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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.