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Stop the Cuts: 26 November 2009

Nov

27

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.

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From the Top Down

Dec

04

I watched an interesting film on Wednesday, which you can find online here. It's called From the Top Down. The film exposes the mismanagement of Sussex University by its top administrators, and though it was made three years ago, the situation continues. Apart from department and individual names, everything is much the same. Highly-paid management incompetently do their jobs, and the result is huge deficits and projects going over budget. Sound familiar? The same sort of elitist backslapping that went on in the financial sector and led to the global recession is also going on at the top levels of our universities. These people must be stopped. They must be held accountable for their failures instead of passing the consequences on to students and staff.

Stop the Cuts: 3 December 2009

Dec

04

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!"

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microcosm and macrocosm

Dec

09

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: proposal@sussex.ac.uk. 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

Jan

29

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

Feb

01

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.

OCCUPATION!

Mar

03

I'll be doing a full write-up on my Wordpress blog tomorrow, with photos and videos, but for the time being just a few quick points.

  • The presence of riot police with batons, pepper spray, and constantly barking dogs was completely unnecessary and created an atmosphere of aggression and tension. As did the 15 or so police vehicles parked along the road. In my opinion, this was a deliberate attempt to escalate the situation and incite violence.
  • Registrar John Duffy apparently barricaded himself inside Sussex House when it was occupied and refused to come out. This was a transparent attempt to try to make the students occupying look like captors when they were not. Shame on him. Students encouraged staff to leave the building and did not intimidate them on their way out.
  • The sound system was a brilliant idea-- we should have one at every demo.

Today was a national day of action, and demonstrations took place at universities all over the UK. To find out more about what happened elsewhere, visit the National Campaign Against Fees & Cuts blog.

Coming events:

  • Stop the Cuts organisational meeting - Thursday 5pm Falmer Common Room
  • Demonstration outside University Senate - Friday 8.30am Bramber house to show your support for Senators in opposing management's proposals
  • Demonstration protesting excessive police presence and violence - Friday, TBA
  • March for Jobs - Saturday 12pm The Level, Brighton

Links:

Defend Sussex blog

Sussex Stop the Cuts Twitter

Stop the Cuts Facebook group

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)

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