The appointment of Dr Philip Harvey as Registrar and Secretary at the University of Sheffield has been met with student protests. Dr Harvey held the identical post here at Sussex for four years, until his departure at the end of last academic year.
Last Wednesday, the Sheffield Activist Network (SAN) held a bitter “welcome party” for Dr Harvey. On the facebook event for the party, organiser Dickie Yates wrote: “A party just for a new member of staff you say? That’s a bit excessive, isn’t it? Ah, but this is no regular appointment. For this is the man who has been the bane of the lives of radical students, university workers and anyone else who might happen to get in the way of top brass management.
“In his time at Sussex University, he managed to rack up an impressive record of: a campus curfew against an anti-militarist protester, a series of ‘voluntary’ redundancies, forcing staff to not support a protest against the axing of the linguistics department, and generally towing the faithful line to Neoliberal economic reform.
“Do we want him to do the same thing here? Hell no!”
SAN have distributed flyers across the University campus in the style of wanted posters branding the slogan “Phil Harvey is wanted for crimes against students”. These “crimes” include alleged attacks on student activists, student unions, and university workers.
In 2006, Dr Harvey was infamously involved in plans to axe the chemistry department at the University of Sussex, along with the then Vice-Chancellor, Alasdair Smith. At the time, the chemistry department was rated nationally at No 2 and No 6 in the Guardian and Times league tables respectively. In addition, the department boasted two active Nobel prizewinners and a maximum score of grade five for research excellence. The prospect of the department’s closure was, quite simply, ludicrous.
At the core of the proposal was the idea that the chemistry department should be replaced by a more “focussed” chemical biology department. Of course, there may well be a useful place for chemical biology within the University, but only as a bridge between a separate chemistry and biology department. Both of these disciplines must be concretely in place to serve as foundations in order for the bridge to serve its purpose. Remove one of the foundations and not only the bridge, but the entire structure, would collapse. Sadly Dr Harvey failed to realise this point, twice.
Indeed, a similar consolidation had been attempted at Exeter University not long before, once again under the auspices of Dr Philip Harvey, Exeter’s then Deputy Registrar. The result was an unmitigated failure, and while there was no reason to believe the plans would fare any better at the University of Sussex, Harvey unwisely backed the proposals.
Last academic year, Harvey came under attack again, this time from students in the Save Linguistics Campaign. Student protestors claimed that management at the University of Sussex had launched an unprecedented clampdown on their peaceful campaign. One of the actions taken by the University was the ban of a concert scheduled to take place in the student union bar, which had aimed to raise awareness of the Save Linguistics Campaign. Outraged student protestors believed Dr Harvey to be at the forefront of the veto.
Save Linguistics campaigners also criticised Harvey and the Vice-Chancellor, Michael Farthing, for issuing an email to staff urging them not to support the student protests.
A statement released by the University of Sheffield last month said: “In his most recent position at Sussex, Dr Harvey laid the groundwork for the reorganisation of the professional services – particularly relating to the support of new schools, as well as ongoing reform of University governance.”
Professor Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield, also welcomed his appointment saying: “We are delighted that Philip is joining us and we are confident that he will make an excellent contribution to the outstanding work carried out at Sheffield, with its diverse student body and world-leading research across all the faculties. There is no doubt that Higher Education in the UK faces many challenges over the coming years, and we look forward to Philip’s support in facing these with creativity and determination as we secure the ongoing quality for which the University is rightly respected.”
We wish Sheffield well.