Students occupying the university of Sussex will today join striking lecturers in a united campaign to stop massive cuts in higher education and overturn the suspension of six protesters.
The action will take place hours after the students' union passed a motion of no confidence in the university management with a activists hoping the University and Colleges Union (UCU) will be galvanised into an all out strike.
The occupying students plan at 11am to stage a symbolic walk-out to join the staff picket-line. UCU has called one day of industrial action following a 76 percent vote for strike on an 80 percent turnout.
An emergency general meeting was called by the students' union last night as part of the Stop the Cuts campaign and a vote was taken against the University Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group (VCEG).
Richa Kaul Padte proposed the motion. She said: “This is essentially a call for the resignation of VCEG and demonstrates the fact that the balance of power here at Sussex has fundamentally shifted away from management’s control.”
Students are angry at the decision of vice chancellor Michael Farthing to “summarily suspend” six students who took part in a peaceful protest two weeks ago which was attacked by riot police.
The cuts will result in the closure of university creches, nurseries and sexual health centres along with a damaging increase in lecture and seminar sizes and a reduction in student advisors.
There will be a significant reduction in the courses available to students, and students and academics fear Sussex will lose the inter-disciplinary approach to education for which it has been famous.
Moreover, the lowest paid staff will be forced to take pay cuts while Farthing will keep his £222,000 a year salary and more highly paid senior managers will be hired.
The emergency meeting was attended by 850 students with 100 being turned away. The motion of no confidence which also called for the reinstatement of the “Sussex Six” was passed almost unanimously by the quorate meeting.
Ciaran Whitehead, Welfare Sabbatical Officer of USSU, said: “The EGM was possibly the best attended General Meeting in the Union’s history. It shows the students’ complete and utter lack of faith in the people who run the university.”
The vote of no confidence cannot force the resignation of Michael Farthing or of VCEG or the reinstatement of the Sussex Six. However, it puts further pressure on the university management. Just five years ago the “Sort US Out” campaign resulted in the resignation of a vice chancellor.
Richa hopes the Stop the Cuts movement and vote will “galvanise other universities facing cuts to take radical action.” The University of Aberdeen also went into occupation today as a result of proposed cuts across the university.
Visit Stop the cuts: Defend Sussex University blog
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