Sussex Students’ Union has drawn criticism from students and it’s own officers for poor “organisation and a lack of communication” in supporting the ‘Save our Education’ Demo which was held in library square on the 10th November.
At its height, the demo had 19 protesters, including four members of the Students Union and four members of the Badger Newspaper.
Organised by a student and supported by the Students Union, the demo was held in protest against the University of Sussex’s decision to raise tuition fees to £9,250 for new and continuing students in 2017.
Fi Halfacre, the Officer for Students with Disabilities, speaking about the Students Union said “They didn’t communicate well enough. I know a lot of activists who felt personally confused and verging on offended.
“They didn’t message us at all and I know there were frustrations and those frustrations were not listened to.”
Answering a question on whether the frustrations were focused on the demo in particular, they said “yeah, about the organisation and lack of communication, they should have asked people who have done campus demos before because we know how to do this and we know how to call these and there needs to be a recognition that maybe they don’t have the expertise for this”.
They went on to add “we were contacted very late and only after those within the officer team were given a gentle suggestion that they might like to contact student activist groups because that’s how you get people to demo”.
Although organised by a student, Students’ Union full time officers led the demo upon arriving and gave a speech to the group.
David Black, a second year Mathematics student said “Although unfortunately the elected officers work incredibly hard at their job, they are stretched too thin meaning they are unable to mobilise demos along with paid members of the SU, who often feel like they are working for management rather than students”.
Whilst a student who was present at the demo said “the enthusiasm was there but numbers were not”.
Max Dixon, a student activist said “no one knew it was happening until the last minute.
“But it’s just one of those things, all activists have organised things badly. Hopefully it will be a learning curve.”
In response, Savannah Sevenzo, Undergraduate Education Officer said “we had a very short time to organise it and we have just put this together as another way of promoting the national demo.
“I think it’s been quite positive in the sense that people know who they can contact and how to reach out to the larger student population.
“I think it’s always worth doing a demo, even if however many people turn up so that you can then extend your forces to promote in the future.”
Answering a question as to whether there was a communication problem between the Students’ Union and students, Rose Taylor, Postgraduate Education Officer said “potentially yeah, as Savannah said this was all planned quite late just because it was after the TEF rankings had come out, so we communicated when we could”.
Picture Credit: Freya Marshall Payne