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elitism at its worst



100 people at Sussex are going to lose their jobs. 40% of the Informatics Department is being cut, and 5 people in English. Vice Chancellor Michael Farthing makes a quarter of a million pounds.

This situation is typical of big-business thinking, which has insidiously crept into higher education and is trying to turn universities into businesses. People like Michael Farthing don't understand the value of education for its own sake, the importance of investing long-term in a population that can think critically. All they understand is money. They want more of it for themselves, and they have no scruples about who they have to fire to get it. If the VC really cared about the dire state of Sussex's finances, he'd volunteer for a salary cut himself. But no. As usual, the people at the top continue to rake in fat paychecks while the people beneath them lose their jobs.

This is unacceptable. The government, easily prostituted as it is, bails out banks and failing businesses and passes the loss onto us, students, ordinary people who don't have the benefit of a prestigious job with a bloated salary. They eviscerate funding for education and hand the money over to the people who caused the recession, people who will do this again and again and again because they have seen no consequences for their greed and incompetence. MPs abuse their expense accounts and try to justify their greed and avarice. It's outrageous.

There is a protest today at 1pm in Library Square. We will be marching to Sussex House with P45 forms for Michael Farthing, our greedy and incompetent Vice Chancellor. But it can't stop there. It doesn't stop there. Farthing is just passing the buck that the government has handed him, instead of standing up for the students he's supposed to be helping. He is only part of an overall system that privileges people in business and stomps on everyone else. Write your MP. Write them a lot. Inundate them with angry letters. Demonstrate. DO something. There are more of us than there are of them.

Stop the Cuts: 26 November 2009



Over 200 students gathered at Library Square yesterday to protest the massive cuts that Sussex is facing. About 100 staff members are to be made redundant across a variety of departments. Meanwhile, top university administrators pull in 6-figure salaries.

Continue reading 'Stop the Cuts: 26 November 2009'...

Stop the Cuts: 3 December 2009



An emergency meeting of University Senate took place on Thursday morning to discuss management's proposals for cuts, and students and staff turned out in large numbers to make their voices heard. Over 500 people made their way to Bramber House in a procession half a mile long, chanting, "No ifs, no buts, no education cuts!"

Continue reading 'Stop the Cuts: 3 December 2009'...

microcosm and macrocosm



Everywhere you look, management is passing the buck. VCEG claims that government higher education funding cuts have caused the deficit here at Sussex. They point the finger at Lord Mandelson, the elitist peer who wants unis to run like businesses. What VCEG doesn't tell you is that they've spent the last ten years grossly mismanaging Sussex. In "From the Top Down," they discuss several projects that executive members of staff put themselves in charge of, whether they were qualified to oversee them or not. The result, naturally, was that the projects went over budget. When official university communication says that management was incompetent, you know it's bad. Apart from that, £3m is lost in Icelandic banks because whoever invested it made a poor choice.

But VCEG doesn't answer to anyone but VCEG. Over the years, they have increasingly consolidated power into their own hands and used Senate and Council not as consultation tools but rubber stamps. "Your job is to comment, not vote," Michael Farthing told University Senate last week when they demanded a vote on the proposals to cut jobs. It is this sort of totalitarian governance that is the problem here at Sussex.

Now the management has created an email address: They claim they want feedback from students and staff, but instead of meeting with us, speaking with us, they want us to fill out a questionnaire or send in an email. Why? Because those are easily ignored. Management will cherry-pick select bits from these emails, no doubt, and find some way to use them to justify their plan to eviscerate this university.

We demand more than just an email address. We demand real consultation, especially given the gross incompetence that management has displayed over the years and their complete failure to be held accountable for it. We also demand that management produce the research they allegedly did into alternatives to job and service cuts. So far they have refused to produce any such document. We demand transparency.

Sussex management is reproducing the global financial crisis in microcosm. They fail to plan properly, they invest badly, they mismanage, and the result is a deficit. Management knows that their salaries constitute a large portion of the university budget, but they have refused to consider any kind of pay cut for themselves. If they have the university's best interests at heart, as they claim to, they will put themselves on the chopping block first. But like bankers that still demand huge bonuses in the midst of a recession, VCEG refuse to be touched by the recession. They see themselves as above accountability, above the consequences of their actions. They caused this deficit, and now they are profiting from it.

take action



There are a lot of things you can do to fight the cuts at Sussex on a personal level. You don't have to march or chant or chain yourself to a door. What's most important is that we get people involved and make them aware of the cuts and how to stop them.

  • Boycott the NSS. The National Student Survey is used to rank universities. It's one of the only things VCEG cares about, so we are refusing to fill it out. Computer surveys and website rankings are not an adequate judge of education. And contact the NSS to tell them that.
  • Talk to people. Tell them about what's going on. A flyer or a poster don't have nearly the same impact that face-to-face conversation have.
  • Read the Defend Sussex blog, which has the latest information about the cuts and the campaign.
  • Get involved on a School level. Lots of the Schools facing cuts have their own sections of the movement, like the School of English. Find out what your fellow students are doing.
  • Be creative. There are lots of ideas in the pipeline for Stop the Cuts events that are unusual and creative.
  • Speak out. Write your MPs, write to the Sussex management, write to the press, contact anyone who might listen to tell them what's going on here and how we all oppose it.

We can stop these cuts, and support from outside the university is growing every day. But we need everyone to get involved. We're all in this together.

acceleration, a whistling kettle, a rocket blasting off



The next Stop the Cuts rally is on Monday 8 February at 2pm. We're going to have speakers talking about the various segments of the campaign and hopefully some people from the community. Support for us is growing every day. UCU is balloting on strike action soon, the City Council has officially condemned the cuts, and Monday's rally promises to be the biggest yet.

troll proximity alert! do not engage!



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



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.




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'...