Public statement regarding the decision to ask the Socialist Workers Party to stop bringing their paraphernalia to demonstrations

I am writing this to provide an update about the decision to ask the SWP to stop bringing their paraphernalia to demonstrations. I write to you as both a survivor who was affected by the visible SWP presence at demonstrations, and as a member of the campaign.

The Anti-Privatisation Campaign at Sussex University formally requested to the Socialist Works Party that they refrain from bringing any placards, banners, posters, papers, or other paraphernalia that displays the Socialist Worker logos to our demonstrations. The SWP have responded in agreement, and they will no longer be bringing any memorabilia to our events.

The campaign wishes to be open and transparent, and the reason for this decision is as follows. It was reported to the campaign that some people were uncomfortable attending demonstrations because they find a visible SWP presence to be upsetting and in some cases triggering, due to the way that the SWP handled the allegations made by former members of the party. Heavy political opposition and unrest arose from this due to many members of the student body disagreeing with how the SWP handled these allegations.

The campaign has a safe space policy that it upholds and respects, and this includes taking it very seriously when people come forward as being affected by something at their events which contravenes this. The safe space policy states that “we work on the basis of the concept of consent. We do not support any victim blaming, rape apologism, or ‘slut’ shaming, and view the crossing of consent as completely unforgivable” (for the full policy, see http://sussexagainstprivatization.wordpress.com/about/safe-space/).The campaign prioritise the well-being of the people who are being affected over those who are causing the effect.

During the campaign meeting when I raised the issue of the SWP presence, I said that I do not want to ban SWP members from the campaign or events, as the issue lay with the visible presence and what that symbolises to the survivors such as myself and others, many of whom have raised this concern. I said that the ultimate issue was for the campaign to take a stance on the fact that people are being affected at events. The campaign has done this, and I hope that you will respect what I have asked and understand why I have asked for it.

The delay in this statement arose from the fact that I struggled to write it, as it is obviously a very sensitive and personal issue. I have seen the campaign come under attack for not releasing a statement, but it was because they were giving me time to write what happened in my own words, in a way that I feel comfortable with. I hope that you can appreciate why I needed this time and understand that the delay was not the fault of the campaign.

Most importantly, I would like to express that I cannot give enough thanks to those people who came forward as being upset, as it gave me the strength to speak up, and allowed the campaign to reach this important decision. I hope that you agree with what I asked of the campaign in that meeting, and I hope that you will now feel safe coming to demonstrations. Thank you once again.

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University of Sussex disciplinary hearing collapses, as the top QC’s stand alongside students, for not holding fair trials.

Friday, four students suspended from the University of Sussex, and now being dragged through politically motivated internal disciplinary hearings, were told that the proceedings would not go ahead, in light of the fact that the Chair of the panel was politically biased, not impartial, and thus unable to continue in his role.

The entire process has been dissolved, and the University will now be forced to consider whether their kangaroo court will reconvene in a new form, faced with accusations of breaching human rights legislation, and neglecting to adhere to their duties under the Education Act, alongside national pressure from MP’s, students and staff.

Pro VC Prof Michael Davies was forced to step down from his position on the panel, as his record and position would make the ability of the panel to act in an unbiased manor impossible. Four barristers, including Geoffrey Robertson QC and Paul Bowen QC, forcefully submitted to the panel that the hearings should be held in a public setting, as ‘justice must be seen to be done ’ and that the make up of the panel was unacceptable. This was backed by a letter from over forty Sussex Professors, casting into doubt the ability of Pro VC Davies to be involved.

‘Today just shows that management at Sussex are entirely incompetent, and our suspensions and the current processes are nothing more than an ideological attack on student protest’ Lewis Nielsen

The students are facing disciplinary action for their involvement in legitimate and peaceful protest, in an attack on the right to protest and democracy on our campuses.

‘The presence of our legal team today just shows how much is at stake in this. I believe our rights to freedom of speech and assembly are being illegalyattacked, as do all of our supporters. The role of the public University is to encourage critical thinking, and the administration at Sussex seem to oblivious to this.” Michael Segalov

The lawyers, witnesses and students walked out of the hearing to a crowd of students and staff braced the rain to show their support for the campaign and the students involved. Geoffrey Robertson QC addressed the rally, saying:

‘If theses students had been suspended, disciplined, or even fined, that would be a very bad precedence for Universities across the country. The amount that is at stake is precisely why me, and my colleagues from Doughty Street Chambers have come down to today to the University of Sussex.’
Geoffrey Robertson QC

Today comes only weeks before a National demonstration and meeting of students in Birmingham, called by groups across the country, to discuss how to escalate the current resurgence in student activism.

‘These knee jerk and draconian disciplinaries which are being seen here and in Birmingham already, are indicative of senior managers across campuses fear of the vociferous critique of the marketisation sweeping over higher education. Management continue to prioritise disciplinaries over dialogue.’
Adriano Merola Marotta

 

Media:

Geoffrey Robertson at Sussex University Supporting Student Protest:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh1mFeRhhDg&feature=youtu.be

 

Sussex student protesters’ hearing collapses
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/sussex-student-protesters-hearing-collapses/2010585.article

 

Sussex University students hearing bias?
http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jan/17/sussex-university-student-hearing-bias?CMP=twt_gu

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Disciplinary hearing 2.0

In 2010, ‘the Sussex 6’, were suspended for protesting. In 2013, ‘the Sussex 5’, were suspended for protesting against privatisation and pay cuts in higher education. The evidence given for the suspensions were as ridiculous as ‘encouraging a team of protesters with a megaphone’. Pictures show the suspended students next to many fellow protesters who did
the same but weren’t suspended. This and the fact that, in both cases, some of the suspended students weren’t even present at the events that provoked the suspensions, shows how arbitrary they are.


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After daily demonstrations, a SU Emergency Members Meeting for the Sussex 5 with over 750 students and a tremendous amount of solidarity statements from all over the country the physical bans from campus were lifted. In a disciplinary hearing the Sussex 6 got a huge fine. The Sussex 5 face the same hearing on Friday the 17th of January. They will be heard one by one in an unannounced location for at least 45 minutes each. In the hearing will be Juliette Cule, representative of the Students’ Union; Liz James, head of Senate (which is appointed by management); Geoffrey Robertson, human rights lawyer, defending the students and it will be chaired by Michael Davies, member of management. They are not public and the 5 are not allowed to communicate with each other until they are all over.

The outcome could range from a fine to an expulsion. Even a fine is a violation against the freedom of speech. Sai Englert, one of the Sussex Six says: ‘I always felt a mixture of fear for the future of my studies and that in some way it is a sort of badge of honour’.

Join the solidarity demonstration at 1pm in Library Square on Friday to show mangement that Sussex will not be intimidated by disciplinary action!

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Statement of the Students’ Union on the “reinstatement” of the Sussex 5

The five students who were suspended and excluded from the University have been informed that their suspensions and exclusions from the campus have been lifted, but they still face disciplinary action.

The students were suspended by the Vice-Chancellor on Wednesday 4th December, with allegations that they posed “a threat to the safety of well being of students, staff of visitors to the University”, “a potential hazard to sustaining the University’s policies on Health and Safety”, or due to “criminal charges… pending or where the student is the subject of police investigation”.

Sussex has united behind the students, with messages of support from students and staff, a petition with over 9100 signatures, successive successful demos, and a quorate Emergency Members Meeting where students expressed their support for revoking the suspensions, tomorrow’s day of action, and for no confidence in the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group.

The fight is not over however. The students are still facing disciplinary action for which they have still not seen any evidence.

We call on all students to join in with our day of action tomorrow to send a message to the University that Sussex is united behind our students.

We see this as a helpful trend considering the crackdown on student protest nationally, but still urge all students to be united behind this cause.

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Reinstate the Sussex Five! Week of Action

Five Sussex students have been suspended indefinitely for taking part in legal demonstrations and occupations against uni management’s privatisation plans and in support of the recent staff strike. This is an attempt by management to intimidate students from exercising their right to democratically protest. In recent weeks we have seen an occupation at Birmingham violently evicted, and the disgraceful scenes at the University of London, where protesting students were subject to shocking police violence.

Join the week of action at Sussex to reinstate the Sussex Five!

MONDAY 9TH DEC

12.30pm – Rally in Library Square, with Sussex students speaking, leading into Emergency Members Meeting of the Students’ Union below.

1pm – Emergency Members Meeting of the Student Union to pass motions calling for Student Walk Out on Tuesday 10th in support of Sussex Five and other actions (this needs 450 students present to have decision making power, so please all students come along!) https://www.facebook.com/events/218755721640464/?fref=ts

6pm - Defend the Right to Protest Open Meeting to discuss the crackdown on student democracy at Sussex and how to fightback against it, with Alfie Meadows (a student nearly killed by police at student protest then charged with violent disorder), Ian Bradley (electrician in successful fight against 35% wage cuts and in campaign against blacklist), a Sussex student protestor, Jelena Timotijevic (convenor of Defend the Right to Protest campaign), Ellie Mae O’Hagan (Guardian journalist and activist). https://www.facebook.com/events/581181388619178/?fref=ts

TUESDAY 10TH DEC – SUSSEX DAY OF ACTION TO REINSTATE THE SUSSEX FIVE

Student Walk Out to Reinstate the Sussex Five - Don’t attend your lectures and seminars in support of the suspended students and to demand management to reinstate them! Come to the demonstration at 1pm in Library Square!

8.30am onwards - Education picket lines on entrances to campus and lecture theatres to encourage student not to walk out and not go to lessons, and to join the demonstration at 1pm to demand the reinstatement of the five students

1pm - Demonstration demanding the reinstatement of the Sussex Five, 1pm Library Square - https://www.facebook.com/events/245388152287699/?fref=ts

It is crucial we get as much students involved in these actions to show management that we will not tolerate unjust disciplinary action and intimidation of students, and that we demand an immediate end to the suspensions!

WEDNESDAY 11TH DEC – NATIONAL DEMO #COPSOFFCAMPUS AT ULU, London WC1E 7HY

Students have the University of London have faced police violence and arrests for the past 3 weeks. A Sussex Students has been unjustly targeted by the police for legally demonstrating. Join the national demonstration against police violence and police on campus - https://www.facebook.com/events/565580810188930/?previousaction=join&source=1

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Solidarity statements for the Sussex Five

Five Sussex Students have been suspended indefinitely for taking part in protests against the privatisation of the university and in support of the recent staff strike for fair and equal pay. Management are trying to intimidate and deter students from voicing opposition to management plans and from supporting strike action taken by staff.

Below is a list of people and organisations we have received support statements from so far. Please send statements from student unions, trade unions and any other campaigns to sussexagainstprivatisation@gmail.com.

Caroline Lucas MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

John McDonnell MP

Peter Hain MP and Sussex alumni

Owen Jones, journalist and activist

Will Self, author and journalist

Ellie Mae O’Hagan, Guardian journalist

Will Heard, musician

Josie Long, comedian

Frankie Boyle, comedian and Sussex alumni

Phelim Maccafferty, Deputy Leader of Brighton Council

Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East Region

Davy Jones, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown

Rachel Wenstone, NUS Vice-President for Education

University of London Student’s Union

Goldsmith’s University Student Union

University of Sussex UCU

University of Brighton UCU

Mark Campbell, UCU National Executive Committee

London Metropolitan University UCU

Dundee UCU

West Midlands UCU

University of Winchester UCU

Cityclean workers from Brighton Bin Depot

Brighton and Hove Unison Branch

Young Greens, the youth branch of the Green Party of England and Wales

Chesterfield College UCU branch

Unite the Resistance steering committee

Ian Allinson, Unite Executive Committee member

Gurminder K Bhambra, Senior Sociologist at Warwick University

EU Erasmus energy research team, University of Leeds

Phil Turner, vice chair South Yorks NUJ

Andrew North, Birmingham NUT Executive member

Davy Jones, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Brighton Kemptown

Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah, Liberal Jewish chaplain, Sussex University

Jane Kelly, UCU (retired)

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Northfield workers support the suspended students because the suspended students supported the northfield workers

Northfield workers support the suspended students because the suspended students supported the northfield workers

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OFFICIAL STATEMENT ON SUSPENSIONS

Five Sussex students were today, Wednesday 4th December, suspended by Vice-Chancellor, Michael Farthing as he exercised his “authority to temporarily suspend [their] studies and exclude [them] from the University campus.” The suspensions follow protests against the outsourcing of Sussex services to private companies, the occupation of Bramber House in support of fair pay in higher education and the presence of students at the picket lines on the December 3rd national strike.

The occupation was a legal, peaceful means of protest and one undertaken as a last resort. Approximately one hundred students entered the conference centre on Tuesday 26th November in a calm, non-confrontational manner. The occupation was not disruptive to any academic activity nor were any academic lectures rescheduled or disrupted as a result of its presence. Its purpose was to reclaim a University space now owned by a profit-driven private company and to support striking staff in their endeavours to gain fair and equal pay. Any “disruption”, then, was to the private company and its business ends as opposed to students or University staff. It raises concern that Management prioritise the concerns of a business above the concerns of their students and employees. Further, it is laughable that Management have chosen to accuse students of “intimidating” behaviour given the continued and systematic intimidation and censorship of those involved in legitimate, peaceful protests at the University.

Last year, Sussex students voted overwhelmingly against the forthcoming outsourcing (a decision made by Management without any consultation with the student body, staff or relevant unions) in a referendum held by the Student’s Union. Furthermore, a large number of students came to join the picket lines on December 3rd in support of a nationally organised strike. In spite of any such empiricism, Management continue to disingenuously assert that any protests and campaigns at Sussex are composed of a “disruptive minority” of students.
The suspended students are being scapegoated as the “ringleaders” of the campaign against privatisation. This assertion is factually flawed in that the anti-privatisation movement is, and has always been, horizontally organised and involved no leadership. As such, there are no positions or hierarchies within the anti-privatisation campaign. Management cite the Five’s “organising role[s]” in the occupation. Such language misunderstands not only the nature of the movement, but the ideas and ideals of democracy – any “organising” is, and was, always undertaken by all of the individuals in the movement.
The suspensions are arbitrary, unjustifiable and detrimental to the education of five, academically high-performing students (three of whom are also representatives in the Students’ Union). Such punishment, beyond being morally deplorable, directly contravenes rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (Arts 10 & 11) and undermines the ethic of care which ought to be present in any educational institution.

It is beyond regrettable that Management continue to ignore requests by students and staff for meaningful dialogue and chose instead to intimidate, criminalise and penalise those who speak against them. Their methods and approaches are indicative of their detachment from the campus community. Intimidation, suspensions and evictions continue to be a preferred (if a more costly) way of dealing with legitimate concern and peaceful resistance at the University of Sussex.

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5 protesters got suspended

1451607_10153579590860182_1194288772_nWednesday the 4th of December, 5 students were suspended by the Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing for their involvement in the occupation of the Bramber House Conference Centre which ended yesterday. The occupation left peacefully to support the nation-wide strike in defence of Fair Pay in Higher Education.

The five students have been suspended because of their role in the occupation and “persistent disruption of the University operation”. Clearly, they singled out five students for their involvement in a movement of students and staff fighting for a more democratic university.
Draconian suspensions are not democratic.

The five students may be accompanied by more students as events unfold. They have been banned from campus and suspended from their studies effectively immediately, whilst they wait for the university’s disciplinary procedures to decide whether they are guilty or not of these allegations.

Management are scared by staff and students protesting for a more democratic university: Come to Library Square on Thursday at 1pm to show that Sussex WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED.

Demonstrate for the freedom to protest!
Tomorrow at 1pm in Library Square!

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Final statement from the Bramber House occupation

We, the occupiers of Bramber House, are leaving our occupation in order to join our staff at the picket lines in the fight for fair pay in higher education. These staff are fighting against a 13% pay cut since 2008, a gendered pay gap and for the living wage.

We occupied to raise awareness of the strike and also to reclaim this privatised space, which is now used by Chartwells, in an act of civil disobedience against the privatisation of Sussex services. We chose this location as it is symbolic of the marketisation of higher education – which is itself part of a wider austerity program under the current Coalition Government – and we wanted to make a clear stand against this ideology. For one week, we reclaimed this space and made it public again just as we aim to do in the broader context of higher education.

One of our main aims was to raise awareness of the strike, and we have done this. Through discussions with staff, they have supported the occupation but have also affirmed that they wished for us join their numbers at the strike. Now, we are leaving to stand with our staff in the way that they requested; we will be joining them at the picket lines and urging students and staff not to break the picket.

The hundreds of messages of support have been overwhelming, thank you. We extend our solidarity to Birmingham who, like us, have also been faced with intimidation tactics by university management who have shown time and time again that they would rather take legal action against occupiers and pay tens of thousands in legal fees than engage in dialogue with students to whom they are meant to be accountable. However, occupations by Sheffield, Edinburgh, Ulster, Exeter and other universities across the country show that student bodies will not tolerate fear tactics employed by unaccountable university managements. We have been proud to be part of this broader wave of student occupations fighting austerity in higher education. We urge the trade unions and students to continue taking collective action to secure a future where educational institutions are places of knowledge, not market run production lines.

To reiterate, we demand the following of Sussex University management:

1. To bring privatised Chartwells catering and conferencing services back in-house and to revoke the impending contract with Interserve which intends to privatise estates and facilities management in January 2014.

2. A restructuring of democratic procedures of the university, led by students, staff and lecturers with the purpose of re-evaluating channels for holding management accountable, as well as reviewing and extending student and workers’ say in decision making processes.

3. An end to the intimidation that senior and middle management have used to deter students and workers from airing and acting on their concerns.

4. To publicly address the issues of the strike on the 3rd of December, including a written statement calling on the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) to meet the demands of the trade unions in question.

5. To issue a public statement demanding more funding for higher education institutions from the government in order to abolish tuition fees and ensure high quality education accessible to all.

These are steps that need to be taken in order to achieve a more equitable society in which education is a right and not a privilege. These are the things that we will continue to fight for.

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