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Judgement day is every day at Sussex

The exclusion of certain students from visiting stalls at the Grad fair is nothing other than direct, personal discrimination.

The stalls affected included Brighton and Hove Council, Chestnut Tree Children’s Hospital, stalls offering information about studying abroad simply because they were located in an adjoining room to where the more contentious Army and Exxon Mobil stalls were squirreled away.

I think the time for judgment and name calling and anonymous opinion in The Badger is over, and it is now time to take a serious look at what is happening at this University. It is far too easy to view events in isolation, get very angry about them, and then leave them alone when they leave the Comments page. It is high time for open and frank discussion about the utter, willful, breakdown of communication between the Union and the University, the University and the students, and perhaps most worryingly, between the students themselves.

‘The University ignores the doubts raised by students about companies and institutions it allows to operate on campus, and instead sends in the police. This is both immature and cowardly’

What is most important to understand is that this is no longer about individual campaigns. These are their own issues, involving different individuals and different goals. It is the handling of these campaigns by all at the University that ties them together into a bigger picture, a bigger picture that I would argue has gone entirely beyond the pale, and started turning Sussex into an institution that polices the ideas of its own students.

The University has, this term, developed a rather interesting relationship with the Police. Approximately ten police people with three cars were called to an entirely peaceful anti-URNU demonstration, comprising of about 15 people, in week two. On the 15th of October, the day of a public Smash EDO demo and march, there were police vans parked outside Barclay’s bank, on campus, waiting to transport arrestees. For a graduate fair at which nothing more ‘threatening’ than the handing out of flyers was occurring, the University called the police to back up security in restricting the movement of certain individuals, under no legal mandate whatsoever. There should not be police on campus before any criminal act has been committed.

To me, this reflects nothing but an institution that is frightened of its own students, of their opinions, beliefs and their ability to express them. The University chooses to ignore the very serious doubts raised by students about companies and institutions it allows to operate on campus, and chooses instead to send the police. I would go so far as to say this is both immature and cowardly. You may say, ‘oh but you haven’t taken your ideas straight to the University, so what do you expect?’, but these campaigns are taken to the University as motions at the AGM, where the Union acts as an intermediary between the students and the University. Furthermore, last year, ENS brought their campaign, en masse, straight to the university decision makers, and a fat lot of good that did.

There is also something to be said here for the great discontentment that has been voiced by certain students of what they seem to see as the highjacking of ‘student’ opinion by certain highly passionate and determined groups. I would argue that this is a fallacy. There is not ‘one’ student opinion which you have to fit into. We’re all adults, if certain people feel something strongly and do something about it, there’s nothing stopping you doing something if you don’t agree with them. Even this article will no doubt be mentally attributed to some semi-mythical group, but this is my opinion, and only I am accountable for what is written here. And if you don’t like it, please come and tell me to my face.

There are also many people who naturally feel they don’t need to get all het up over the treatment of campaigns they are not involved in. This seems very short sighted; we have all seen, thanks to ENS, what happens to campaigning on this campus when a greater number of students feel that they are personally affected. A few hundred people is hardly a critical mass, but it’s more than most campaigns get. Why not protect your freedom to protest should you ever want to use it in the future?

Another side to this is the argument that, ‘well does it really matter what the Uni does? I’m here for an education’. Fair enough, but the metamorphosis of the university into what increasingly resembles a bit of a police state concerns us all. It is also reflected nationally in the treatment of activists by the police and the gradual erosion of the right to protest. If you can be singled out by security and the police, to not be allowed in a room in your student union, at your university, because someone ‘recognises’ you as someone who, for completely unstated reasons, is unfit to receive certain career information, this is a very serious matter. The university cannot be allowed to operate in a legal bubble – a hybrid of University security policy and state police. And it’s happening. You might not agree with any of the campaigns that go on campus, but I’m sure there are a whole lot more students out there who do not want to attend a university that turns and discriminates – with the power of the state behind it – against certain students because of the opinions they have. It might not be your opinion today, but it may be tomorrow. Wake up.

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