Sussex Protesters ‘Camp Against Cuts’

Discussion
Meeting in the shade to prepare for the day. Photo © Josh Jones

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.’

3 thoughts on “Sussex Protesters ‘Camp Against Cuts’”

  1. The protest seems a bit vague, how can a protest not be about anything specific?
    That’s rubbish!!
    The protesters are not going to be taken seriously if they can’t say specifically what they are protesting about.

  2. Karina, the protest is about specific issues, many of which are highlighted in the above report. Perhaps you are confused by the point made that the camp does not have specific demands. This is not unusual – similar protests, such as the well-known Climate Camp, also operate without a list of demands.

  3. The protest has been forcefully evicted by a privately hired security firm.

    A statement from the protesters reads as follows:

    Three Students sleeping in tents on Sussex University Campus were apruptly woken up in the early hours of Saturday, 6th June. A bailiff, accompanied by about 15 security staff, ordered them to leave their tents. He then presented them with a court order to immediately leave the premises or face disciplinary action and legal proceedings.

    The students had occupied a piece of land belonging to the campus since Thursday, 28. May. The “Camp against Cuts”, as a big banner advertised it, was intended as a peaceful protest against recent restructuring and cuts to University funding. The Camp had drawn wide support from students and staff at Sussex as well as international academics, among them Noam Chomsky. Still, Sussex management under Vice Chancellor Michael Farthing chose to take action against what they call a “sit-in”.

    Students now accuse management of not being willing to enter into dialogue with them. “The Vice Chancellor agreed to see our delegates only one day before the eviction, when legal proceedings were already in progress” says Jeanne Amery, Sussex Student, “this shows that they never had any intention to negotiate”.

    Protesters are especially aggravated by the fact that for the eviction outside Security staff from a private firm in Brighton was brought in. “They were being very aggressive, knocking down tents with people still in them and pushing cameras into our faces” says Jeanne Amery and adds “we would still like to thank those members of Sussex security staff who have been very constructive and professional throughout the protest.”

    Sussex University has a history of taking legal action against peaceful stundet protest, such as in the occupation of the library in 2006. A court hearing about the protest will be held on the 11 of June.

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