On Thursday 3rd December, hundreds of outraged students stormed Bramber House for the second time this term. The demonstration highlighted the way in which senior managers at the University of Sussex have fundamentally underestimated student and staff anger regarding the proposed cuts to the University’s educational and support services.
By 10 am, almost 500 students and staff had gathered outside the doors of Bramber House, where an emergency meeting of Senate was taking place. Senate is the highest academic decision making body at the University, featuring members of academic staff. The meeting was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Michael Farthing, the man responsible for the drastic cuts proposals.
Protesting students and staff carried banners and pickets in an act of resistance against the cuts and in solidarity with those who have been affected. Students shouted slogans such as: “You Say Cut Back, We Say Fight Back”, and “No Ifs, No Buts, No Education Cuts.”
While gathered outside Bramber House, many students spoke out against the proposed cuts, including University of Sussex Students’ Union (USSU) officers, and students from the schools of English, Informatics, Life Sciences, and Engineering. Paul Cecil, President of the Sussex University College Union (UCU), and an international MA student, Tabitha Rohrer, also spoke.
Rohrer spoke of “an administration of senior managers on bloated salaries, who have increasingly cut students, staff, and the Union out of the decision making process in order to facilitate their short-sighted and ineffective strategies.
“This mismanagement is unacceptable, and speaking as someone who has paid ten thousand pounds to be here, I am outraged that people such as Michael Farthing have essentially lied to me about what kind of an institution I was coming to”, she said.
In high spirits, students decided to storm Bramber House in an attempt to make their voices heard, while chanting, “Michael Farthing, Shame on You” and, “There’s only one redundancy we want to see, Michael Farthing, Sussex VC”.
Eventually students managed to get into the corridor outside the room in which the Senate meeting was taking place. They remained there until the University called the police to quell the protest at around 11 am. Upon arrival of the police, the protesters left peacefully.
Owen Richards, the Academic Registrar, told The Badger of his experience of the demonstration from within the meeting room, “It went beyond free speech and making your point, it was pretty scary being in that room. The internal stud walls were literally bowing inwards with people using objects to smash up the walls and doors. It was terrible.”
It is unclear which objects Richards was referring to. Two reporters from The Badger who witnessed the protest confirmed that no objects were used. There was no damage to Bramber House following the demonstration.
The meeting of Senate was called on the premise that it would give student and staff representatives the chance to discuss management’s proposals for the 115 redundancies across the University. In the meeting, an academic member of the Senate directly asked the Vice-Chancellor to allow a vote to measure Senate support of the proposals. Farthing refused.
Tom Wills, President of USSU, who also attended the meeting, said: “It is a disgrace that the Vice-Chancellor refused to allow a vote in the meeting to measure Senate’s support for the redundancy proposals. This shows that senior management are well aware that their proposals have no support among staff or students, but are intent on pushing them through regardless.”
Wills added, “Today’s fantastic demonstration can only be the start of a determined campaign. Over the next three months we need to use every tactic at our disposal to put pressure on University management. We need consultation on our terms, not on theirs. We need to show management that they ignore the voices of students and staff at their peril.
“They know we have the power to stop these cuts – let’s use it.”