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Protests against cuts at Sussex gain momentum

The latest Stop the Cuts rally ended in occupation last week. Students gathered on Monday 8 February in rain and snow to rally against job and course cuts proposed by university management. Around 400 people met in Library Square before marching to Sussex House. Drums, chanting and shouting accompanied the march.

Speakers at the rally included local City Councillor Pat Hawkes, Sussex UCU President Paul Cecil, and a UCU member from Brighton University, Tom Hickey. Students carried buckets to collect for UCU, which will soon be voting on strike action.

More than £200 was gathered in support of lecturers who will ballot on strike action in the next few weeks. Occupying students lowered the money in a bag to Paul Cecil.

Cecil said: “UCU wants to thank all the students who attended the rally on Monday in dreadful weather and gave so generously to our strike fund.

“Our ballot is now open and we are urging our colleagues to vote in favour of industrial action. We don’t want to strike and are doing everything we can in our talks with management to avoid the need to do so, but if management do not remove the threat of compulsory redundancies we may be left with little choice.”

One student said: “It was really great to see so much support. This is not just “dated confrontational student politics.” We care about our education and our tutors.”

After the speakers, the crowd marched to Bramber House, followed by security, and over 100 people stormed into the building.

Security sealed off the top floor where the occupation was situated, and the building was evacuated. Almost 100 students remained inside and a reported 70 stayed overnight.

Two solidarity rallies took place outside the occupation the following day. At 12.30pm around 200 students gathered in support of the occupation, again with drums and musical instruments.

The demonstration ended with a second influx into the building, bringing the number of students in occupation to around 150.

Other students remained outside, discussing the campaign with puzzled passers-by. The occupation disbanded on the evening of Tuesday 9 February, around 30 hours after its start.

John Duffy, Registrar and Secretary, said: “We were clear from the start of this trespass that this was an unnecessary and disruptive action.  I want to thank staff who worked to minimise the disruption caused.

“This trespass has left damage and caused additional costs to the university which we are assessing.”

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