Intimidatory tactics

March 25, 2010

As members of academic staff at the University of Brighton, many of us with close links to the University of Sussex, we are writing to express our deep disappointment at Sussex management's response to student protests against the proposed loss of 115 jobs.

On 3 March, about 300 students entered and occupied the university's main administrative building in a non-violent protest ("The occupation of Sussex House", 11 March). The management's response - sending riot police to disperse the protesters - was vastly disproportionate.

Its decision to target six students for suspension can only be interpreted as scapegoating. It was not the response that might have been expected from executive officers of an academic institution that recognises its responsibility for the education of all members of its student body. It was not what one would expect of Sussex, with its long history of encouraging critical thought and debate.

We believe that this action, together with the injunction obtained by Sussex that proscribes "occupational protest", was an attempt to intimidate students and staff into refraining from protests against management policy.

We condemn the disproportionate use of the law against students on a university campus. We urge vice-chancellor Michael Farthing to desist from using such draconian measures to quash protests in defence of education.

Jonathan Woodham, Director of the Centre for Research and Development; Raphael Salkie, professor of language studies; And 55 others, University of Brighton.

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