Royal Holloway’s Left Forum and Labour Society boycotted the Principal’s drinks evening

Drinks with the principal? They’d rather defend our democratic principles!


This week Professor Paul Layzell, principal of Royal Holloway, held a drinks reception for the presidents of societies affiliated with the Students’ Union.

However, George Severs and Robert King, presidents of the Left Forum and Labour and Co-Operative Societies respectively, boycotted the event in protest against Professor Layzell, and have written an open letter to him explaining their position.

The Tab sat down with George Severs for a run-down of why they protested.

Robert (Left) and George.

Robert (Left) and George.

What exactly are you protesting and why?

“As we spell out in our joint letter to Professor Layzell, we believe that it would be wrong of us to attend an event such as this given our misgivings regarding Professor Layzell’s premiership at the college. The Labour and Cooperative Society believe that the principal has not responded to their call for voter registration to be encouraged as part of the college enrolment programme, a matter which they feel most strongly about.”

From my perspective, I am boycotting the event as my capacity as President of Left Forum because I believe that Professor Layzell is part of a wave of university management currently operating throughout the UK which is turning universities into factories. Focus is now on profitability, at the expense of lecturers’ pay and pensions and the quality of education afforded to students.”

To attend a soirée hosted by the principal during a time in which staff are experiencing an attack on their pay and in-work rights and students are watching their levels of debt mount exponentially would, I feel, be unjustifiable.”

But will it actually make a difference?

“Of course, I do not expect my lack of attendance to impact greatly if at all on Professor Layzell’s style of management, nor that of his team. Yet, in making my reasons for boycotting public, I hope that more students may be aware of my reasons for doing so, and perhaps find some affinity with them. I hope, for example, that more people will know that over the last five years (in which we have seen our debt increase and managers launch an assault on the rights and pay of staff) managerial pay has risen by 14%, and that people will find this as outrageous as I do.

I would finally hope that, once aware of my reasons for boycotting the reception, that students might consider becoming involved in the campaign groups currently seeking change in these areas.”

Whether you agree or not, taking a stand for student’s rights is a commendable act, and turning down free champagne is practically heroic.

A full copy of their Open Letter can be found here.