At the time of writing, an occupation of the Arts A2 lecture hall is underway. As of late, occupations have not been a rarity on campus thanks to the Stop The Cuts campaign. This latest one is different however, the students involved are not demanding a stop to the cuts first and foremost, they are demanding the salvation of the ‘Sussex Six’, a development that should be a cause of potential concern to the many supporters of the Stop The Cuts campaign.
One cannot help but see the absurdities that lie within the concept of making mass redundancies and sweeping cuts in academic expenditure, whilst simultaneously erecting lavish new buildings and signposts, making unnecessary changes to the library entrance and renaming most buildings on campus. Perhaps this is why the Stop The Cuts campaign has been so successful. The campaign’s Facebook group, which boasts nearly 2,500 members, demands, “that the university administration makes no compulsory redundancies and resists student fees and cuts in higher education spending. It argues for the reining in of executive pay, the postponement of new building projects, and the protection of academic freedom.”
These are sentiments that I am sure are felt and echoed by the vast majority of students and staff at Sussex, and they have undoubtedly provided the impetus for the increasing effectiveness of the campaign. It is pretty evident that this has rattled senior management as well, what with Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing quickly resorting to calling even riot police onto campus for use against his own students. The immediate suspension of the ‘Sussex Six’ was a sure sign that the management were panicking. Bypassing university procedure was a drastic measure, meant as a deterrent against future action by Stop The Cuts. Of course, the campaign cannot be derailed by draconian heavy-handedness but perhaps it can become sidetracked.
On Wednesday, 10th March, Farthing and senior management backtracked and the immediate suspensions of the ‘Six’ were lifted. They are now able to continue their studies unabated and will go through the correct disciplinary process involving a hearing and the right to union representation. Whilst we can sympathise with and support them, we should not let the ‘Sussex Six’ become the centre of the Stop The Cuts campaign. What if, during the occupation of Arts A2, another student is suspended? What’s next? Save the Sussex Seven? Stop The Cuts needs to avoid getting bogged down in a private battle with the management, taking action in retaliation against action taken against them. The campaign would eventually lose sight of its aims and lose the mass support it currently has.
‘Stop the cuts’ is a sentiment which the majority of students and staff at Sussex can rally behind. ‘Save the Sussex six’ will not gain as much support, and it is mass support that the campaign needs to retain if it is to remain effective. Whilst it is important to support anybody who has disciplinary action taken against them in their struggle for the campaign, it is vital not to let such support take precedent over the campaign itself. Priority and focus must remain on Stop The Cuts, a clear and direct demand backed by a popular and unswerving campaign. A movement that loses sight of its objectives is about as effective and desirable as a campus that looks pretty on a prospectus but lacks any academic worth. We must work hard to prevent either of these becoming a reality.