End of occupation press release

On the evening of 5th December it was decided that the occupation of Grand Parade’s gallery would cease. The decision was taken after consulting with students whose work was set to be exhibited over the next few days: disruption to students was something we wished to avoid, and it became clear that due to the nature of the exhibition our presence would unavoidably have caused disruption.

Occupying the gallery of Grand Parade was about visibility and mobilisation, and in this regard the occupation was a great success. It was made clear that students at the university are willing to actively oppose the government’s higher education white paper, and that this resistance to the white paper is part of a broader resistance to our government’s austerity measures. Most significantly the occupation acted as message to our Senior Management Team: Professor Julian Crampton et. al. are in a unique position to oppose a document that will cause untold damage to what we currently understand as higher education. Given that what we currently understand as higher education already has significant issues, we believe that the white paper should be opposed by anyone who doesn’t want to see the fundamental privatisation of our universities; that is, by anyone who has the interests of university staff and students at heart.

Unfortunately, it was difficult to believe that the management of our university had the interests of staff and students at heart. It became clear that their response to the occupation was not to enter into dialogue, but to divide and rule. First, as we have already mentioned, management evacuated Grand Parade of its late night classes when we entered the gallery, citing security  – but didn’t feel the need to evacuate an event in the Sallis Benney theatre happening at the same time.

Second, the first news that the occupation received regarding this week’s student exhibition was when we were told today by a member of staff that the exhibiting students had decided to cancel the show. However, when we spoke to the students themselves we were told that they had made no such decision, rather that they were informed by staff that the show would have to be cancelled. It quickly became clear that the exhibiting students were eager to work with us (potentially including our statements as part of their exhibition), however it was collectively decided that an occupation would only stand in the way of a significant part of their degree. We are in discussions with how best to reflect the occupation’s political objectives into their exhibition.

What is clear is that rather than working with its students to ensure the best result for all (encouraging dialogue to occur to negotiate a solution, as eventually happened), the university is willing to sacrifice the interests of students in order to further its own political objectives. A frequent criticism of occupations is that they hinder those in whose interests you are fighting: our experience with regards to the university management is that, by far and away, they act as the greatest hindrance to students’ educational experience.

An unexpected consequence of our occupation of the gallery was the politicisation of its space: the question of whose space it is, how this space functions and whose space it should be was forced to be confronted by us as much as others in Grand Parade. To that end it was a pleasure to finish our occupation with an open meeting addressing these issues, which was well attended by occupiers and other students.

Finally, to the Senior Management Team: you have a choice to publicly reject the higher education white paper, a document roundly condemned across the higher education sector. If you do not – if by your silence you tacitly accept the government’s proposals – we will enter into occupation again. In this instance we are likely to take to the advice of a senior faculty manager from the first night of the occupation: if we wish to make a political point, there are far more symbolically significant targets to be found in Mithras House.

In solidarity,

Brighton Students Against Cuts

What is the function of Grand Parade’s gallery? An open discussion

18:30, Monday 5th December – the Occupied Gallery, Grand Parade

What is the function of Grand Parade’s gallery?
An open discussion

The occupation of Grand Parade’s gallery has raised several questions regarding the purpose, ownership and function of the exhibition space. Is it a valuable resource for students, staff and the public alike, or is it an obscured privatisation of university space? Should the gallery be a space (or retain a space) dedicated to, and in the control of, students and their creative work, or should it be a space in the control of staff to make accessible established artists’ work? Are the opportunities for students to present work sufficient, or is the fact that students are given use of the space at the behest of staff an injustice? Above all, whose space is the gallery, and whose should it be?

All these questions and more will be addressed on Monday evening. Please come along and contribute to the discussion – all welcome.

Brighton students from the occupation interviewed on internet TV

The end of the beginning…

After a long evening battling Senior Faculty Managers and the heads of Estates, we’ve reached the end of day one. The stage is set to transform this space into a bustling hive of political and artistic activity. We look forward to working with the up-coming exhibitions: we think that both the occupation and the exhibitions will strengthen one another.

Apologies to those kicked out of classes this evening: we don’t understand why the University evacuated students, especially since it didn’t feel the need to evacuate an artist’s lecture in Sallis Benney happening at the same time. If we were feeling cynical we’d say this was a ploy to turn students against students, but surely our faculty managers wouldn’t stoop to such depths. Right?

We have now formulated demands: these can be found here. If you’d like to contribute to the occupation but can’t attend, have a look at our How to Help page for a list of things we’d be delighted to receive. But if you do have the time (even if it’s just half an hour) please come on down! Everyone is welcome.

We are in occupation!

At 16:13 this evening University of Brighton students started occupying Grand Parade’s gallery. Please come down and show your support!

Alex Callinicos, from Kings College London, will be speaking at 8pm.

Demands and more information will follow.

Response to university closure on November 30th

This evening the University of Brighton announced to staff that “[a]fter careful consideration of proposed staff actions, the potential resulting safety issues and advice from the Police, we have decided to close university buildings on Wednesday 30 November 2011.”

Precisely why the University required the input of the police to make this decision isn’t entirely clear. A separate email was sent to students, addressed to no-one and from no-one, floating out of the ether as if from the cold logic of the University itself.

While it is tempting to see this as a victory – and in many ways it is a victory, the University having been forced to confront the reality of the situation rather than pretend that politics simply doesn’t exist, as is its usual tactic – it also serves to de-politicise the strike action. Now more than ever it is crucial that as many students as possible are standing in solidarity on the pickets of the morning of the 30th, taking inspiration from the direct action of our lecturers and support staff with the aim of instigating some of our own.

Emergency meeting planning ACTION to support November 30th strike

An emergency meeting has been called to discuss the action that we as students will be taking to support University of Brighton staff on strike on November 30th. The meeting will take place at the Northern Lights pub, 18:30, this Sunday the 27th. Don’t miss the chance to reclaim higher education from the clutches of neoliberal privatisation. This winter, we take back what is ours.

Brighton Students’ Union supports November 30th strike action

All students at University of Brighton have been emailed by the President of the Students’ Union, Terry Preston, pledging his support with striking staff and encouraging students not to cross pickets:

Dear All,

As most of you may be aware, a week today on November the 30th we are likely to see the largest public sector strike for several decades. At University of Brighton, this is in response to the Government’s attacks on the Higher Education sector within the wider context of public sector cutbacks.

These cuts affect everybody paying into a public sector pension; from the most senior lecturer on an annual salary to support staff on term time only contracts.

The outcome of the Government’s plans for public sector pensions will impact on our future too as many of today’s workers who cannot afford to live on their reduced pension will be forced to work longer, thereby impacting upon the jobs available to those seeking work.

Currently, over 25 UK trade unions have balloted their members and have voted to strike next Wednesday. It is the belief of the Students’ Union AGM that we will support the HE unions in their fight for fairer pensions on November the 30th. Brighton SU actively encourages students not to attend University next Wednesday and to show support for the trade unions who will be on the picket lines throughout the day.

Brighton SU’s services including shops, cafes, campus receptions, activities & events, academic advocacy and wellbeing services will not be open on 30 November. (Students in need of support from the Wellbeing and Advocacy teams that day can log on to http://www.ubsu.net for contact information).

To show your support or to comment on this issue, please feel free to respond to this e-mail or like ‘SU Brighton’ on facebook and comment on the page and encourage discussion.

Thank you for your support

Terry Preston
Brighton Students’ Union
01273 64 3816

Professor Bob Brecher on the Neoliberal Onslaught in Higher Education

University of Brighton’s Professor Bob Brecher gives a great analysis and condemnation of the current (neoliberal) state of higher education, available here.

Corporate banks, private businesses, the Senior Management Team, and a hello to new students from Brighton Students Against Cuts!

Hello Everyone!

First, welcome to the many new students who gave us their email addresses at Freshers’ Fair. We’re very glad that you managed to negotiate the casinos, the banks, the army, the police, a host of major corporations, and made your way to our stall. We promise, that’s as bad as it gets at university. Maybe we should do something about it next year?

We have a website, an active facebook group and an active twitter account to keep you up to date with everything cuts related both at University of Brighton and nationally. Last year we occupied the university for two weeks, organised demonstrations in Brighton and travelled to the national demonstrations in London, passed motions at the Students’ Union AGM against the cuts, and had a fun time making loads of new friends. You should expect no less this year. In fact, you should expect a whole lot more.

So, if you’d like to meet lots of nice, politically active students, get involved! And the first thing you should get involved with is coming up real soon:

The Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition has organised a meeting for students and staff “to plan and coordinate a campaign against fees, cuts and privatisation”. This will be happening on Tuesday 11th October, at 6pm, room C218 in the Checkland Building on the Falmer Campus. A map of the Falmer campus can be found here. Brighton Students Against Cuts will be there and we’d love it if you could be too.

There’s going to be more politics on campuses over the next three years then there has been for decades. Together, we can put University of Brighton back into the hands of students and staff and out of the hands of corporate banks, private businesses and the Senior Management Team. We have no idea which of those three we’re most concerned about.

In solidarity,

Brighton Students Against Cuts