much regret the retirement of John Williams, Junior Esquire Bedell, 1997-2003, but note with pleasure the appointment of Nicola Rogers in his place. No account of Congregations or Sermons could be complete without due acknowledgement of the contribution by the University Marshal, the Vice-Marshal, the University Constabulary, and the staff of Student Records. During the enforced absence of the Marshal, Richard Storey, on sick leave, Peter Bullock served as Acting Marshal and Neil Hudson as Acting Vice-Marshal, both with great success. The Proctors consider that the receptions held at Michaelhouse after University Sermons in Great St Mary's have proved a most agreeable innovation.

The Proctors have admired the flair and variety displayed by the Orator, the Praelectors, and the Higher Degree Presenters. They wish to commend the Orator for his patience and skill in June, when he presented honorands to the Chancellor against a background of persistent and noisy protest from outside the Senate-House. In consultation with the Praelectors, the Proctors revised and re-issued notes of guidance on dress for graduands. They wish to remind all members of the University of the obligation to wear academical dress when attending Congregations, Discussions, or University Sermons.

The Proctors attended Council as observers and attended as active participants those bodies of which they are ex officio members, namely the Board of Scrutiny, the Board of Examinations, the Select Preachers Syndicate, and the Joint Advisory Committee on Student Matters. The Senior Proctor was present at the University Security Committee and the Junior Proctor chaired the Technical Committee of the Societies Syndicate ex officio. The Senate-House Syndicate did not meet during the year. Several ballots of the Regent House took place and the Proctors witnessed the counting of votes on each occasion.

The Proctors continued their regular examination-walks and believe that these remain useful, not only to deter malpractice but also to provide reassurance and advice to invigilators. The Proctors wish to applaud the dedication and professionalism displayed by the Examinations Officer, Michael Dixon, and his staff and by those Senior Members who invigilated. Proctorial walks help to encourage a uniform routine amongst different examination centres and within the increasing numbers of exam-sessions held in College, where the Board of Examinations does not provide invigilators. The Proctors noted the difficulties faced by the Board in securing suitable accommodation for candidates in the main examination period and especially during very hot weather.

The Proctors participated in a number of preliminary investigations of possible malpractice by examination candidates and noticed a worrying increase in suspected plagiarism involving the Internet, although most such instances have proved to be the result of carelessness rather than a deliberate resort to unfair means. Several malpractice cases went to the University Advocate for possible prosecution.

The Proctors attended some twenty-five events in their disciplinary capacity, usually accompanied by their University Constables. Protests organized by Junior Members have focused on events relating to Iraq and student fees. A number of recruitment presentations attracted demonstrations and the Proctors were present at the request of the University Careers Service. By invitation of the Senior Tutor, the Junior Proctor and some Constables attended an event organized by a College. The Junior Proctor and a Constable attended a lecture in the Babbage Theatre in response to complaints of disruptive behaviour and delivered a verbal rebuke and warning concerning future conduct to five undergraduates. Lecturers and site-custodians should inform the Proctors as soon as possible if such behaviour occurs and they are entitled by Ordinance to demand the name and College of an offender.

In April, a visit by Jean-Marie Le Pen to the Cambridge Union Society attracted a large counter-demonstration. To preserve freedom of speech and ensure compliance with the University's Code issued under Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act, 1986, the Junior Proctor, the two Pro-Proctors, and eleven University Constables attended the event. Anti-Le Pen protestors invaded the Union site by force of numbers and made repeated efforts to enter the Union building itself. In addition to their own Constables, the Proctors required the support of a large contingent of Cambridgeshire Police Officers under the command of Superintendent John Raine to ensure that the debate was able to proceed. When the principal speaker departed, violent scuffles in Bridge Street resulted in several arrests and vehicles parked in the Union Society's car park were damaged. The event re-enforced the need for all members of the University to be aware of their disciplinary obligations in relation to demonstrations and in particular of the need to give adequate notice of speaker-meetings and protests to the Senior Proctor.

The Proctors have enjoyed cordial relations with the Cambridgeshire Constabulary throughout the year and discussions both within the University and with the Police have helped to clarify the respective roles of the Police, the Proctors and their University Constables, and the University Security Service in tackling disorder involving University members. The current understanding is that the Police will take the leading role at incidents on the public highway, but the Proctors and the University Constabulary may also attend to give advice or assistance if University members are likely to be involved and this has happened on several occasions during the year. On University premises, the Proctors will normally have charge of the situation with advice and assistance from the Police and the Security Service if necessary. It is the intention of the Proctors to ensure that the Police and the University Security Service do not expend their scarce resources on matters of student discipline more than is strictly necessary. The Proctors are duly grateful to John Heppleston, the University's Security Adviser, and to Superintendent Raine and Chief Inspector Alan Jarman of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary for their invaluable help and encouragement during the year.

In response to questions raised at the Joint Advisory Committee on Student Matters, the Proctors and Pro-Proctors have conducted a review of the University Constabulary. This has confirmed that the legal position appears unchanged by recent Police Acts and that it continues as a Statutory Private Constabulary under the Universities Act 1825. The general conclusion of the review, namely that the University Constabulary is functioning well, was accepted by the Committee. Nevertheless, a new complaints procedure for both University members and members of the public was instituted and steps have been taken to improve the identification of University Constables when on duty.

When the Junior Proctor reported to the Societies Syndicate in May, there were 356 clubs and societies registered with the Proctors and this figure included fourteen registrations and fifteen de-registrations since 1 October 2002. By the end of the year some ninety-six clubs and societies had been de-registered after written warnings, either because they were defunct or for persistent failure to comply with the requirements of Ordinances. The very limited administrative resources available to the Proctors make it important that registered clubs and societies seek to comply with their obligations promptly and reliably. In addition to ensuring that accounts had been properly audited and answering routine enquiries, the Junior Proctor investigated written complaints concerning the activities of two societies and advised a number of others concerning constitutional matters. One application for registration was refused, subject to a right of appeal to the Societies Syndicate and another society had its registration briefly suspended.

In January a dispute between an undergraduate and the Cambridge University Students Union (CUSU) concerning its 'No Platform' policy was referred to the Junior Proctor for determination. Although both the Charity Commissioners and counsel for the National Union of Students became involved in the dispute, the matter was eventually resolved after lengthy negotiation.

The Proctors issued a warning notice in response to repeated complaints about 'fly-posting', related both to the CUSU elections and to theatrical productions by University societies. The sections concerning proctorial matters in the University's Student's Handbook were updated and revised and the Proctors have encouraged use of their official e-mail addresses (senior.proctor@cam.ac.uk and junior.proctor@cam.ac.uk) as a convenient means of contact for both Senior and Junior Members. An address (motor.proctor@cam.ac.uk) was established for the Special Pro-Proctor for Motor Vehicles.

The Proctors retire greatly indebted to their Deputies, David Chivers and Vedia Izzet, to Richard Stibbs, who served as an additional Deputy Junior Proctor during Dr Izzet's maternity leave, to the Pro-Proctors, Elisabeth Leedham-Green and Christopher Forsyth, to the Special Pro-Proctor for Motor Vehicles, Anthony Palmer, and to their Clerk, Peter Bullock. It was an honour to serve the University in such a varied and venerable role and a splendid finale to admit the new Vice-Chancellor to office on 1 October. They wish both Professor Richard and the new Proctors every success.

JACK MCDONALDTIMOTHY MILNER
Senior ProctorJunior Proctor

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Cambridge University Reporter 12 May 2004
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.