Sussex will soon have power to expel or prosecute student protesters
New proposals mean ‘major misconduct’ will be severely punished
Sussex University have proposed changes to disciplinary regulations which mean that “major misconduct”, such as occupying buildings, could result in expulsion or prosecution.
The proposed changes now mean that “conduct which causes a nuisance (whether or not causing damage) and is detrimental to the good order or reputation of the university” can result in students facing serious consequences.
The University has said examples of major misconduct would include “the unauthorised occupation of a university building”. Earlier this year, campus buildings were occupied as part of the “Don’t deport Luqman” protests.
This protest against the deportation of a Sussex student made national news, which allowed the cause to get more publicity and, more importantly, more support. Now, however, the university appears to be clamping down on such protests.
Several members of the Students’ Union have openly condemned the proposed changes, arguing protests are an effective way to bring a topic right to the top of the agenda when attempts of change through other channels have failed.
This is not a first for Sussex University. In October 2015, Sussex were forced to pay former student Micheal Segalov £20,000 in damages for “defamation of character” after Sussex had tried to clamp down on student protests. Segalov was involved in peaceful protest in 2013 yet had his reputation damaged by the heavy-handed manner in which the protest was dealt with.
Many students have condemned the new proposals, claiming it goes against article 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act. Article 10 refers to the protection of freedom of expression and article 11 protects the right of public assemblies.
A spokesperson for the university said: “The University’s governing Council commissioned a review of Sussex’s Student Disciplinary Regulation and appointed a working group, led by an Independent member of Council, to undertake this task. The review was commissioned to ensure the University’s regulation better reflected the processes of the institution and to provide clear, transparent information to students about the working practices of the University.
“The draft regulation covers a wide range of matters from exam breaches through to allegations of assault. It does not take away from our students’ rights to freedom of speech and peaceful protest. These rights are clearly outlined in the University’s policy on freedom of speech and procedures; and remains unchanged.”
More from the Student Union’s take of events can be found here.