Countless cancelled lessons, buildings occupied and damaged, and five suspended; Sussex students now deem the ongoing protests to be nothing but a nuisance.
With coursework deadlines and exams approaching, cancelled lectures and seminars are the last thing students want to get in their way, let alone the inability to walk from one building to another without being bombarded with the onslaught of frustrated student protesters. People are forgetting what they are at university for.
It seems that the University of Sussex students feel a constant need to be in opposition to something. I do not dispute the fact that each individual has an opinion and thus the freedom of speech, yet is this form of verging-on-violent-protest really necessary!? Whether it be a flyer, a loud, disruptive march, (junk) emails or having their reasons for protest forced down the ears of fellow peers, the protestors of Sussex seem to be invading every aspect of Uni life. Within their ‘manifesto’ as it were, the protestors claim “One of our main aims was to raise awareness… and we have done this”… Hats off to you all!..?This argument was further proclaimed in their demonstration earlier this week on the 5th December. Although they have evidently achieved this goal, it seems that their only strategy is to continue with what they have already been doing, aside from the fact that they have not been able to succeed in any other area. Is it possible to suggest that they are fighting a regressive cause, or one that is simply going round in circles?
Understandably the Vice Chancellor and those of great importance in the decision-making of the University’s future are not likely to immediately agree to a meeting with representatives of the student movement, yet these students are not making it easier for themselves. Yes, they have achieved awareness and made themselves heard but this ‘intended’ disruption is not proving to be a positive one. It has been stated that as a result of the unruly marches which caused the defacing of campus buildings such as Sussex House earlier in the year, the continuing student activism has resulted in unnecessary and wasteful repercussions. The University are spending on average £4,000 a day, just under half of what each student pays per year on hiring campus security. Is throwing away this amount per day really going to enhance University management’s sympathy towards protestors?
In addition, having spoken to many students who have not taken an active role with the minority, when asked about the protestors, they replied: ‘they are just noise and are becoming a disruption to my education’ and a student employee of Eat Central, one of the student Canteens stated: “I’m not for privatisation, or anti protest, but I do think students need to be more aware of the knock on effects of occupying buildings. I have lost forty hours of work in the run up to Christmas due to the occupation at Bramber House. Eat Central has reduced its opening hours and the staff who are losing out on work are students on zero hour contracts!”
The majority of those who opposed or are indifferent to the whole cause effectively suggest that the way in which the protestors are going about spreading their message in order to fight for what they believe in, or make a change…to whatever that may be, is fundamentally wrong. These forms of protest are essentially a disturbance.
Finally there is the newly initiated case of ‘the Sussex Five’, similar to that of the previous ‘Sussex Six'(suspended in 2010), this being the five students who were recently suspended by the Vice Chancellor as a result of ‘persistent disruption’ to the University as leading figures in the movement. Whilst many may see the suspension as a warning for future disruptive activities, it seems the heated protestors view this differently. The suspension led to a speedy demonstration the following day in which the so-called ‘Sussex Five’ were made to sound like five super-heroes, trapped by the evil forces that were Sussex’s head figures.
Although the prevention of students from their earned (and paid for) right to an education is somewhat slightly extreme, the response of the University shows that they will not simply offer an empty threat. If the protesting students do not change their strategies or level of disruption caused on campus, similar punishments are likely to follow.
All in all, it seems that the protestors of Sussex are fighting for the sake of fighting with their reasons for protest continually shifting they do not present a worthwhile argument. Students should reconsider their priorities as to why they are at university and their primary reason for being there, an education.