Sussex takes on Strasbourg

In today’s edition: censorship at Sussex; Lord Ahmed smells trouble; a dash in time saves nine; and whither the British press?
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Incensed at an “abusive email” from a student suggesting that Sussex University managers are ruthlessly focussed on making money, the said managers decided to fine the student £100.

However, following a successful campaign by Sussex Students’ Union newspaper The Badger, the sentence has been commuted to “attending a one-to-one seminar with an academic on the boundaries of ‘fair comment’ in polemical communications.”

The controversy – in which someone emailed a Big Manager On Campus (‘BMOC’) to suggest, “Perhaps an apt job title for you would be Director of Corporate Tyranny and Human Suffering,” – came at the end of a week which saw a Palestinian court hand a man a one-year prison sentence for insulting Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, and a European Court of Human Rights ruling which found that France had violated an activist’s freedom of expression by fining him for showing an abusive placard to Nicolas Sarkozy.

Makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it, that such restriction of free speech doesn’t happen in our country. Well DON’T SPEAK TOO SOON, because it’s time for:

international criminal courtThis term’s Sussex Human Rights Roundup:

  • Trade union staff ordered to stop publicly opposing the privatisation of their members’ jobs (this one got us a mention in Private Eye which made my fortnight)
  • Members of the University Council instructed not to talk to trade unions and having their mailing list filtered
  • Academic departments told not to give the oxygen of publicity to our estimable Badger
  • The University hires big burly private security men who stand around looking tough
  • University Registrar John Duffy gives a hostile ‘open Q&A’ session accompanied by bodyguards, and refuses to be filmed by UniTV because he “wasn’t prepared”
  • University Registrar John Duffy has a chummy meeting with the Sussex Conservative Society

These ruses seem like increasingly desperate (and increasingly dodgy on the legal front) attempts to control the thoughts of a frankly tiny group of people on the campus of a tiny university.

It’s a bit sad that the management don’t have enough confidence in their arguments to let them face the competition of the [free speech] market: ironically the principle they use to justify the outsourcing of services in the first place.

The individual responsible for the ‘abusive email’ mentioned above is being dealt with according to the Regulation on Student Discipline, which instructs members of the Sussex community to “maintain a standard of conduct which is not harmful to the work, good order or good name of the University.”

That’s John Duffy in trouble for a start.

Wot no conspiracy?

lord ahmed jewsLord Ahmed was in trouble this week, after giving a TV interview in Pakistan complaining that his 2009 prison sentence for causing death by dangerous driving (he was texting behind the wheel) had been “orchestrated by the Jews” who apparently control the media, the judiciary and – one assumes – the erratic movements of his car.

Debunking this myth of a Jewish conspiracy, Lord Ahmed was immediately suspended from the Labour Party by, erm, Ed Miliband.

All these dumb theories can possibly only have come from someone who has never sat through a Jewish meeting of any sort. There could never be a Jewish conspiracy because realistically we couldn’t get our act together to organise one. If anything, there’d be several rival conspiracies all competing, backbiting and engaging in turf warfare.

We’ve had our own ‘parliament’ in the Board of Deputies for 250 years yet we’re still no closer to reaching an agreement, not even on that most basic and crucial aspect of a conspiracy: deciding who gets to join in in the first place.

So here’s my suggestion: let’s try something new. Let’s actually have a Jewish ‘conspiracy’, so long as it means acting together, inclusively and with common purpose, and let’s see where that gets us. Probably somewhere better than we are at the moment.

PS: any Jewish readers, remember we have that top secret meeting under the Tower of London at 2pm tomorrow. Password: FALKLANDS.

It’s cancelled, dash it

dissertation dash girls
On dasher, on dancer…

Back in February, the University powers that be – soon to be outsourced to Powers That Be Solutions Inc. – decided to scrap the ‘Dissertation Dash’, a long-standing Sussex tradition in which final-year students run down a long path and up a flight of stairs to hand in their dissertation on the balcony of the Students’ Union building, all the while being cheered on by their fellow students.

The University, which disapproves of any event that involves both the Students’ Union and cheering, also decided to cancel it last year (for no particular reason) and then, after a heartfelt campaign, relented, and can now evoke this pointless episode for evermore as an example of how they really do listen to the student voice and sometimes change their plans after lobbying (cont. p94).

Indeed, there does seem to be a bit of a pattern of the Uni picking a completely arbitrary fight with the Union, holding negotiations, then backing down; while simultaneously making really controversial decisions with no consultation at all. But at least they sometimes listen to students, right?

Anyway, this year’s protests at the decision to cancel the Dissertation Dash were even more forceful, many of them taking place on Twitter using the dashtag #savethedash

And finally, the University came up with a compromise proposal which I’m sure will satisfy even the most traditionalist of students:

dissertation-dashI think that has to win some kind of All-Time Sussexballs ‘Off-the-Scale’ Award. It’s so offensively crap as an idea that I’m actually at a loss for words. (You will try though, won’t you? -Ed.)

They’ve suggested replacing a much-loved recreational tradition involving cheers, costumes and a bouncy castle, with 12 web-feeds of people performing dull administrative processes in obscure parts of the campus. 12 videos of students arguing over whether or not they’ve correctly paper-clipped their documents. 12 videos of staff taking a really long time to work out how to scan the barcode on a student ID card.

I hope this plan is implemented in time for next year’s Oscars, they’re onto a winner there.

This week’s news in a nutshell/case

Press in case of emergency

"How many votes will your party receive at the next election, Prime Minister?"
“How many votes will your party receive at the next election, Prime Minister?”

The future of the British media is in jewpardy jeopardy this week after a totalitarian government decided to implement the proposals of Lord Leveson (religion unknown).

At the eleventh hour, the three party leaders reached an agreement on implementing Leveson, each claiming that they had been victorious in the negotiations, even though a Downing Street spokesman couldn’t confirm that David Cameron had actually been awake at the time the breakthrough was made.

The agreement balanced Labour’s desire for a system that couldn’t be tampered with by politicians, and the Tories’ desire for a system with no Parliamentary legislation.

The compromise involved a Royal Charter which states that it can’t be amended without a vote in the House of Commons – no political interference there – and a small clause in an Act of Parliament re-stating this restriction. The Prime Minister insisted that this statutory underpinning is not statutory underpinning, because “it doesn’t recognise the Charter, it protects the Charter.” And it does that without recognising it? Bloody impressive stuff!

A spokesperson for The Daily Moan said, “This is a bleak day for Britain’s media. Despite us having shown, repeatedly, that we are able to regulate our own conduct to the highest standards of ethical behaviour, the state is cruelly insisting on future regulators all being impartial and thus not biased towards the press. How can we possibly operate if we have to play by the rules?”

However, I’m not sure whether Her Maj would be particularly happy about putting her name to such drivel. So I’ve invited constitutional expert Sir George Campbell MP to offer his views on the role of Royal Assent, and also – as usual – on racism:

How are you Jewing?
In tonight’s episode, the world was controlled by the Jews. The Dissertation Dash was replaced by a Dissertation Hyphen. The press was slightly regulated by Lord Justice Leveson. This was an Gabrielquotes production.


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