SUSSEX UNIVERSITY STUDENT OCCUPATION

 SUSSEX STOP THE CUTS
The Stop the Cuts campaign formed in response to plans by the University administration to cut back on spending by millions in the next few years. The University is planning to cut £3 million this academic year, and £5 million next year.

Sussex Stop the Cuts is a group for all staff and students concerned about the negative effects these cuts will have on the quality of education, research and livelihoods at Sussex. Everyone who studies or works at Sussex needs to challenge the decisions being made on their behalf. And ask whether the millions of pounds spent on new buildings and managerial salaries would have been better spent on courses, jobs and pensions.

 The Stop the Cuts campaign demands the university administration makes no compulsory redundancies and resists student fees and cuts in higher education spending. It argues for the reining in of executive pay, the postponement of new building projects, and the protection of academic freedom. Sussex Stop the Cuts also calls for a concerted student effort to prevent the threatened 5% cut to USSU’s block grant from the University. Instead, the campaign calls for the University to provide USSU with the financial assistance it needs to provide students with fundamental support services through the recession. Now is the time when students need their Union the most!

 SUSSEX HOUSE
Last week students occupied Sussex House (the management buildings of Sussex University) in solidarity with lecturers who had voted in favour of strike action. Roger Morgan (Head of Security) and John Duffy (Registrar and Secretary) stopped some staff from leaving, herded them in to an office and joining them, locked the door. They represented this to the police as a hostage situation. The result was 16 vans of riot police were called onto campus. Students were beaten back with fists, knees, batons and police dogs. Senior managers including Robert Allison (Pro-Vice Chancellor) and Michael Farthing, (Vice Chancellor), were eye witneses to students being attacked by the riot police.

Senior managers including John Duffy (Registrar and Secretary) and Roger Morgan (Head of Security) repeated their hostage story to the High Court in order to get an injunction against the entire student body. The injunction made occupational protests on campus illegal. Michael Farthing then suspended 6 students indefinitely. They have not been given a reason  as to why they have been suspended, nor have they been told when they will be reinstated. This is a politically motivated attack on 6 students by the management. An attempt to intimidate the student body in the face of unprecidented cuts to their education. A warning to students not to support the UCU lecturers’ strike.

BUT WE SAY
– STUDENTS, LECTURERS AND STAFF UNITE!

– UNCONDITIONAL IMMEDIATE REINSTATE OF THE SUSSEX 6!
– NO POLICE VIOLENCE ON CAMPUS!
– NO CONFIDENCE IN VCEG! (Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group)
– THE REMOVAL OF ROGER MORGAN, HEAD OF SECURITY
– THE RIGHT TO PROTEST!

 THURSDAY – 11th
Around two in the afternoon there was a demonstration around an entrance to the University.  I arrived as the last speaker, Simon Hardy from the Fight Cuts at Westminster Campaign addressed the cowed. Simon Hardy is a member of Workers Power and led the recent occupation of Westminster University.

The rally concluded with a unanimous vote to re-oocupy Sussex House. Around eight hundred students and staff marched around the campus and then to Sussex House. Once inside students seperated and  made their way around the building. From the roof of the building several stories high, students could still be seen entering the building and protesting outside. After some time it was decided to vacate the building. The demonstration continued around the campus until it reached a lecture theater, Arts A2. This is now the venue for the occupation.  Once the building was secured, an open meeting was convened. A letter was drafted to the Vice Chancellor, Michael Farthing listing a series of demands and a petition for him to collect in person.

The main demand was the unconditional reinstatement of the six students. There was some discussion wether the letter should include wider demands such as no compulsory redundancies, however a more focussed campaign was decided upon. An assurance that no disciplinary action should be taken against any one involved in this present occupation, the last occupation and any future occupations was added to the demands. Around five hundred students and staff  unanimusly voted to stay in occupation until their main demands were met.

Cuts campaigners were able to rerout lectures, sheduled for the occupied theater- and contacted lectureres to minimise the disruption to teaching. Meanwhile the meeting decided that it wasn’t the occupation that might disrupt teaching, but the Vice Chanacellor’s refusal to collect the petition and engage with the meeting.          

 A delegate from the Brighton Workers Support Committee spoke to the meeting. He spoke of the unity between students and workers in Brighton. He referred to the students’ support for the postal workers  as an example of students and workers coming together. And spoke of last week’s Brighton March For Jobs, where the Sussex Six addressed a rally of workers and students. Another speaker from The Portsmouth Cuts Campaign called the Sussex students “an inspiration to us all”.

 After a break, the meeting reconvened with a discussion on what to do whilst occupying  the lecture theater. There was a feeling in the meeting that the theater should be used as a creative and educational space during the occupation. Films were suggested, talks and workshops. A need to make publicity materials like banners and flyers was highlighted, along with a press release and internet messages.

EVENING RALLY
The meeting broke up for a while. Some people came and went whilst others were busy organising pratical things. I went around the campus postering and alerting students to the occupation. At six oclock the meeting came together again for an evening rally. A packed lecture theater of around five hundred students and staff were joined by trades unionists and supporters. Prof Dave Hill, TUSC Parliamentary Candidate for Brighton and Socialist Resistence member spoke to the rally. He said, “Social studies conducted in the ‘70’s showed the optimum size for a seminar is twelve people, but today classes have thirty people. And the attacks on education will mean a further fifteen thousand lecturer jobs will dissapear around the country. Dave Hill emphasised that the students’ struggle is the workers’ struggle.. He said he was “humbled by the number of students on the TUC organised March For Jobs in Brighton which numbered six to seven thousand”. “Students unite and fight- It reminds me of 1968” he said. [lol]

He went on to say, “The students and workers struggles are one because life is about living in society not just about education and jobs. You can’t live on a five pound eighty minimum wage. Some people earn  five pound eighty a second. Its all down to surplas value.- As workers, don’t get to keep the value of what we produce”. “Over the time of the Labour government, the richest one percent has halved the proportion of tax they pay, while the poorest ten percent have doubled their’s. And still the poor is expected to pay for the bankers’ crisis. The government claims the cuts are unavoidable, but if we cut trident, cut the id scheme, and taxed the rich, education cuts would not be necessary. He summed up by calling for the reinstatement of  the Sussex Six and demanded those that made false allegations of hostage taking be called to account.

The RMT delegate described the Sussex students as a “real inspiration to the whole trade union movement”. And promissed to support them “until they are victorious”. He went on to tell how the RMT has recently voted for industrial action. Not over pay, but over the loss of fifteen thousand, rail infrustructure job loosess. These job losses are vital for the safety of the railways and will take the railway network back to the days of accidents. A UCU official spoke to the rally about their forthcomming strike next Thursday. He said the strike demanded “No compulsory redundancies and ACAS negotiations” and warned of more strikes next term. He called for student and lecturer solidarity, “We all have a common interest in good working conditions.The cuts are an attack on all of us” he said. “The management has been pressurised by the occupation of the theater, in defiance of the injunction. This is a result of the solidarity between workers and students.”

 PLANNING MEETING 
After an interval of some time a planning meeting was called. The meeting voted unanimously to stay over night, and perhaps indefinitly. Priorities were identified, such as to arrange a “teach-in” for the following day and to build support within the ancillary staff, as well as the wider community. Two support workers told the meeting of the solidarity the support staff of the Unite union felt toward the students and lectureres. The meeting organised itself in to working parties with groups for banner making, food, publicity, bedding and the like. A teach-in, a day of debate and critical discussion was planned. The meeeting arranged a demonstration and a talk by a History of Art lecturer from Portsmouth University on the student struggles of 1968.

 THOUGHTS
The student body on show here today unanimously recognised the context in which these cuts were taking place and laid the ultimate blame on the very capitalist system itself. The students involved in today’s action were not necessarily socialists, but of a more libertarian anti-capitalism. A most immediate indication as to where the students took their political cue was in their propensity to use hand waving gestures instead of hand clapping to signify approval. A practice popularised by the eco and libertarian trends in the anti-capitalist movement. The use of hand waving was a conscious reference of these trends. And expressed an identification with them.

Another thing that struck me was the amazing efficiency and coolness of the students. These guys were experienced pros – and any group considering an occupational protest would do well to speak to them. They knew what to organise and how to organise it.  The students emphasised their wish to make creative use of the space they occupied. Creative arts were high on the agenda. And they lost no time in forming creative working parties to set up events and workshops for the following days. The students’ demonstration exhibited the very best of contemporary anti-capitalist protest.

 UPDATE – FRIDAY 12th
Students at Sussex are continuing to occupy a lecture theatre in protest of the suspension of the Sussex Six. After twenty-four hours. The students still haven’t had their demands met or had any further contact with management, since they came to collect the list of demands and  petition yesterday afternoon.

 Today Sussex staff publicly defied a court injunction to come to the occupation and show their support. Sussex management are on the verge of being forced to make a humiliating climbdown and unconditionally re-instate the 6 students. Sussex UCU, following an unprecedented 80% turn out in their ballot, are now set for strike action over 115 job cuts. Staff at Leeds will be going out on strike against cuts this week, and unions at many other campuses are balloting for action. Ballots for strike action are underway or imminent at King’s, UCL and Westminster, along with London FE institutions. Student sit-ins have taken place in Essex, Sussex, UCL and Westminster.

 There was a demonstration on Library Square at 3 pm, in support of the occupation and against the cuts and suspensions. Management have granted a conditional return to the students suspended last week -but the conditions of their return mean they continue to be singled out and prevented from taking part fully in campus life. A video link was arranged so that the suspended students could speak to the occupation. Throughout the day the forum has been receiving messages of support from workers and students from all over the country and abroad. We need to seize the moment and apply as much pressure as we can nationally to Vice Chancellors, Peter Mandelson and the government. We need to stand in solidarity with all staff facing compulsory redundancy.

Take action this week! Support the strikes and the Sussex 6! Come to the demonstration on the 20th of March! We call for you to JOIN US in our programme across the following days, student, worker or ‘just someone intrigued’.

Download Word Version of this document with pictures: https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/cuts-text-pics.doc
Download Word Version of this document -text only:  https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/cuts-text-only.doc 

Come to the UCU demonstration against cuts in London on the 20th of March http://www.ucu.org.uk/index.cfm?articleid=3787
Attend the Education Activists’ meeting, Kings College London. 16th March. 6.30pm https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/16th-march-regional-meeting-flyer.pdf
Details of further action: https://suacs.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/cuts-further-action.doc

LINKS: 
Visit our blog https://suacs.wordpress.com/ for the full story to date and further updates.

Or join our F/b page: Guildford Against Fees And Cuts

Join the  F/b group: Sussex Stop The Cuts
Or Visit http://www.defendsussex.wordpress.com

Dan Vockins, Sussex NUS addresses a meeting of academics
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5ar1KjLKME&feature=channel

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