I was reading a curious old book called The Rise of the Student Estate in Britain (by Eric Ashby and Mary Anderson, 1970) and I came across a rather shocking passage:
This happened in 1860 in Aberdeen. The students wanted Sir Andrew Leith Hay, the ‘local candidate’, and there was in fact a numerical majority for him, since the numbers in the ‘nation’ which comprised the Aberdeen constituency were greater than those in the ‘nations’ which came from outside Aberdeen. Reckoned by ‘nations’ and not by numbers, there was a tie between Hay and Maitland, the solicitor-general. The principal gave a casting vote in favor of Maitland. This was taken as a deliberate move to back the professors against the students. In March 1861 Maitland came to deliver his rectorial address. The academic profession, along with the magistrates and the town council, entered the hall. Cheering, hooting and yelling greeted their appearance; this was to be expected: it was the traditional accompaniment to every rectorial address. But then the scene became ugly. Chunks of splintered wood hurtled across the hall. The audience were, of course, expected to come unarmed, but some of them had brought in hammers and other instruments with which they uprooted the seats and smashed them into pieces suitable for projectiles.
The principal took his place at the rostrum and called on the meeting to join him in prayer. Out of respect for the kirk there was a temporary lull. But the uproar resumed as soon as the oath was administered to Maitland, and he stood at the lectern to give his address. At this point some of the professors left the platform ‘to remonstrate personally with those taking a leading part in the row’.The rector kept smiling and endeavoured to proceed with his address, but at this stage blood was trickling down his face. The more respectable students were ashamed, and added to the pandemonium by hissing. There were cries of ‘Call in the police’. After ineffectual intervention by the principal, several police were ‘brought up to the hall door, but no force was used by them. . . ‘. The rector calmly and impressively completed his oration, the principal pronounced a benediction, and the proceedings, ‘which had lasted upwards of two hours’, were brought to a close. (20-21)
I’d like to imagine that these days outright violence is no longer a part of university politics, but there are just too many counterexamples to take that claim seriously.