Searching for blog posts tagged with 'campus politics'

kerfuffle

Nov

08

I came to Sussex excited about getting involved and being a part of what went on here. In the space of a month, that enthusiasm has withered to nothing because it's clear to me that unless I ally myself with a specific group of people and subject myself to their authority on all things, I'm not going to get anything done.

The jist of it is this: the union is dominated at the moment by people who seem to be extremely naive about how their behaviour reflects on the union and consequently influences students. This structure tacitly endorses the behaviour of a specific group of people who bully, harass, and otherwise make Sussex an unpleasant place to be. People have complained about the way elections are run, about the behaviour of campaigners, and the union's response has essentially been, 'No one's doing anything wrong.' The letter of the law, but not the spirit, is that how the saying goes?

At this point, I have zero interest in getting involved with the union any further than the academic societies I'm involved with. There may have only been 8 people at the postgrad society meeting, but at least we didn't spend four hours arguing. If the union is going to dismiss concerns that are stated reasonably, if it's going to continue to lend support-- unspoken or otherwise-- to people who intimidate other students, I don't see why I should get involved with it. I know I'm not alone in this. I've heard from so many people who have tried to get involved, who have tried to change things and make it something that every student can get involved in, only to run into the same problems again and again. To be perfectly blunt, the union and the select group of people who surround it seem more interested in making grand political statements than in actually organising any kind of real, effective action. Letter-writing campaigns? Calling? There are so many things we could be doing but aren't, because the union is bogged down in bureaucracy and subject to the narrow interests of a very small group of people who are willing to fight, bully, and shout louder than everyone else to make their pet causes a priority.

Maybe all this will lead to a change in the union. I'd like to think that our officers are reasonable and are willing to accept their part in this mess. I don't envy them right now, but the fact remains that this is a situation of the union's own doing. This is an opportunity for dialogue; the union can listen to the concerns of a group of students who want to be involved but feel excluded and thereby make itself stronger, or it can continue to spiral into irrelevance.

they're cutting WHAT?

Nov

10

As if it weren't already obvious, the administration at Sussex seem intent on making it even clearer that they do not care about students and students' needs. If you look at this week's Badger, there's an article right on the front page about the meeting, wherein ViceChancellor Farthing (ironic, no?) essentially wants to sell Sussex out to corporations. Now, this might sound like a NMP situation (Not My Problem), but believe me it is. Not only is the university cutting the Union's funding (the Union are those nice people who run Falmer Bar, the East Slope Bar, the ones who sponsor sporting teams, societies, and who advocate for students), they're planning to eliminate jobs in the Life Sciences and Informatics departments. A university which already fails miserably to take care of its student body wants to cut departments, cut courses, fire lecturers, and eviscerate our Union, all in the pursuit of bringing in corporate money. Apparently the uni's trading company is doing poorly; maybe they should ask for a government bailout?

This is fucking ridiculous, and it has got to stop. Already the university administration refuses to work with the Union, puts up roadblocks that prevent the Union communicating with students, and pretty much fails at everything. And these are the people making six-figure salaries. Our Vice Chancellor makes over £200,000 a year, and for what? To continually gut student services? To shuffle around departments and schools to make room for plush management positions? He talks about how we need to 'attract the best staff.' Well, how about you start by not making the rest of your staff fear for their jobs? On what planet do you attract talent by giving the heave-ho to people who currently work for you?

What Farthing is talking about is not 'talent.' What he's talking about is luring in the same sort of people who are already ruining this place. He's talking about administrative people who are probably very good at having meetings and making public statements and wheedling 'investments' out of corporations, but who don't give a damn about education or the students at this university. It's clear they don't; if they did, their administration wouldn't be so utterly incompetent. I've already written a piece for The Badger about this nonsense, about the slow insinuation of corporate interests into higher education, until it's basically a factory for business majors and future bankers. This is precisely what's happening, and cutting our courses, cutting our union, cutting everything but the bloated salaries of these people is their strategy.

And now-- and this pisses me off on an even more personal level-- the administration wants to attract more international students. Do you know why? I do! It's because international students like me pay a shitload of money to be here. We're how they make their money. We are keeping this university afloat, because we don't find out until we get here just how incompetent, greedy, and careless these people are about our education. We don't realise what our options are, and we are fed the university's shiny happy 'best place to be' bullshit from afar for months before we arrive and find that there's no housing, that we're expected to live in shit housing, that our Union is being gutted, that our Vice Chancellor is lining his own pockets at the expense of OUR educations. It's bullshit, and I for one am well pissed off about it.

We have to do something. We have to take action, and we have to do it in a big way. Tomorrow (Wednesday 10 November) is a Stop the Cuts meeting at 5pm in Pevensey. Thursday the 12th is a Council Feedback meeting. NEXT Thursday, the 19th, is the Annual Students' Meeting in Mandela Hall. Show up! Say something! Do something! Because if you don't, you're going to find that things only get worse. You're going to find your Union unable to help you when you have a problem. You're going to find the university cutting your department because it's not profitable. You're going to find your tuition rising. This is not an imaginary situation; it's real, and it's GOING to happen, unless we all stand up and say, "OH NO YOU FUCKING DON'T."

It's not just a problem with the uni, either. It's coming down from the highest levels of government. Education isn't profitable, so it's time to slash the funding for it! After all, MPs have expense accounts to maintain, don't they? The people at the root of the problem are the most powerful people in this country, and we need to make them listen too. Write to your MP, send them emails, call them, pester the hell out of them and remind them that they are NOT in a position of unshakeable power. And for fuck's sake, vote. If I could vote here, I would. If we continue to stand aside and let these people destroy our universities and turn them into factories for corporate drones, we have only ourselves to blame when a new generation of soulless moneygrubbers instigates another economic meltdown and another after that.

We live in a democracy. We do have the power to stand up and be heard, but that power is useless if we're all too lazy or busy or just can't be bothered. Would you say you couldn't be bothered to defend yourself if someone was punching you in the face? No, you'd defend yourself! Well that's what all this is, from the uni administration on up to Gordon Brown: it's a big punch in the face, and I for one am not about to lie there and take it.

troll proximity alert! do not engage!

Feb

19

One of the pitfalls of getting involved in anything is that there are always people who will gleefully tell you why you're wasting your time. There exists an entire culture of do-nothings who seemingly have nothing better to do than throw stones at people with the initiative to try to make a difference. Protesting against war? Pah! Why waste your time? Fighting sexism? We've got equality now, shut your gob! Staging a demonstration? Just be quiet and don't make me think too hard!

You would think that cuts to something as vital as education would have everyone up in arms. After all, we just spent how many billions bailing out banks, and the government is now telling us there's no money? The VC and the rest of VCEG make six-figure salaries, and they're telling us that Sussex has a deficit so we have to sack people? Something stinks here. Anyone with half a brain can figure out that the rhetoric being spouted doesn't match up with what's going on beneath it. Despite that, there is an alarmingly large contingent of people who either don't seem to care or actually find it distasteful to try to do something about it.

The argument comes in many forms and uses many different fallacies, but the jist of it is always the same: why can't you just do what you're told? An authority figure (usually male, usually white, inevitably rich) has told us how things have to be, so why can't we just quietly accept it and go about our business? After all, the rich, white, and powerful always know what's best, don't they?

What all this transparent trolling boils down to is one thing: it is much, MUCH easier and less intimidating to slag off your fellow students than it is to stand up to people with money and power. It's much, MUCH easier to just regurgitate what you've been told by your benevolent leaders than it is to question anything, and it's much, MUCH easier to just shout, "Shut up!" at people than it is to listen to what they have to say.

I've got no time or patience for thoughtless authoritarian kowtowing. If you believe everything you're told by Michael Farthing or Gordon Brown or Peter Mandelson, fine. If you can't be arsed to look any deeper than the surface of the issue, fine. But don't pretend you have some kind of intellectual high ground because of it. And if you start picking at every little detail of, say, a press release or a campaign newsletter, you'd bloody well better be picking at every little detail of what Michael Farthing is saying too.

Apathy and laziness are not noble qualities, and neither is ignorance. Picking fights with other students because you're too scared or lazy to pick them with more powerful people does not make you some kind of brilliant counter-revolutionary. It makes you a coward. Citing your housemate or your friend or your mum as your source in any discussion (unless that person is an expert) is pathetically weak. Imagine trying to cite your grandparents in a term paper. Your tutors would never stand for it, and I'm not going to either.

I will not engage with people who lack basic argumentative skills. I will not discuss complex issues with people whose only interest is in derailing a conversation. I will not respect people who patronise and condescend, and I will not waste my valuable time educating someone who doesn't want to learn. If you want to stick your head in the sand, go right ahead. But don't be surprised if I kick you in the ass.

EGM, occupation, strike

Mar

17

Emergency General Meeting of the Students’ Union at Sussex University tomorrow for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group. It’s at 2pm in Mandela Hall. Why vote no confidence in the university management? Three very good reasons:

  • blatant mismanagement and failure to adequately consult with staff
  • fabricating a hostage situation to bring in riot police and then lying to the high court about the circumstances of that situation to obtain an injunction against non-violent protest
  • summary suspensions of six students with no disciplinary procedure whatsoever, abusing a statute that is meant to be used for violent crime

Even if you think the cuts are ‘inevitable’ and actually believe the rationale the management has presented, their behaviour over the last two weeks has been absolutely unacceptable.

You might have received an email from Pro Vice Chancellor Chris Marlin telling you to go to lectures on Thursday, despite the fact that it’s very possible your lecturer is on strike. This is a clear attempt to try to drive a wedge between students and their tutors. Additionally, the ‘only 6 people to a picket line’ statement is false; it is recommended to only have six, but that is not a rule. Do not let management lie to you.

The situation here at Sussex is reaching a critical point. University Senate meets tomorrow to discuss these proposals. Email Senate to encourage them to vote these proposals down. These proposals are poorly researched, and the Equality Impact Assessments the University is required by law to carry out are insufficient and contain no data. This is bad management.

We have no confidence in VCEG, and we want them to resign.

victories

Mar

19

This week has been amazing. We've struck a few key blows against management and against the government's plans to eviscerate education.

  • Leeds University has won against the threat of several hundred compulsory redundancies
  • Students at Aberdeen University stormed the management building and staged a sit-in
  • Sussex University went on strike for a day, with immense support from students and other workers
  • Sussex University also saw, after a week-long occupation and intense pressure, the full reinstatement of the "Sussex Six"
  • The Sussex University Students' Union passed a motion of "no confidence" in the Vice Chancellor's Executive Group (VCEG)

    Continue reading 'victories'...