|Issue 3 - March 1972|
|You may have
read in the last issue of Muther Grumble a small article entitled Dope
Grill, about interviews on drug use carried out recently at Nevilles Cross
college. All residents and some non-residents were interviewed. Publicity
about this has been strangely lacking in spite of a few scandalised students
having sent a representative to Palatinate, the student newspaper, to
tell them what had happened.
A Palatinate reporter went to Nevilles Cross that afternoon and interviewed first the president and vice president of the Junior Common Room and then Mrs Whitehouse, the vice principal, Mr Coteswith, the chief administrator, and Mr Lipton, the senior tutor.
Mr Peter West, president of the JCR said that although some people had been alarmed on receiving the circular, he thought the authorities had taken the best possible action. Should there be any drug users at Nevilles they should, he felt, be discovered with the least amount of publicity and discreetly dealt with. He said Nevilles has hitherto been the most successful college in placing its students in local schools for teaching practice and that, also, Nevilles students depended on references from that righteous establishment to secure permanent jobs when they left. He felt that Nevilles had the best interest of its students at heart and said his interview had been conducted in a most cordial atmosphere.
West paused to think when asked if he thought students would name themselves, friends or acquaintances as drug users. But the JCR's vice principal cut in and said he thought one person might break down causing the rest to lose fear, abandon hope (whichever is appropriate) and tell all. "I have known the police use similar methods" he added. The administration received the advent of Palatinate with astonishment, having not expected their students' reaction to their gentle little questionnaire. No-one, they said, had raised any objection at the time. Mrs Whitehouse said the survey had had to be undertaken because someone from outside of the college had informed them that Nevilles had a drugs problem and that the police would be informed if nothing was done about it. She said that, though she doubted any drugs problem existed, they could not afford to take any chances as the college produced teachers of young children. She suggested that should Palatinate publish the story, the police would feel obliged to enter the college to search it for drugs and do other disquieting things resulting in bad publicity. In reply to this, the reporter pointed out that if there were drug users in Nevilles, the police probably knew about it and would take action or not at their own discretion. Mrs Whitehouse then said that the police did in fact know, but that she knew the Chief Constable.
Finally Mrs Whitehouse threatened Palatinate with a 'D' notice (presumably some form of censorship order) from the university vice chancellor. All those present insisted that the interviews had been short and cordial, that all students in the college were to be interviewed and that no-one was being victimised.
Some students spoke to Palatinate shortly after the interviewing had finished. One girl said she had been grilled for about twenty minutes and actually compared the situation with the Spanish Inquisition. Others (notably university, as opposed to teacher training students) were asked a few pat questions in an interview lasting only a few minutes.
The morning after the interviews began, Mike Eccles, president of Durham Students Union, received a complaint from at least one Nevilles student. When Palatinate asked him what he had done about this he said he was taking legal advice and that if the students were within their rights he would send out a circular advising them of this. He would know the legal position, he said, by that Friday (Jan 21st). He appears, however, to have taken no action at all.
Later the editor of Palatinate went out to Nevilles Cross. He returned saying that the story, though it could perhaps be printed, was of little interest and scarcely merited a place on the front page. Just before Palatinate appeared, the editor was summoned to the vice chancellor and was told that the informant was a girl from Nevilles Cross itself and that the article should not be printed for the sake of this girl, if for no other reason. Palatinate was later told by someone else that this girl had told her mother there were drugs in the college and that her mother had phoned the authorities.
By this time, Palatinate was at the printing stage and, the front page being taken over by a student election drama, a few column inches had been saved for the Nevilles story on page seven. This was eventually filled by a story on homosexuality. Palatinate was sold the next day with a cyclostyled inset stating that the facts relating to the Nevilles Cross affair would be printed in the next issue. This led to an unpleasant scene between the editor on one side and the Nevilles Cross authorities plus some officers of Durham Students Union on the other.
During this scene, apparently, was let fall the strange intelligence that the girl who first told Palatinate about the interviews was known to the authorities and had 'recanted'.
A few days later, Mr Paul Scott interviewed the Nevilles Cross authorities on behalf of a London magazine. Much the same was said to him as was said to Palatinate. They denied emphatically that anyone within the college was responsible directly or indirectly for allegations of drug abuse there. Mr Scott went on to mention that he knew the police knew of the affair. They prevaricated at first, but Mr Coteswith later supplied Mr Scott with a statement from Mrs Whitehouse. The police, she said, had been consulted and had been most co-operative. The Nevilles Cross authorities also told Mr Scott that they were only interested in their college. A student interviewed by him later said she had been asked if she knew drug users in another, named, Durham college.
Nevilles Cross has recently issued a statement which reads as follows: "After allegations from an outside source that Nevilles Cross college had a 'drugs problem' the principal and senior staff members sought the co-operation of resident students to determine whether the allegations might be true. The allegations have no foundation, in fact, and the principal is grateful for the ready help and advice willingly and freely given by the student body". This has duly been published in the latest issue of Palatinate.