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Sussex shows the way!

Sussex students vote to strike against suspensions

Sussex students vote to strike against suspensions

By KD Tait

Students at Sussex university will walk out tomorrow* in support of five students suspended for taking part in recent protests against privatisation.

The students have been unilaterally suspended from their courses and banned from going onto campus. A petition calling for their reinstatement has gathered over 8,000 signatures in less than week.

More than 600 students held a mass meeting to call the action after a week in which the right to protest has come under attack up and down the country.

The meeting further voted a motion of no confidence in Vice-chancellor Michael Farthing and the VCEG group and demanded the Sussex 5 be reinstated with no disciplinary action.

Sussex has been one of universities to keep the spark of resistance glowing after the defeat on tuition fees and EMA in winter 2010.

No strangers to repressive policing, Sussex students have been subjected to court injunctions, police violence, eviction and arrest in response to a campaign of occupation and protest against privatisation of campus services.

The management of Sussex is determined to impose its market model onto the university. Vice-chancellor Michael Farthing has suspended students and sacked staff, while accepting an £8,000 pay rise – taking his annual salary to £280,000.

The campaign against the privatisation of the profitable conferencing and “catering and facilities” services struck at the heart of this profit-driven model by occupying the conference suite in Bramber House earlier this year.

Students joined the pickets and blockaded the routes into campus on the December 3rd strike by Higher Education unions. This active solidarity was repaid when over 200 members of staff and faculty signed a letter of protest at the suspensions.

University bosses around the country – managers whose wages put them comfortably within the top 1 per cent of earners – are watching Sussex closely. If the bosses can defeat the militant students there, they can win everywhere.

Sussex bosses know they are a test case for full-scale privatisation. Their actions have demonstrated that they are prepared to take any measures necessary to impose their agenda.

But the response of students to these attacks shows that the fight is far from over. The solidarity from the wider movement has popularised their struggle, with delegations from universities up and down the country regularly joining the demonstrations and occupations at Sussex.

The method of democratic assemblies to debate and agree a strategy based on mass direct action shows the way forward for our movement.

Students should adopt the Sussex model, building anti-cuts committees in the departments and student unions on every campus.

These committees should be linked up nationally through regional and national delegate assemblies to coordinate our resistance.

We won’t be silenced by judges, cops or vice-chancellors.

The national day of action to get cops off campus this Wednesday signals the start of an offensive strategy to defend education.

  • Solidarity with the Sussex 5! Lift the suspensions – no victimisation for students and staff involved in protest.
  • Cops off campus! Drop the charges, scrap court injunctions, defend the right to protest and dissent
  • For a national coordination – build local anti-cuts committees coordinated at every level to organise a campaign to defend education.

*After the overwhelming vote of no confidence, Sussex management reinstated the Sussex 5, but intend to pursue disciplinary action. Now we need to escalate to turn a partial victory into total defeat for Michael Farthing.

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