An unusual mid-week blog post to update people on two points of interest, particularly given that next Tuesday is Human Rights Day:
The willing suspension of disbelief…
…at the willing suspension of five students, for “persistently disrupting the operation of the University” by “wilfully being left-wing in a built-up area.” (OK, I made the last bit up but it’s what the suspension notice would have said if its writer had had the guts to be honest.)
Yes, Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing has used his fair and democratic prerogative under a little-known Sussex regulation to “exclude any person from any part of the University or its precincts without assigning any reason” – think how much some people around the world must crave a power like that!
His aim? To ban five students from campus on the grounds that, erm, they’re a nuisance and often say things he doesn’t like.
This suspension is pending the outcome of student disciplinary proceedings (which, at the time of writing, haven’t even been instigated!), so there is actually no proof at this stage that they have done anything wrong.
Back in the 1970s, when Professor Farthing was no doubt a model of propriety, the High Court found in the case of Glynn v Keele University that Vice-Chancellors must not suspend students without first hearing their side of the story, because this would amount to a breach of natural justice.
As we all know, Sussex University management is rather keen on the High Court, so no doubt it was a pure oversight that they forgot to conduct a fair hearing before unlawfully interrupting five (still) paying students’ studies. And the Glynn case was even before we had Article 6.
Of course, the disruption the ‘Sussex Five’ caused to the University can hardly be worse than the disruption the University causes to itself, eg. by forgetting to book lecture rooms for lectures, failing to release exam results on time, having campus-wide IT blackouts on a weekly basis, and so on. So perhaps Farthing will suspend himself…
The ball’s in Brighton County Court
So that was worth the legal costs funded from our tuition fees.
The University’s barrister strode into the waiting room and told an usher, “I’m Katharine Holland QC.”
“Katharine what?” he asked.
“Oh, I thought there was a bit on the end.”
[with modesty becoming] “Well yes, there is a bit on the end actually… it’s QC. I’m here for the University of Sussex hearing.”
“Oh, there’s a journalist here for that! [points at me] Sussex University’s popular today.”
[I cut in: “Makes a change!” and laugh loudly. Holland glares. So worth it.]
A representative of the occupation did turn up to argue their case, but in a spirit of loving a fair trial, Holland warned them that if they spoke a word, she might just seek costs against them. Since last time these ran into tens of thousands of pounds, the occupier thought better of it and the possession order was granted ‘uncontested’.
Sad stuff. But most chilling of all was Holland’s remark: