26th May, 2009: Students at Sussex University have set up camp outside management offices to show their dissatisfaction with controversial new tactics, this week. ‘Camp Against Cuts’, which pitched its first tent last Thursday, now comprises half a dozen well-kept tents festooned with banners. It comes as Sussex management continue to pursue their plans of dropping Linguistics as a course, a decision which raised the anger of thousands of students and staff as well as famous linguists such as Noam Chomsky.
Set amidst tall trees and long grass, the protest’s relaxed attitude befits its pleasant surrounds. ‘This isn’t about pushing for specific demands’, said Raz Meldau, one of the protesters and an officer in the Student’s Union. ‘It’s about letting management know that there is still opposition to their rash decisions, even in the middle of exam season.’ Issues which the camp hopes to raise include the closure of Linguistics, but also include Sussex management’s apparent disregard for decision-making procedures. ‘Above all, we want this to be a place where students across campus can come together and plan opposition for the next academic year.’
Gwen Wilkinson, a student at the University, said that the campus security services had been ‘wonderful’. Relationships with management have been less sunny – after several days of silence, protesters received their first invitation of dialogue only today. ‘We are happy to talk with them but we have no plans to leave in a hurry,’ Wilkinson continued. Asked how long the camp was planned to last, she said its lifespan was ‘indefinite’.
My first experience at the camp was taking part in a ‘laughter workshop’. Twenty minutes later, desperate for breath, I was reminded of how protest can take unusual and entertaining forms. While small, the camp is steadily growing, and there are hopes to use it as a free teaching space on a regular basis. It remains to be seen whether the camp will grow or shrink as students finish their exams. Wilkinson remains optimistic. ‘This should appeal to a lot of students, as it isn’t just about getting angry. It’s about creating a positive space for sharing skills – and having fun.’