Students and staff taped their mouths shut to show their opposition to a management move that the protestors say will “end University democracy”. The protest took place on Wednesday 18 March during the opening of Senate, the highest decision-making body for academic matters at the University of Sussex and the place where management will deliver their proposal to slash the elected component of Senate by 66%. The proposal would make the majority of Senate un-elected which critics say will end the University’s democratic tradition.
A petition opposing the new proposal has attracted over 800 signatures in the three working days since management released their new plans. The petition will be presented to Senate by students in the room, while protesters at every entrance to the building protested silently with the slogan ‘Don’t Silence Us’. At present, students have 9 elected members in Senate; under the new proposal, they will have just 3 or 4.
Josh Jones, a student representative on Senate and the organiser of the campaign, commented “Our University management seems to think it can destroy our right to representation.”
Currently, the majority of Senate members are elected from the University staff and students which results in approximately fifty elected staff and nine elected students sitting on Senate.
Under the new proposed model, elected representation would be cut to between 13 and 20 staff, and just 3 or 4 students. Meanwhile, unelected posts will rise, meaning elected representatives will no longer have a majority in Senate.
Laura Tazzioli, President of the University of Sussex Student’s Union, said “This is an insult to democracy. I am outraged that such a proposal would even be brought to the table.”
Three years ago in the same location, a student protest against proposals from the then-Vice Chancellor, Alaisdair Smith, to close chemistry led to intense criticism from scientists up and down the country. The proposal was eventually blocked by Senate.
It is expected that University Senate will discuss the controversial new proposals later today.