More than 50 students held a four-hour silent vigil in a corridor outside a governors' meeting at St Mary's University College in Twickenham yesterday. The students were voicing their concern over the sudden suspension of Dr Anthony Towey, head of the Theology, Philosophy and History. Dr Towey was removed by security men half way through a first year Christology lecture he was giving. (See links to earlier ICN stories below.) They were also protesting about a proposal by the principal, Professor Philip Esler to merge the Theology, Philosophy and History school with the school of Communication, Culture and Creative Arts as of this month.
The students have asked the governors for a moratorium on the decision for one year, in order to have a proper consultation on the plan. They are also calling for the reinstatement of Dr Towey.
One student told ICN: "This was very shocking for the students in Dr Towey's class. They didn't know what was going on. "
Another student said: "The day Dr Towey was removed was the second anniversary of the Pope's visit. At the beginning of the Year of Faith the merger plan feels like an attack on our faith, and everything that is special about St Mary's. Its very distressing.
"Courses now cost £8000 a year, so we are stakeholders and should be consulted on major changes like this. There are some students who are considering leaving."
When the students first arrived for the vigil the security men told them to leave and also banned a journalist from taking pictures. After negotiations with the governors they were allowed to remain.
One student said: "This silent vigil is quite a contrast to the rough treatment we have had from the management and the security."
On their Facebook page a student has written: "We stayed for over four hours, the governors came out a lot later than expected and didn't say anything. There will be an official statement tomorrow, that's all we know. So now, we wait."
See also: ICN - St Mary's College, why a professor was suspended www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=21080
and: ICN - Growing concern as Catholic college plans closure of theology department www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=21066