Socialist Worker

Sussex students occupy against cuts and victimisations

Students at Sussex University were in occupation against huge cuts and the ban on six students from college property following an earlier occupation writes Yuri Prasad

Issue No. 2193

Sussex students getting ready to go into occupation last week (Pic: Anja Berglund)

Sussex students getting ready to go into occupation last week (Pic: Anja Berglund)

Hundreds of Sussex University students were defying management threats as Socialist Worker went to press.

They are occupying their university to stop huge cuts and the victimisation of activists.

Their campaign looks set to be strengthened on Thursday of this week when lecturers in UCU union strike against job losses.

This is one of the most significant campus struggles for many years.

Students told Socialist Worker that they planned to continue their occupation until management lifted orders that ban six student “ringleaders” from the college property.

University bosses barred the six earlier this month after calling in police to break up a sit-in against their plans to impose an £8 million cuts package.

Dozens of heavily equipped officers moved in after wrongly being told of a “potential hostage situation” in the occupied Senate House administration building.

But if management thought that the sight of heavy-handed arrests would scare the students and lecturers into submission, they were wrong.

“The raid was a shock, and at first it created fear and tension. But that has now changed to a mood of outrage,” third year science student, Joanne, told Socialist Worker.

Taser guns

“Students who were initially opposed to the tactic of occupation were appalled at the sight of police with dogs and taser guns being brought on to our campus and arresting us.

“Within a few days around 1,700 had signed the petition in defence of the students who have been barred.”

Hundreds of prospective students and their parents visiting the Brighton-based campus last weekend were shocked to find lecture theatres draped with banners attacking college management.

Since the raid, more people have got involved.

“This is our first occupation and it’s been brilliant,” said Emma.

“Initially, we were quite worried about the law and the police,” added Francesca. “But I think if you really believe in something you have to be prepared to stand up for it.”

For Emma, one of the most

important lessons is that the fight is not just about Sussex, or even just about education. It is about cuts that threaten public services in general.

That was a view echoed by local trade unionist Dave Fellow, a Unison union convenor, who came to offer his support to the occupation last weekend.


“The cuts here are a taste of things to come. And as trade unionists, we cannot stand back and allow these brave students to fight alone,” he told Socialist Worker.

Owen, a postgraduate student, says that the lecturers’ strike will be the next big staging post in the battle.

“The lecturers have shown us brilliant support,” he said.

“They had a meeting last week at which their executive put forward a fairly timid motion in response to the police raid on the occupation.

“Ordinary lecturers were angry and from the floor proposed a much harder condemnation of management and the police.

“Now, we’re determined to get the biggest possible numbers of students to join the lecturers on their picket lines. Standing together is the way we’re going to win.”

Some names used in this article have been changed

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Tue 16 Mar 2010, 19:38 GMT
Issue No. 2193
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