The history of all hitherto Sussex society is the history of student struggle! Okay, maybe this is a creative exaggeration and a bad pun, but looking back in the archives of Sussex reveals it’s politically active past starting from the mid 60s and its radicalisation during Thatcher’s reign in the 80s and into the present day. More importantly, Sussex’s history of student protest has been the history of success in many student and staff led campaigns, for example the recent rescue of the Chemistry Department in 2006. The newly named Asa Briggs Lecture Theatre seems appropriate; Briggs was the Vice Chancellor during the 1968 Student protests at Sussex and was almost as disliked as our current VC Michael Farthing due to his authoritarian style of management. However, another running theme from the 60s onwards has been the apathy of the vast majority of students. Whether this is because students feel disconnected from the university system and feel alienated from political structures outside and inside the university, or are simply unengaged because the issues do not directly affect them, this inertia must be tackled. The power of the students and staff within a university system can be channelled productively and together we can realise our agency for change, but in order to do so we must have a campus wide campaign. The current 500 or so students actively involved is an achievement in comparison to recent student campaigns, but this still leaves the overwhelming majority of students and staff unengaged with the movement. The cuts and restructuring proposed by Farthing and co. affect everyone at this university and every potential applicant to Sussex, and this political and educational laziness shown by the 11,500 students not making a stand is more than disappointing, its offensive to all those who have invested time and energy in making this university the creative and diverse space it has previously been. This apathy is not accidental of course- the entire nature of university and education from school is one of enforcing the capitalist system and the status quo. The media tells us X factor is not only real life but meaningful on a personal level. As ridiculous as that sounds, this is what attracts the attention of thousands of young people because it is a distraction from the emptiness of life in neo-liberal capitalist society. This is what we must fight against and re-educate those who thus far show no interest in saving our university’s credibility.
Another lesson learnt from previous student struggles is the inability to form a coherent united group without splits from within the campaigns. Attempts to form a united front have repeatedly lead to ideological bickering and divisions which could have been avoided with more discussion and tact. We must realise that we are all fighting for the same cause and must therefore co-operate. This means the most prominent groups on campus must not turn this wide based campaign into a power struggle for the most influence over the direction of the movement. As has been previously articulated, Sussex students and staff and Trade Unions alike must be united in order for a coherent mass struggle against the unacceptable cuts and redundancies. History teaches us that we must defend our educational rights and freedoms, and accept no compromises.