The Stop the Cuts sit-in at the University of Sussex ended last Tuesday evening after 24 hours of protests with students declaring this is just the start. Syed Bokhari, one of the protesters, said: “The whole thing is to give management a taster of what’s yet to come, radicalising students, and giving the union’s confidence and we believe we’ve achieved this. It’s the very beginning and there will be more action like this.”
The students had taken over the top floor of Bramber House on the main University Campus in Falmer last Monday evening. The protests are part of an ongoing campaign against management plans to cut 115 jobs in a bid to save £5 million in 2010-11.
Mr Bokhari said that plans have been in place for this type of action since the start of the year and the student body have been waiting for the results of negotiations between the University and College Union (UCU) and the University management. However, when an agreement could not be reached the students took action.
The Stop the Cuts campaign targeted the conference facilities on the top floor of Bramber house with the intention of disrupting management and keeping disturbance to students to a minimum. However, John Duffy, Registrar and Secretary said: “We were clear from the start of this trespass that this was an unnecessary and disruptive action. I want to thank all staff who worked to minimise the disruption caused.
“This trespass has left damage and caused additional costs to the University which we are assessing. The Conference Suite facilities are now being cleaned and returned to proper use for our staff, students and local community.”
The top floor of Bramber house was open and being used for private conferences the next day and students involved denied that any damage was done. During the sit-in the University did move some seminars to alternative buildings. Mr Bokhari said: “They knew we didn’t want to disrupt lessons and there was no reason for them to relocate them other than they wanted to divide the student population over the political action we’re taking.”
The university has a reputation for activism and some students believe the large number of protests can sometimes overwhelm less politically active students. Mr Bokhari, however, said: “This is an issue that has united the whole student body behind us.”
Larissa Rowe, a politics and sociology student, agreed that the Stop the Cuts protests are particularly important for the student body. She said: “There have been a lot of protests and there will be a lot more. This is the main campaign; it’s the only one I’ve been on for a long time”.
Woody, an economics student, felt that it was typical of University of Sussex. He was aware of the cuts and how it would affect different areas of the university but didn’t feel the action would help. He said: “I wasn’t particularly impressed, it’s more of an irritant than anything else because they’re not really getting anything done.”
Protestors raised more than £250 towards the UCU strike fund and hope to continue these collections. On the campaign’s website one student wrote: “This action is only the beginning and it is part of a wider campaign against management’s cuts at Sussex. We intend to continue to bring the fight to management.”
Mr Bokhari confirmed that these protests and occupations are set to continue: “It will become a feature of student life here. We will do everything we can to support the UCU.”
More information about the Stop the Cuts campaign is available at http://www.defendsussex.wordpress.com.