What’s ACCA-ning?
Arts
58 views
58 views

What’s ACCA-ning?

Emma Nay - October 16, 2018
Review: Journeying with Grace Nichols
Arts
94 views
94 views

Review: Journeying with Grace Nichols

Kate Dennett - October 12, 2018
University of Sussex Joins Libraries Week
Arts
130 views
130 views

University of Sussex Joins Libraries Week

Kate Dennett - October 6, 2018
Oscar Jerome at The Hope and Ruin
Interview
112 views
112 views

Oscar Jerome at The Hope and Ruin

Alex Leissle - October 4, 2018
Why we should all embrace drag
Lifestyle
138 views
138 views

Why we should all embrace drag

Chris Ahjem - October 3, 2018
In Conversation with Alannah Myles
Arts
210 views
210 views

In Conversation with Alannah Myles

Anastasia Konstantinidou - October 3, 2018
Brighton Needs You!
News
141 views
141 views

Brighton Needs You!

Anonymous - September 28, 2018
Books Every Fresher Should Read
Arts
287 views
287 views

Books Every Fresher Should Read

Anonymous - September 19, 2018
France in Fine Fettle
Sports
232 views
232 views

France in Fine Fettle

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Dive into Brightonian Culture
Arts
231 views
231 views

Dive into Brightonian Culture

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?
Arts
262 views
262 views

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?

Anastasia Konstantinidou - September 15, 2018
New Aldi Creates Jobs and Traffic Problems
News
17 views
17 views

New Aldi Creates Jobs and Traffic Problems

Jessica Hubbard - October 20, 2018
277 Views

The Politics of Student Life

A selective study of student politics at The University of Sussex from its beginnings to the present day.

Whether facing down tanks in Tiananmen Square or police gunfire at Kent State, student activism functions as a symbol for profound political transformation. Students have actually played a substantial political role in the last century, even to the point of toppling governments, as in Cuba or Czechoslovakia.

Since it’s opening in 1961 The University of Sussex has not been without its own pockets of student resistance. Early politics at Sussex manifested as broad support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, anti-apartheid solidarities, and campaigns for the local left-leaning Labour MP. While not supporting white supremacy and encouraging people to vote Labour hardly constitutes radicalism, Sussex at this time was considered a relatively progressive institution.

With 1968 came occupations around the country and the uprising of workers and students in France. This is traditionally thought of as a year of change, with a marked shift towards confrontations with the establishment. Reverberations from abroad were felt on February 21st 1968 when there was a ‘teach-in’ concerning the war in Vietnam, which included the burning of an American Flag, prompting a flustered Tory MP in the Daily Telegraph to denounce Sussex as a “hotbed for communism”. This quote fits nicely within a wider popular political discourse that conceives of the university as a kind of tactical asset in a war of ideologies. Arguably this is because of the unique position of the university itself as a kind of fulcrum – since their establishment in the middle-ages universities have challenged cities as centres of activity. With the explosion of higher education post-1945 you suddenly have thousands of people released from the formal constraints of school and home, coming from all over – from different kinds of national and/or class backgrounds – onto campuses to form  large-scale communities. How those students interact or just plain react to the institution they find themselves ensconced can tell us something about a generation’s expectations and capabilities.

Looking at how resistance has manifested in university-based student politics may prove both entertaining and illuminating. A cursory glance into the archives reveals to us there has been a huge amount of exam boycotts, in almost every subject. They are usually accompanied by calls for control of course material; the rights to work collectively rather than alone; or the right not to be assessed (but often the boycotters settle for just less assessment.) The rhetoric that resurfaces most from exam boycotting generally is resistance to having to undergo an arduous examination process, which seems largely pointless and irrelevant to anyone’s actual understanding of the subject – I’m sure this is a feeling that a lot of us can relate to.

We can only imagine what the university management thought, when in 1972, half their first year Biological Sciences students skipped their final exams. More than this they decided not to miss an opportunity to really interact with their course, and turned-up at the end to hand in sheets covered with gentle suggestions on how to improve it for next year.

In the aftermath of the 1972 exam boycotts, a group of supportive faculty got together to form the Radical Faculty Action Group (RFAG). Issue #30 of Focus (an analytical journal produced at Sussex) was given over in its entirety for RFAG. They wrote of exams:

“We recognise that the role assessment plays in the university is one of social control. It is the overriding form of discipline which ultimately forces the student to conform to the already decided upon system of teaching and course structure. Assessment reinforces the hierarchical structure of society as a whole.”

They proposed alternative mode of education would include:

  • Positive discrimination in student admissions in favour of those from ‘deprived’ areas
  • Sussex being a centre for continuous education, open to anyone
  • No compulsory or competitive exams – more collective work
  • Courses growing organically out of problems and interests and crossing traditional boundaries
  • The University being actually interdisciplinary, as it had at its conception (which every subsequent administration since had been so quick to dismantle)

All fine in theory perhaps, but what of change beginning at home? Struggles around living conditions have been a recurring feature of Sussex life with several rent strikes and occupations over the years. A  cursory glance into the archives reveals mentions of rent strikes in 1972, 1973, 1974-75, 1977, 1979, 1982 and 1985, – as well as a smattering of occupations – all concerning the cheaply made, under-available, and over-priced student accommodation. Rent strikes have actually been able to change what was built on campus, and how much was charged to live somewhere; and they were often articulated as part of the housing crises in the country. Today this issue has if anything gained relevancy, when the non-wealthy are being forced out of higher education by soaring accommodation costs.

From the 1980s onwards there has been an irrevocable altering of the terrain in student politics. In Europe and America – with the dismantling of the social-democratic state for profit – ‘public’ institutions such as The University of Sussex have been gradually privatised. Although British business enterprises have an extremely mixed record – frequently posting gigantic losses – and although ‘public’ institutions (such as the university) have a comparatively excellent record – being positive forces for development, knowledge, and social advancement – over the past three decades politicians have repeatedly attempted to force the universities to resemble failed businesses. Alongside its many other achievements, the coalition government took some of the decisive steps in helping to turn some first-rate universities into third-rate companies.

There has of course been resistance. The decision in the autumn of 2010 to treble the student fees – that had only been introduced only in 1998 by the then Labour government – produced a huge student protest. While it was perhaps premature to suggest that the 2010 demonstration would truly reignite the student movement, no-one expected things to fade away from focus so soon after the passing of the higher education ‘reforms’.

The Sussex occupation against privatisation of 2013 was an international cause celebre. When student opinion about privatisation was ignored, a counter-public was established at the top of the Bramber House. The occupation was going when I started at Sussex, and was to this day one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen. Never had I encountered so many amazing folk gathered together from all over, and channelling the kind energy and ideas that could actually bring the world back from the brink. Despite all the hard work that went into it, this potentiality fizzled. Using harassment, pressure, surveillance, and basically waiting them out, management pressed ahead privatising the jobs of university staff.

How come student politics no longer seems to be able to exert the same kind of force on administrations? Well, after the shock of resistance in the seventies, managers have gotten much better at managing. During the Sussex occupation they didn’t hesitate before spending thousands on private security to ware down the occupying students, as well as covering the campus with CCTV to create an atmosphere of intense paranoia. Part of the reason that university administrations have got so bold is their knowledge that students, like people in general, are more distracted, over-stimulated, and anxious than ever. Students come up to university with often unachievable fantasies of the good life— illusions that if they make it through university someone will make good on the promises of upward mobility, job security, political and social equality, and durable intimacy—despite evidence that liberal-capitalist societies can no longer be counted on to provide opportunities for individuals to make their lives comfortable, or “mean something”; even the jobs in the university itself are incredibly precarious.

The contemporary problem is that the education racket often seems designed to produce anxiety in anyone involved with it. One example of this at Sussex is the introduction of ‘compulsory attendance’, a disciplinary mechanism meant to intimidate students into attending class more, as if absenteeism could be cured by fear of discipline. I guess the alternative view I’m proposing is that if you don’t attend class –whether you’re too hungover or nervous, perhaps you’re effectively on strike, dissatisfied that you’re not getting what you want from university?

Student politics is of course alive and well at Sussex, with too many on-going projects to mention. Whether it will gather and exert the same kind of force it has in the past is a question left for the students to answer.

 

Sybil. 

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam
What’s ACCA-ning?
Arts
58 views
58 views

What’s ACCA-ning?

Emma Nay - October 16, 2018
Review: Journeying with Grace Nichols
Arts
94 views
94 views

Review: Journeying with Grace Nichols

Kate Dennett - October 12, 2018
University of Sussex Joins Libraries Week
Arts
130 views
130 views

University of Sussex Joins Libraries Week

Kate Dennett - October 6, 2018
Oscar Jerome at The Hope and Ruin
Interview
112 views
112 views

Oscar Jerome at The Hope and Ruin

Alex Leissle - October 4, 2018
Why we should all embrace drag
Lifestyle
138 views
138 views

Why we should all embrace drag

Chris Ahjem - October 3, 2018
In Conversation with Alannah Myles
Arts
210 views
210 views

In Conversation with Alannah Myles

Anastasia Konstantinidou - October 3, 2018
Brighton Needs You!
News
141 views
141 views

Brighton Needs You!

Anonymous - September 28, 2018
Books Every Fresher Should Read
Arts
287 views
287 views

Books Every Fresher Should Read

Anonymous - September 19, 2018
France in Fine Fettle
Sports
232 views
232 views

France in Fine Fettle

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Dive into Brightonian Culture
Arts
231 views
231 views

Dive into Brightonian Culture

Anonymous - September 17, 2018
Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?
Arts
262 views
262 views

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?

Anastasia Konstantinidou - September 15, 2018
New Aldi Creates Jobs and Traffic Problems
News
17 views
17 views

New Aldi Creates Jobs and Traffic Problems

Jessica Hubbard - October 20, 2018
BCU Black Studies Degree Talk
Campus News
20 views
20 views

BCU Black Studies Degree Talk

Matthew Nicholls - October 20, 2018
Bliss Signal Album Review
Music
48 views
48 views

Bliss Signal Album Review

Ryan Bridgewater - October 18, 2018

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

De-Stressing with Rob Cowen’s Common Ground
Arts
67 views
Arts
67 views

De-Stressing with Rob Cowen’s Common Ground

Hal Keelin - October 18, 2018

Upon my transfer to Sussex University, I found Robert Cowen’s Common Ground a particularly comforting read. After nearly a year out from academic study, I was finally…

What’s ACCA-ning?
Arts
58 views
Arts
58 views

What’s ACCA-ning?

Emma Nay - October 16, 2018

  All you need to know about autumn at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts If you have not seen the ACCA’s new autumn programme, you…

Review: Journeying with Grace Nichols
Arts
94 views
Arts
94 views

Review: Journeying with Grace Nichols

Kate Dennett - October 12, 2018

In celebration of Black History Month, Sussex Student Union organised a number of interesting talks and events across October. One of these exciting opportunities was a chance…

Review: Suzanne Ciani & Martin Messier at the ACCA
Film & Theatre
79 views
Film & Theatre
79 views

Review: Suzanne Ciani & Martin Messier at the ACCA

Anonymous - October 10, 2018

At the outset, Mr Messier’s FIELD at once invoked The Matrix and Daedalus’ Boiler Room set.  The basic concept of this mixed media performance relies on transducer…

Shelf Help: The Organisation Encouraging Self-Development
Arts
118 views
Arts
118 views

Shelf Help: The Organisation Encouraging Self-Development

Kate Dennett - October 10, 2018

To commemorate to this year’s Mental Health Awareness Day, I found it increasingly difficult to draw attention to just one book of relevance in recognition of this…

Freshers’ Week from a second year perspective
Campus News
105 views
Campus News
105 views

Freshers’ Week from a second year perspective

Chris Ahjem - October 9, 2018

Annually, the University of Sussex welcomes thousands of new students to our Falmer campus and every year the Student’s Union and Brighton based clubs and businesses increase…

National Badger Day: 10 fun facts you might not have known
News
154 views
News
154 views

National Badger Day: 10 fun facts you might not have known

Chris Ahjem - October 6, 2018

To celebrate National Badger Day here are 10 fun facts about our animal kingdom namesake Badgers can run up to 16-19 miles per hour which is the…

University of Sussex Joins Libraries Week
Arts
130 views
Arts
130 views

University of Sussex Joins Libraries Week

Kate Dennett - October 6, 2018

This coming week marks the celebration of Libraries Week, an event solely dedicated to praising the work of libraries across the UK. This annual event is taking…

Oscar Jerome at The Hope and Ruin
Interview
112 views
Interview
112 views

Oscar Jerome at The Hope and Ruin

Alex Leissle - October 4, 2018

The young star is often a tricky title to navigate. There are the big names, who explode into the world with noise, bright light, a big record…

How Fenty Beauty changed the face of the makeup industry
Lifestyle
144 views
Lifestyle
144 views

How Fenty Beauty changed the face of the makeup industry

Rachel Badham - October 3, 2018

Fenty Beauty, launched in September last year, is a makeup line created by global superstar Robyn Rihanna Fenty, better known as Rihanna. It’s not uncommon for celebrity…

Why we should all embrace drag
Lifestyle
138 views
Lifestyle
138 views

Why we should all embrace drag

Chris Ahjem - October 3, 2018

Once an art form disregarded by many, 2018 bears witness to the continuous rise of drag as a legitimate, celebrated art. Spearheaded by RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag…

In Conversation with Alannah Myles
Arts
210 views
Arts
210 views

In Conversation with Alannah Myles

Anastasia Konstantinidou - October 3, 2018

This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Alannah Myles, the 1991 Grammy winner for best female rock vocal performance for her outstanding vocal abilities for the…

Brighton Needs You!
News
141 views
News
141 views

Brighton Needs You!

Anonymous - September 28, 2018

Brighton is a vibrant and thriving city that many students at Sussex are lucky enough to call home. But there are many in the area in need…

Books Every Fresher Should Read
Arts
287 views
Arts
287 views

Books Every Fresher Should Read

Anonymous - September 19, 2018

Starting university comes with both exciting but potentially daunting changes, with both moving away from home and studying at degree level posing to be two new challenges.…

INCREDIBLES 2: The Sequel with a Feminist Twist
Film & Theatre
207 views
Film & Theatre
207 views

INCREDIBLES 2: The Sequel with a Feminist Twist

Olek Młyński - September 18, 2018

One key film in the development of anyone who grew up in the early 2000s was The Incredibles (2004). It’s comedy, vibrancy, and general sense of fun…

France in Fine Fettle
Sports
232 views
Sports
232 views

France in Fine Fettle

Anonymous - September 17, 2018

Prior to the start of the quadrennial tournament this summer, football fans across the world grew sceptical over Russia’s credentials and ability to host the most prestigious…

Dive into Brightonian Culture
Arts
231 views
Arts
231 views

Dive into Brightonian Culture

Anonymous - September 17, 2018

Boredom is impossible when you throw yourself into everything this weird and wonderful city has to offer. The specific and unique cultural wonders of Brighton are indeed…

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?
Arts
262 views
Arts
262 views

Oh, baby, baby, did you see Britney at Pride?

Anastasia Konstantinidou - September 15, 2018

During this year’s Pride Festival, Brighton had the honour of welcoming international pop star and voice of the early 2000s, Britney Spears, to the main stage. Undoubtedly,…

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate
Campus News
1326 views1
Campus News
1326 views1

Union obliterates the debate – unwritten requirement used to shut down free speech debate

Jordan Wright - April 27, 2018

Student society Liberate the Debate’s most recent event was cancelled over a lack of compliance with the Students' Union's (USSU) requirement for a neutral chair - a…

New Aldi Creates Jobs and Traffic Problems
News
17 views
News
17 views

New Aldi Creates Jobs and Traffic Problems

Jessica Hubbard - October 20, 2018

The new Lewes Road branch of ALDI has opened to the public. Its first customers received free fruit and vegetables and the store has proved popular since.…

BCU Black Studies Degree Talk
Campus News
20 views
Campus News
20 views

BCU Black Studies Degree Talk

Matthew Nicholls - October 20, 2018

Students are due to give a talk about the UK’s first black studies degree as part of Sussex University’s Black History Month events. The free event, which…

Go See a String Quartet: Globally Renowned Artists Play for Free on Campus
Culture
116 views
Culture
116 views

Go See a String Quartet: Globally Renowned Artists Play for Free on Campus

Ketan Jha - October 19, 2018

Classical music can be obtuse. It is easy, especially at free concerts occupied largely by octogenarians, to get lost between movements and melodies. This is especially true…

Bliss Signal Album Review
Music
48 views
Music
48 views

Bliss Signal Album Review

Ryan Bridgewater - October 18, 2018

  CD/Vinyl/Download At first glance, the worlds of black metal and electronic dance music do not seem to have very much in common. The former is characterised…

New Student Energy Project Launches at Sussex
Campus News
27 views
Campus News
27 views

New Student Energy Project Launches at Sussex

Jessica Hubbard - October 18, 2018

A new Student Energy Project has started at Sussex. The project is run in collaboration with The Student Energy Project, the University Sustainability team and Sussex Students’…

Name Changes Made Easier for Students
Campus News
35 views
Campus News
35 views

Name Changes Made Easier for Students

Matthew Nicholls - October 18, 2018

The University of Sussex will now accept unenrolled deed polls as proof of name change to those who wish, granting more freedom and anonymity to those in…

Sentences Quashed for Fracking Protestors
News
50 views
News
50 views

Sentences Quashed for Fracking Protestors

Jessica Hubbard - October 17, 2018

The court of appeal has quashed sentences handed to 3 fracking protestors calling them "manifestly excessive". Jail sentences of 15- 16 months were given to the three…

In Conversation with Peter Tatchell: Gender, Direct Action and Brexit
News
60 views
News
60 views

In Conversation with Peter Tatchell: Gender, Direct Action and Brexit

Jessica Hubbard - October 17, 2018

Veteran human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, gave a talk on campus. Known for his work with the LGBTQ+ community, he spoke about free speech under attack and…

NUS Backs ‘People’s Vote’
News
38 views
News
38 views

NUS Backs ‘People’s Vote’

kenyon55 - October 17, 2018

The NUS has expressed its support for a national referendum on the final Brexit deal, also referred to as a ‘People’s Vote’. This came after Labour MPs…

Over 1,000 Sign Sussex Fracking Open Letter
Campus News
37 views
Campus News
37 views

Over 1,000 Sign Sussex Fracking Open Letter

Jessica Hubbard - October 17, 2018

An open letter started by Sussex academics has gained over 1,000 signatures. The letter, entitled ‘Open letter from UK academics: The harsh sentencing of anti-fracking campaigners sets…

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Resumes
National News
76 views
National News
76 views

Grenfell Tower Inquiry Resumes

Jessica Hubbard - October 16, 2018

Written by Danielle Ball Shocking witness statements have been heard from the fire crew and call handlers involved in the response to the tragedy The Grenfell Tower…

Renting Unaffordable for Young People
National News
57 views
National News
57 views

Renting Unaffordable for Young People

Jessica Hubbard - October 16, 2018

South East among the most expensive areas to rent as revealed by BBC research. Research carried out by The BBC has found that renting is unaffordable for…

Joe Armon-Jones Brings Jazz to Patterns
Music
69 views
Music
69 views

Joe Armon-Jones Brings Jazz to Patterns

Lara Antoine - October 13, 2018

Photo by Vojta Dvrocek Whether you’ve seen him in Ezra Collective or featuring alongside other breakthrough neo-jazz artists like Mr Jukes. Pianist Joe Armon-Jones is no stranger…

“Climax” review – The return of the French provocateur
Arts
74 views
Arts
74 views

“Climax” review – The return of the French provocateur

Olek Młyński - October 11, 2018

The newest film from the notorious Gaspar Noé was so critically acclaimed at the Cannes Film Festival that the director himself could not believe it. Climax opens…