A High Court judge has refused to make a decision to evict the so-called ‘Occupy Sussex’ protest on the grounds that they should be given more time to argue their case. This comes after Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, expressed his support for the student protest, which opposes the privatisation of university services.
Students and faculty have been protesting since February 8th, when a sit-in was staged at the university’s conference centre, in opposition to contracting of the university’s non-academic services to a private company.
On Monday Liam Burns emphasised that NUS supported the Sussex campaign, saying: “NUS does not believe it is acceptable that services for students and staff at a public institution should be sold to the highest bidder.”
He issued his comments before the protests turned violent on Monday and Tuesday, when, it is alleged, protestors caused damage to university property, breaking windows and painting slogans on inside walls. The university subsequently began legal proceedings to evict protestors from Bramber House, the home of the sit-in. However the judge today adjourned these so that the protestors had more time to prepare their case.
Concerns about the “privatisations” have centred around the perceived impact that the move will have on pay and conditions for university staff, and the resultant working environment for students. A statement issued by the campaign, ‘Sussex against privatisation’ expresses anger at the feeling that students and staff were not properly consulted about the changes, and demands “A complete halting of the ongoing bidding process and end to the entire privatization program, effective immediately.”
The move has been seen by the protesters as part of a wider push to “marketise education”. Mr Burns also expressed his concern about the profit motive: “Creation of services whose business model depends on extracting profit from the pockets of cash-strapped students, or worse, limiting access to services to those who can afford to pay, is unjustifiable. This is particularly relevant given that our recent Pound In Your Pocket research found that over half of English undergraduate students regularly worry about not having enough money to meet basic living expenses.
“It is unacceptable that any changes of this scale be planned without any direct consultation with students and almost none with the 235 workers who are at risk of losing their jobs.”