Sussex University occupied over staff and course cuts

Posted on February 10, 2010 by

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Part of the University of Sussex was occupied for 29 hours on the 8th of February by the group Defend Sussex in protest over impending cuts to both staff and courses.  The following statement was released by the occupiers:

We have occupied the top floor of Bramber House, University of Sussex, Brighton. There are 106 of us.

The decision to occupy has been taken after weeks of concerted campaigning during which the university management have repeatedly failed to take away the threat of compulsory redundancies and course cuts.

We recognise that an attack on education workers is an attack on us.

The room we have occupied is not a lecture theatre but a conference centre. As such, we are not disrupting the education of our fellow students; rather, we are disrupting a key part of management’s strategy to run the university as a profitable business.

They’re occupying everywhere in waves across California, New York, Greece, Croatia, Germany and Austria and elsewhere – and not only in the universities. We send greetings of solidarity and cheerful grins to all those occupation movements and everyone else fighting the pay cuts, cuts in services and jobs which will multiply everywhere as bosses and states try and pull out of the crisis.

But we are the crisis.

Profitability means nothing against the livelihoods destroyed, lost homes, austerity measures, green or otherwise. We just heard we’ve increased ‘operational costs’ – they’d set out the building for a meeting and now they’ll have to do it again

We’ll show them “operational costs.”

Occupy again and again and again.

NO CUTS ANYWHERE.

THE UNIVERSITY IS A FACTORY. STRIKE. OCCUPY.

-All the occupiers of the 8th of February.

Although the occupation ended peacefully after 29 hours (following a large solidarity demo outside), it is likely that the staff are to vote through strikes next week following  a similar vote at Leeds.  Indeed, with the cut of funding by the government of half a billion pounds announced in December all universities are set to be forced to cutback or in as many as 30 cases close, making further unrest very likely on a scale unprecedented for British universities and students.

Anti-University-privatisiation protests and campaigns have been very active in Europe and the world for many years, but Britain has tended to lag behind with an atmosphere of much greater apathy.  Southampton in particular is not particularly well known for student activism, but the recent campaign instigated by sports studies students faced with their courses being cut (as previously covered by the Blowhole) has shown that student activism still has some presence in Southampton.

It is also likely that the Universities and College Union (UCU) branch at the University of Southampton will resist staff cuts, which were already  in the pipeline for admin staff even before the governments fundng cut.  The new Vice-Chancellor made clear in an interview with The Independent that several subject areas will be cut in his tenure, which is believed to be most likely in the humanities and social sciences as they have a lower profile here as well as being less profitable for research, and has started with sports.

It seems possible that within not much time strikes by admin staff and lecturers will be likely in Southampton, potentially along with student activists from the threatened courses and hopefully beyond too.  Many are beginning to ask whether their courses and quality of education should be cut or suffer due to the government’s cuts brought about by the Banker’s Bailouts last year, and why we should be paying for their crisis with our education.  Will Southampton’s students rise to the challenge?

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Posted in: News, Students, UK