Five Sussex students were today, Wednesday 4th December, suspended by Vice-Chancellor, Michael Farthing as he exercised his “authority to temporarily suspend [their] studies and exclude [them] from the University campus.” The suspensions follow protests against the outsourcing of Sussex services to private companies, the occupation of Bramber House in support of fair pay in higher education and the presence of students at the picket lines on the December 3rd national strike.

The occupation was a legal, peaceful means of protest and one undertaken as a last resort. Approximately one hundred students entered the conference centre on Tuesday 26th November in a calm, non-confrontational manner. The occupation was not disruptive to any academic activity nor were any academic lectures rescheduled or disrupted as a result of its presence. Its purpose was to reclaim a University space now owned by a profit-driven private company and to support striking staff in their endeavours to gain fair and equal pay. Any “disruption”, then, was to the private company and its business ends as opposed to students or University staff. It raises concern that Management prioritise the concerns of a business above the concerns of their students and employees. Further, it is laughable that Management have chosen to accuse students of “intimidating” behaviour given the continued and systematic intimidation and censorship of those involved in legitimate, peaceful protests at the University.

Last year, Sussex students voted overwhelmingly against the forthcoming outsourcing (a decision made by Management without any consultation with the student body, staff or relevant unions) in a referendum held by the Student’s Union. Furthermore, a large number of students came to join the picket lines on December 3rd in support of a nationally organised strike. In spite of any such empiricism, Management continue to disingenuously assert that any protests and campaigns at Sussex are composed of a “disruptive minority” of students.
The suspended students are being scapegoated as the “ringleaders” of the campaign against privatisation. This assertion is factually flawed in that the anti-privatisation movement is, and has always been, horizontally organised and involved no leadership. As such, there are no positions or hierarchies within the anti-privatisation campaign. Management cite the Five’s “organising role[s]” in the occupation. Such language misunderstands not only the nature of the movement, but the ideas and ideals of democracy – any “organising” is, and was, always undertaken by all of the individuals in the movement.
The suspensions are arbitrary, unjustifiable and detrimental to the education of five, academically high-performing students (three of whom are also representatives in the Students’ Union). Such punishment, beyond being morally deplorable, directly contravenes rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (Arts 10 & 11) and undermines the ethic of care which ought to be present in any educational institution.

It is beyond regrettable that Management continue to ignore requests by students and staff for meaningful dialogue and chose instead to intimidate, criminalise and penalise those who speak against them. Their methods and approaches are indicative of their detachment from the campus community. Intimidation, suspensions and evictions continue to be a preferred (if a more costly) way of dealing with legitimate concern and peaceful resistance at the University of Sussex.


About sussex against privatization

Workers and students at the University of Sussex who are opposed to the plan to privatize 235 jobs.
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  1. Pingback: Defend the Right to Protest – Support Students Under Attack – for defending education

  2. cathyshutt says:

    Shocking. Please continue to defend the right to protest. What you are doing is important. In solidarity.

  3. Dominic Guzman says:

    Stop whingeing. When you become a student you agree to be bound by the regulations of the University. You flouted them – and the law – so the suspensions are perfectly justified.. It’s just a pity you weren’t all thrown out after the mass violence of March 25th.

    • Hi Dominic,

      In fact, the University has flouted the law. It is unlawful for them to suspend students without first hearing their representations (I know that the regulations say otherwise, but they don’t actually trump the law) and it is almost certainly unlawful for them to have a power that can be exercised “without assigning any reason” because it deprives the person affected of a meaningful right to defend themselves or to appeal: how can they make their case if they have no basis on which to do so? Again, the regulations say otherwise, so the regulations are unlawful.

      See for case law and more details.


  4. SF says:

    This statement is worse than inacurate. 1. As part of the campaign a “pop-up union” was set up. The person signing letters to the university on this “union”‘s behalf is one of the suspended. How is such activity NOT leadership? 2. The “referendum” by the students union last year was heavily flawed, and if you think this is “empiricism” than you are NOT “academically high-performing students”. 3. The 235 issue is over, and you just refuse to admit failure. 4. You seem to have ZERO support from the sciences – how do you speak for the “student body”? 5. Fighting a lost battle from last year is NOT what people were elected to union positions for. Allowing yourself to get suspended now makes your job impossible. Will you resign? I guess no, we’ll see. How about actually DOING something that the students want, like extending the farmer’s market to more days a week?

    • Hi SF,

      Re. point two, could I ask what led you to the conclusion that the referendum was flawed? It was administered by an impartial Returning Officer, there was a campaign budget available for both sides, and all 14,000-odd students had the right to lobby and to vote.

      Do you have any specific feedback about how the Students’ Union could have run this referendum more fairly?

      If so, it would be great if you could send it to – we’re likely to be running some referenda later this academic year and if there are any improvements we could make to the process that would be wonderful.


      • SF says:

        A “referendum” always over-represents the people who care. It would be an odd person who cared enough about the issue to vote, but voted against. What was the participation rate in the referendum? Precisely. In a SURVEY, where you approach a representative randomized sample, the results would have had validity. Also, if you look at the pie charts in “the badger” at the time, the graphics are WAY out of line with the data. Also, the student union is heavily involved on the occupation side, so one should not trust them to run any “empirical research” on the subject.


  5. Dominic Guzman says:

    Gluing up locks on campus buildings poses up a very serious risk to health and safety, especially to students in wheelchairs. What would have happened in case of a fire? You really are complete fuckwits.

  6. Pingback: Solidarity with the Sussex Five! — National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts

  7. Dominic Guzman says:

    On their way into the conference centre, the mob attacked the conference managerN there was a scuffle during which he was bitten, and he was then thrown down to concrete stairs ofr Bramber House.

    Stop trying to make yourselves out to be victims. Violent cowardly thugs is what you are. There were about 30 people in the occupation, which means that 25 more suspensions are due.

    • He was bitten and thrown down stairs? Gosh! That sounds awful! How many people have been taken in for police questioning over that assault that allegedly took place more than a week ago?

  8. Roland Davis says:

    Please can you state how many students voted for and against in the referendum and what proportion of the student body voted.

    • Should the University of Sussex Students’ Union campaign against the University’s plans to outsource services to private companies?

      Total valid votes – 1812 = approx 15%, so a higher turnout than the UK Police Commissioner elections
      Yes – 1264
      No – 548

  9. (Typo, 70/30 of course.)

    • SF says:

      The problem is not the split, but the *sample*. If you do a survey of support for your cause inside the second floor of sussex house, you will get 90/10 against you. If you ask people who care about X to vote for/against X, you don’t get a true sample (only a 100% sample of those who care to vote). If you want a good sample you either get over 80% participation (not 15%), or you do not allow people to self-sample, but you approach THEM, so when you approach say 100 random people in campus, going about their business in various places, you will get a very different result from if you just ask everyone to go on line, and only those who care respond. Basically all the “referendum” proves is that you have about 10-12% support in the student body. All the rest is guesswork. I object so loudly because in my cohort (I was a rep at the time) you had 0% support. It used to be 20%, until the “national demo”, and then it dropped to ZERO. So saying that this campaign represents the overall student body of the university is either a lie or a misperception. And this is why I dispute the claim that the protest is composed of “academically high-performing students”. Good students, in nearly any discipline, would know these very basic statistical issues. These are either not good students, or they represent a small fraction of subjects where statistics do not pertain, e.g. English lit, Philosophy.

      • But if you don’t have a figure in mind, how can you be certain that 70/30 is way off the mark? Unscientific as an online referendum is, I’m not aware of any more comprehensive research in which you could be basing your supposition that the result was unrepresentative.

  10. Roland Davis says:

    Thank you for the reply. That means 10% of students have expressed support for the campaign. 5% have voted against it (to the nearest %). The rest have not expressed a view. The police commissioner election is not relevant. It looks like a small group of people who are passionate about outsourcing are making a big dispute of a matter which only 10% of students have expressed support for.
    It is not surprising that the support is so low as the matter is of little relevance to students except those with an ideological hatred of outsourcing. You claim to be representing students but you know very well that the majority of students don’t share your passion. It’s a disgrace.

    • Sorry, I’m confused. Your argument seems to be that of the 85% of students who didn’t vote, “the majority” are not opposed to privatisation. I’ve yet to see any support for this proposition. No referendum in any UK university ever achieves 100% turnout, but it doesn’t mean that those who did turn out are necessarily unrepresentative of the whole.

      (Unless, of course, you have some statistical survey to show otherwise.)

  11. SF says:

    Its BECAUSE I don’t have any better scientific results, that I don’t put forward my own figure. It would be no better than a hunch. All I am saying is that on online referendum is the WRONG mechanism to get a representaive result. I have no nicer way to say it – study your statistics.

    And Roland (if I may) Is saying that 85% do not care enough to vote, ergo, they do NOT support you. Nor do they oppose you, they just view the whole thing as irrelevant to their life – not even worth a few mouse clicks.


  12. SF says:

    No, you misunderstand. And I must repeat – read statistics. Statistics is NOT rhetorics, which seems to be your speciality. I beseech you – READ:

  13. Roland Davis says:


    You haven’t made a single valid criticism of my argument. You quote me as saying the majority are not opposed to privatisation, then you claim there is no evidence for that proposition. Read what I wrote, please. I wrote “the majority of students don’t share your passion”. You claim there is no evidence for that? The evidence is that they cared so little about it that they couldn’t be bothered to vote.

    None of us knows for certain the views of the 85% who didn’t vote. If they didn’t vote, it is most likely that they don’t care one way or the other. Not caring means not supporting. Nevertheless, as I said, we don’t know their views for certain. But you have no evidence that more than 10% of students support your campaign. The best you can say is “it doesn’t mean that those who did turn out are necessarily unrepresentative of the whole”. Summarising, it is unlikely that the silent 85% support the campaign but it is not proven that only 10% support it. Do you genuinely believe that justifies pursuing a disruptive campaign in the name of the students the union is supposed to represent?

    In fact the position is worse than that. You don’t even have evidence that 10% of students support the union’s action. The referendum only referred to a “campaign”. It gave no indication of the style of campaign. I have spoken to students who voted in favour and subsequently changed their minds when they saw action taken. I have also spoken to students who stopped supporting the campaign after the university proceeded with its contracts.

    Anyway I hadn’t picked up that SF has already said it better than I can. And your response there was lamentable. I honestly don’t know whether you are incapable of understanding SF’s straightforward logic or just decided it was more convenient to ignore it.

  14. SF says:

    So Gabriel *thinks* he defeated one of my 5 original points. I await the rest of the farce, sort-of. I don’t think he’ll show his face here again.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    good going guys, it’s just a shame those against the “against outsourcing” camp aren’t as vocal

  18. Pingback: Tim Haslett on Privatization! | Pilant's Business Ethics Blog

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