Over 200 University of Sussex students gathered on Sussex campus last week, as protests against the outsourcing of the university’s services reignited.
These new protests are a continuation of Occupy Sussex's original demonstration, in which the main conference building on campus was occupied for many weeks. Seven months later, dissent has reignited with the new academic year.
In a posting on the group’s Facebook, Occupy Sussex called for more democratic participation in all levels of university affairs and demanded a halt to the planned outsourcing of catering, estates and facilities management.
"We also saw an unprecedented amount of private security guards and several police riot vans on campus, despite the fact that the High Court Injunction banning all forms of protest expired yesterday. We reject all attempts by university management to criminalise protests on campus and we will not be intimidated!”
In response, Sussex University released the following statement: "As is always the case with any such events on campus, our security staff were in attendance. Given the violence and damage caused by a protest last March, there was a small number of local police to help ensure safety, but there were no ‘riot police’ on campus."
Ross Davidson, a key activist in the anti-outsourcing movements said: “The aim is to try and stop the outsourcing of the university’s services. We’re making big effects with this cause.”
Davidson explained that although Occupy Sussex's last round of protests had managed to delay the outsourcing of some of the university’s services, many further changes remained undecided.
“The changes were supposed to happen over summer, but they didn’t,” he said, attributing this delay to the actions of his group and their demonstrations.
According to a recent tweet from the Occupy Sussex movement this week’s campaigning has managed to “push other outsourcing back to December.”
However, the protesters are not ready to stop there. With banners reading "Solidarity is Strength" and motivational speeches being made through megaphones, the students marched and chanted around campus, singing, "Sussex, united, will never be defeated!"
Nevertheless, the university insists it is pressing on with marketisation of its services.
It said: “As part of improving services on campus, we are now successfully working with a new catering partner: they have catered for the 4,500 new students over freshers' week and thousands of returning students, staff and visitors during the first weeks of term. We will be announcing our new partner for facilities management in October and look forward to the significant service improvements that will be developed.
"The university has been working to an openly declared timetable, which has not been affected by the protests."
Davidson went on to say the movement is prepared to do anything to try and halt the perceived 'privatisation' of higher education.
“It’s part of the bigger picture of marketisation of higher education," he said. "First they take the services, then they start to bring in the privatisation of the university. This has happened at other universities in the UK where they’ve attempted to privatise the entire university; the academic side, the services… everything! This is the basic picture of what’s happening, and this protest is part of that bigger fight. Education is education, it’s not a business. To say otherwise is unscrupulous.”
Posters around campus and word of mouth suggest that there are many more plans for more demonstrations and protests throughout the term, so this is perhaps not the last we will hear from this movement.