University bosses are using the courts, police and disciplinary measures to clamp down on student protest at the University of Sussex and the University of London.
Management at Sussex suspended five students for their involvement in a week-long occupation in solidarity with a national staff strike on 3 December.
Occupier Laura Grossman told Socialist Worker, “Management have accused us of violence and criminal damage. They say the five students are ‘ringleaders’ and ‘disruptive’.
“This isn’t just about privatisation anymore, it’s also about intimidation by management and police.”
Hundreds protested on the campus last week demanding the reinstatement of the “Sussex Five”.
Over 600 students voted at an emergency student union meeting on Monday of this week to strike the following day. They also voted for no confidence in the vice chancellor’s executive group (VCEG). No one spoke against the motions.
The higher education committee of the UCU lecturers’ union called for the reinstatement of the Sussex
students, and more than 260 Sussex staff wrote to their management demanding the same.
Under pressure, the VCEG lifted the suspensions on Monday—but the students still face disciplinary action.
Lewis Nielsen, one of the Sussex Five, told Socialist Worker, “This is a real testament to the campaign’s strategy to broaden our support.
“We talked to university workers and their unions and also got our student union involved to reach the widest layer of students possible.
“This was crucial for us to pile the pressure on VCEG. But it’s not over until the threat of disciplinary action is completely lifted.”
At the University of London students took part in a series of protests last week. Students had occupied the university’s Senate House building in solidarity with striking cleaners (see page 18) and were evicted on Wednesday night.
Police also violently attacked a protest organised against the clampdown on Thursday. Hundreds of cops turned up to attack the demonstration, and arrested 36 people.
Mohammad Tahboub, a student at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas) campus, told Socialist Worker, “This all started with action to save our student union and for workers’ rights. Now it’s about the right to protest. We have to fight for our rights.”
University management are now attempting to criminalise protest on campus. They have obtained a court injunction lasting six months.
Nadje Al-Ali is the Soas UCU lecturers’ union president and was on the protest last week. She told Socialist Worker the police eviction “was a disproportionate violent crackdown on peaceful protest”.
“Students supported our strike—now it’s our turn to support them,” Nadje added.
More protests have been called for Wednesday of this week.