Disputes in British Universities

Private Eye 1176 (January 2007)

Sussex University

THE notion that universities should take legal action against their own students for protesting appears to be catching on.

After six students were convicted of aggravated trespass over a protest at Lancaster University (Eyes passim), the University of Sussex is threatening to take students who took part in a peaceful demonstration to court for asking for more learning.

Eighty students occupied the university library in November to demand longer library hours, more contact hours with lecturers and better pay and conditions for staff. During the Christmas break, 50 of them received letters from deputy vice-chancellor Paul Layzell accusing them of breaking an injunction obtained by the university to stop the demonstration. The letter says: "The University is currently taking steps to identify individuals who were part of the unlawful occupation, following which it may instigate internal disciplinary proceedings and/or seek to action [sic] through the courts."

It adds that the university is seeking to recover its legal and security costs "already amounting to several thousand pounds" from the protesters and that if further occupations take place the university will consider closing the library.