The verdict of a court case over the University’s refusal to release the unredacted version of its contract with Chartwells is to be announced in March.

The University of Sussex were called to the tribunal following its failure to release the full Chartwells contract following a freedom of information request by a former Sussex student.

The request filed by former Politics and International Relations student Gabriel Webber, called for the release of the contract of Chartwells, an outside company the University employs to provide catering.

The request was sent in September 2013. After several rejected requests the University finally released sections of the contract in February 2014, however, many sections were missing.

The University claimed this was because the information under those sections were commercially sensitive, offering data that could aid rivals of the company.

A Tribunal panel was assembled for the University and Webber to assert their reasons for releasing or detaining the contract, and has been in progress since January 2015.

Gabriel Webber commented on the tribunal’s progress: “some of the University’s arguments were clearly against FOI case law (previous Tribunal decisions) and I suspect they were hoping that I, as a poor non-legally-trained student, wouldn’t notice an wouldn’t be able to mount a counter argument.”

“I think it’s also worth noting the enormous amount of money being spent by the University on lawyers at the moment: they’re appealing this, the planning decision about the Masterplan, they fought the OIA report into the Sussex Five discipline.

There’s a lot of very speculative and very dubious spending on legal advice and one wonders whether there is really nothing better they could do with the money.”

The University wished not to comment as “the commercial aspects of this contract are the subject of an ongoing Freedom of Information request and it would not be appropriate for us to comment while this request is still under consideration.”

The University works with many outside contractors, and asserts it has “a long tradition of engaging with business and the community.”

Chartwells as a company is based in Surrey, and only expanded to east Sussex in 2013 following a £28m contract with east Sussex county council.

Chartwells has only provided catering to the University since 2013, a decision met with some objection over “associations with corruption in defrauding UN peacekeeping operations.”

Phoebe Day

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