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1969: Once a rebel

Dr Gautam Appa was a PhD student at the London School of Economics in 1969.

He was involved in the protests on 24 January against the appointment of Dr Walter Adams and the director's decision to install steel security gates in the school buildings.

The student body was very opposed to Adams, who had served in white-dominated Rhodesia.

These views were known but ignored, and the man was appointed anyway.

So a protest started, and in the late 1960s all sorts of other things were going on - Vietnam protests, French students protesting and so on.

The LSE student movement was definitely influenced by these things, but our focus was about the democratic right of students to influence the appointment of this man as director.

One of the forms the protests took was to occupy buildings - the library and the old building of the school were occupied many times.

Sudden appearance

The school authorities became rather sick of this - especially when administrative blocks were occupied, because then students had access to confidential files.

The authorities decided they had to protect the administrative buildings from occupation, and so they introduced several gates which would make different parts of the school inaccessible.

The steel gates were suddenly seen by staff and students one day when they arrived in the morning.

I arrived rather late and the gates were already up. Everyone was talking about it.

Peace motion

I remember senior academic members who were actually opposed to student protests saying it was terrible - they felt freedom of speech and movement was more important.

A student union meeting took place and we debated what to do about it. There was a very vociferous, strong and well-articulated opinion that the gates should be just removed.

A motion to negotiate with the school was attempted. That was defeated and then some people went out and took them down.

One of the fellows who took part actually lived in my flat. I remember him coming and saying what tools he used to do the job.


"We chanted slogans demanding our arrested colleagues be released."

It was a very charged atmosphere - students were adamant that this should not have been done and that it was a clear indication there was no intention of giving democratic rights to students.

We all marched over to Bow Street and sat down outside the police station. We chanted slogans demanding our arrested colleagues be released.

We were there for hours and at various points a hundred or more students were there.

It was a major event in our lives to be outside a police station demanding something of the police.

I find there is such a big difference between students' concerns nowadays and what our concerns were.

Now they are interested in their own career, how much money they can make and perhaps having a good time.

For us, discussing world politics and the latest happenings in Vietnam were more important things.

In Context
Dr Appa worked at Middlesex Polytechnic throughout the 1970s and 1980s until he returned to the London School of Economics as a lecturer in 1988.

He is now a Reader in Operational Research at LSE. His protesting days are not over and he remains an active peace campaigner.


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