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The Badger’s year in review: 2016

The Badger was proud to break some important stories over the last academic year.  In some cases – such as our exclusive investigation into the University’s misuse of disabled parking spaces – we saw how instrumental our reporting had been in holding authority accountable and bringing about change, with good news to share with our new readers.  In others – such as the #Don’tDeportLuqman student campaign aiming to keep a recent Sussex student with Hepatitis B in Britain which we followed closely last year – we found that the story is still ongoing, so we are offering you the latest. The News team takes a look back at some of the biggest stories and how they’ve developed since.

Campaign to save Sussex student from deportation

February 2016: Recent Sussex MA student Luqman Onikosi is fighting the Home Office’s decision to deport him to Nigeria following their rejection of his leave to remain application, which was made on human rights grounds.

Luqman, who studied both his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at Sussex, has a chronic liver condition brought on by Hepatitis B. Luqman claims that effective treatment is not available in Nigeria.

He has already lost two brothers, both living in Nigeria, to the same disease. Unless the Home Office reverses its decision and allows him to remain in the UK, Luqman believes the same fate will await him.

Last year, while in the final stages of his Masters degree, Luqman’s right to study was withdrawn by Sussex at the demand of the Home Office. His application to remain in Britain had been rejected by that point, but he says that the Home Office did not notify him. He claims that he is now at risk of detention and deportation at any time.

Callum Cant, organiser of the #DontDeportLuqman fundraising campaign, said: ‘The Home Office has passed a death sentence against this young man. We now call on them to reverse their decision and immediately grant Luqman leave to remain in the UK’.

Speaking to The Badger, a Home Office spokesperson said: ‘All cases are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules. Human rights claims on medical grounds are always considered in line with Article 3 of the ECHR.

Now: Roughly a month after we first covered this story, The Badger live-blogged a protest that attracted hundreds of students and an occupation by protesters in support of Luqman, objecting to the University’s lack of support for him.

#DontDeportLuqman protesters occupied the conference centre at Bramber House for 52 hours, demanding that the University ‘award Luqman his MA, publicly state their opposition to his deportation and end collaboration with the Home Office, including legally and politically challenging Prevent’.

After the University sought and won a court order for the protesters’ eviction, the occupiers left peacefully after a demonstration that lasted more than two days.

A University spokesperson said: “We  are, and always have been, very sorry to know of Mr Onikosi’s illness.  It’s clear that staff and students across the University care passionately about his plight and we sympathise with his situation.

“Although we fully appreciate there are many people who support Mr Onikosi, his visa status has been determined by the Home Office.”

Regarding March’s occupation, they added: “The University has an obligation to keep all students on campus safe, including those who were based in our conference room.  Although we had a court order to return the building to its normal use, we are pleased the students chose to leave the building of their own accord”.

We respect the right for everyone inur community to express their views peacefully and throughout this period we have continued to listen to the views of our students.”

Student wins underpass buskers’ ‘impossible’ anthem contest

April 2016: A Sussex medical student has been awarded £300 worth of free keyboard lessons, after he won a national anthem guessing contest hosted by a busker who plays regularly in the underpass which connects the campus to Falmer Station.

Passers-by are invited by Alan, the 68 year old busker and professional organ player, to identify five national anthems from excerpts he plays.

He has the repertoire of 66 national anthems, meaning the probability of randomly guessing all five is less than one in one billion.

Alan told The Badger that, of the hundred or so Sussex students who have taken his challenge since he started playing the underpass in October 2015, only one has triumphed.

The bat-eared victor, a medical student named Harry, won the contest and will receive a spare keyboard on loan so he can practice at home.

Alan claims he has been stolen from and subjected to profanities in other busking locations; allegedly a child pelted his head with a rock at one Brighton-busking haunt and in Lewes, he was mugged by a heroin addict.

However, he says he has ‘not had one single negative comment’ since setting up in the underpass and playing for students.

He says: ‘I like being in here, because I am totally protected from all that nastiness outside.

Now: Three months after we broke this news, it was revealed that the University of Sussex repeatedly attempted to evict the popular busker.

In an interview for The Argus, Alan claimed that he was told by the University that they had bought land on which he was playing, with Sussex threatening to call the police if he did not leave.

He attempted to evade University security by changing his schedule, coming later in the evening and braving cold winter nights to keep ‘a low profile’.

The Argus also claimed that a lecturer gave Alan advice on how to keep his fingers from numbing – however, the technique did not work.

Despite this, he still was moved on by security.

However, following a Freedom of Information request by a student journalist, it was exposed that, contrary to the University’s claims, the underpass remained the property of the British Transport Police and not the University.

A university spokesperson at the time described the incident as ‘an unfortunate misunderstanding’, adding that they were ‘sorry for any upset caused to the individual involved’.

NUS President elected amid ‘anti-semitism’ row

April 2016: Malia Bouattia has been elected as the new President of the National Union of Students during the National Conference in Brighton.

Ms Bouattia, who will be the first black Muslim woman President, is a controversial choice, winning the election despite an open letter signed by over 57 heads of Jewish societies from across the United Kingdom, asking her to explain her ‘extremely concerning rhetoric’.

Signatories asked why she referred to the University of Birmingham as ‘something of a Zionist outpost’ in a 2011 article, and is alleged to have claimed in a meeting hosted by SOAS that the controversial government anti-extremism policy Prevent was created by ‘all manner of Zionist and neo-con lobbies’.

In the wave of this controversy, campaigns have started at several universities to disaffiliate from the NUS.

Now: Five months since Ms Bouattia’s election, NUS disaffiliation campaigns sparked referenda at 16 universities across the country, including York, Durham, Lincoln, Oxford and Cambridge.

In May, four universities – Lincoln, Newcastle, Hull and Loughborough, became the first to disaffiliate from the organisation in almost a decade, leading to suggestions that campaigns at Oxford and Cambridge could also be successful, which would result in a huge loss of funding for the NUS.

However, no other university has voted to break away since, with the disaffiliation campaigns losing momentum after students in Exeter, Warwick and Cambridge and Oxford voted in favour of remaining members of the union.

In the most recent referendum in June, Nottingham students voted to remain affiliated, with just over 60% choosing to stay members

A petition at Sussex University calling for a referendum on NUS disaffiliation failed to reach the required 150 signatures needed to trigger a vote by the end of the summer term.

University blocks disabled parking spaces

April 2016: Students with disabilities have been dismayed to find that the University of Sussex has permitted builders to occupy disabled parking spaces with a portacabin, skip and vans, meaning that the spaces at the Swanborough car park have been unavailable to the students, staff and visitors who need them.

University figures reveal that 79 vehicles have been issued with tickets over the last six months for wrongly parking in disabled spaces. However, an investigation by The Badger discovered 22 cars parked incorrectly in just one day.

The University claim that occupying the spaces is necessary to accommodate the six-week repair of the Swanborough residences, despite the fact that the East Slope car park is just metres away.

Commenting in the latest revelations about disabled parking, Miriam Steiner, founder of the Access Sussex campaign, said: “Access Sussex have told the University on numerous occasions that there aren’t enough parking spots for visitors, staff and students with disabilities.

“The fact that this is going on is further evidence that we need, at the minimum, an Equality and Diversity Director for the University to prevent further mistreatment of people with disabilities”.

Now: After our initial report, the University published a bulletin to underline the importance of the ‘alarming issue’, with Transport Manager Chris Wadey stating: ‘We are a large and busy campus, which means it’s sometimes hard to enforce all vehicles, so I would put out a plea to all staff and students to respect our parking policies and support everyone in our community’.

Whilst the University says it is ‘committed to ensuring all staff and students are able to access all locations on campus’, a University spokesman said that ‘on occasions, this may be the only level area that is suitable’.

However, the new Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell has agreed to one of the demands made by the Access Sussex campaign, with the creation of a new Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Equalities a major priority.

Disabled students at Sussex face a plethora of issues. The Access Sussex campaign was started in 2014 to highlight the difficulties faced by disabled students on campus and to pressure the University into making it more accessible.

While the University has released some funding to address these problems, it would seem as if there are still barriers to accessibility across campus. Given the continued issues disabled students face on campus, it’s no wonder some disabled students were outraged at the University’s decision.

Fi Halfacre, the Students with Disabilities Officer for the Students’ Union, told The Badger that, despite some moves by the University to improve accessibility on campus, it hasn’t come quickly enough.

“There is still a huge issue with the disabled parking spaces on campus. There aren’t enough and those that are in theory designated for disabled students are regularly used by able drivers or blocked by vans or construction.

“While the University has promised that more spaces will be available with the construction of further car parks, this will not come soon enough for disabled students currently at the University”.

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