Right on Schedule A

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being silly and acting upI can now offer news of the University’s renewed disciplinary action agains the Sussex Five, an exclusive release of hitherto-unpublished ‘evidence’ documents and some quite remarkable financial information. All of this is interspersed throughout this blog post.

You may recall that the University’s half-hearted attempt at justice was temporarily abandoned in January after it turned out that the chair of the panel, DVC Michael Davies, had a strong and entirely unpredictable bias against student protestors.

Anyway, the powers that be vowed to press ahead with fresh hearings but with a different approach: instead of convening another Student Disciplinary Panel – with lawyers and wigs and the power to expel students if found guilty – they are using the summary Schedule A discipline route, which takes the form of a chat between the student and their Head of School, the most severe punishment available being a £250 fine.

I hope they put these £250 fines, if any, towards a good cause, because here’s the next outrageous and disgusting fact of the day:

sussex-five-legal-costsThat’s nearly double the entire tuition fees I’m paying to the University throughout the whole of my degree. It’s more than many staff earn in a year.

Perhaps more to the point, it’s substantially higher than the £13,890 which the University claims the Sussex Five’s actions cost it in damage to property, loss of trading etc.

Throwing away a huge amount of money to gain retribution for the loss of a smaller amount of money, with the potential of clawing back a minuscule amount of money: these expenditure decisions were made by the same people who made the economic case for outsourcing.

Management’s unexplained decision to downgrade the disciplinary process from ‘hoping for expulsion’ to ‘lame attempt at face-saving’ seems like the worst of both worlds, it being yet another appalling tactical balls-up from their point of view: all the humiliation of a climbdown but all the odium of looking like obstinate bastards.

The Schedule A meetings will be held on Tuesday 4th March. Let’s see how hard the University tries to recoup some of its losses…

Mangoing, going, gone

This Innocent smoothie contains one MASSIVE mango
This Innocent smoothie contains one MASSIVE mango

It’s the crime of the century in Queensland, Australia, where a 10-tonne replica mango has been stolen by crane. According to The Independent, though, local citizens aren’t too concerned. The chair of the town tourist board said, “At the end of the day it’s a bloody big mango and I’m sure someone will see it.”

Now, he says that, but as we know, theft isn’t the only possible explanation. All sorts of things could have happened.

What if… a group of seagulls were attached to the giant fruit with spider silk by a group of oversized insects who live inside it?

james and the giant mango

Putting the mockery back into demockerycy

results nightSo the elections are once again over, as is my two-year stint as Returning Officer. It all finished on a high point, with all my my wee candidates independently and coincidentally deciding to boycott an interview request from The Tab, an attempt at student tabloid journalism which – when they interviewed Exeter’s hopeful SU leaders – asked sensible and illuminating questions such as, “Would you rather embezzle money or skin a live baby?”

So barring any appeals to the High Court over my more controversial decisions (this happened at the University of East London in 2012!) I’m free to resume my other life as a cheder teacher and youth worker, dealing with whinging, pedantic young people… oh wait…

Anyway, I now consider myself sufficiently experienced (three sets of elections and a series of referenda) to introduce a special one-off League Table of:

electionballsIn tenth place: “She’s talked [positively] about a society in her manifesto even though I’m its president. Is that allowed?”

In ninth place: “I know I was four hours after the deadline but I had an important meeting. […] Are you a racist?”

In eighth place: “It’s not fair, he’s wearing a dolphin costume!”

In seventh place: “Some people might vote for him and I don’t think that’s fair because he’s not trying as hard as I am.”

In sixth place: “It’s not fair, she has more friends to help her than I do!”

In fifth  place: “The rule against colour printing is unfair because it affects me more than all the other campaigners.”

In fourth place: “How can you allow someone to walk into a representative role with only 51.7% of the vote?”

In third place: “It’s not fair that each side in this referendum is allowed the same number of words for their argument, ’cos that implies there’s an equal amount of support for them on campus.”

In second place: “His manifesto is blatantly factually incorrect; it says the Tories are attacking education and every sane person knows that isn’t true. Why did you let him say that?”

And number one, in first place: “Is there a rule against campaigning with animals? Because he’s going round with a cute dog and I don’t think it’s fair.”

Putting the diss back into discipline [Sussex Five Pt.2]

Organising a meeting: the fiend!

The evidence from the aborted hearing of 17 January was not made public. A freedom of information request was rejected on the grounds of protecting the students’ privacy, which is interesting because the students actually went to the lengths of bringing in QCs to demand a public hearing: so they clearly aren’t too bothered about this.

Since the University is being so intransigent, I am releasing the evidence myself. It can be viewed here.

Note: the names of junior staff have been redacted. The document I have uploaded will not be indexed by search engines.

Some particular points of interest…

The University keeps student protest Facebook groups under surveillance using an account with a false name, one which they unlawfully failed to disclose in response to (someone else’s) freedom of information request. > pp. 18-19.

The case presenter, Sharon ’48 hours late’ Jones, says students left papers behind when they abandoned their occupation “which contain harassing and abusive language directed at members of University staff”. > p. 5. Firstly she presented no evidence as to who wrote these materials, and secondly it’s also worth noting that they simply constituted a list of People Who Should Be Sacked: admittedly it included most senior Sussex managers, but it went on to include Rupert Murdoch, Jeremy Clarkson, the Cabinet, Tony Blair and “owners of the means of production”. Could Ms Jones possibly be confused as to the applicability of freedom of speech? > pp. 26-27.

She also refers to herself as ‘Me’ with a capital M. I think it’s known as a God complex. > p. 2.

The Head of Security, Roger ‘get off my land’ Morgan, described the occupation as “a well planned and executed invasion”. So very much like the entrance of external service providers onto campus then… apart from being well planned and executed. > p. 7.

sussex five battle of hastingsAll this suggests that not only was £18,154.02 a stupidly disproportionate sum to spend on pursuing the Sussex Five, but the legal advice it bought was clearly of a very poor quality: surely no properly trained and qualified lawyer would look over this material and say, “Yep, you’ve got a good case there, Sharon!”

It’s my apartheid and I’ll cry if I want to

Bg_Tvb4CIAAvjoS[1]Meanwhile, beyond the borders of Sussex (but also within), it’s Israel Apartheid Week. Personally I disapprove of IAW because I have  no dispute about the facts – significant institutional discrimination against non-Jewish citizens and residents – so the entire thing just degenerates into such a dispute about whether or not those facts constitute adequate criteria for the word ‘apartheid’, that we forget all about Israel and Palestine and it all becomes very unhelpful.

The week also creates a new separation between people like me, who broadly agree with the campaign’s arguments about ending discrimination but takes issue with the terminology ‘apartheid’, and people who write articles like If Boycotts Win, the Jews Are Next, who think that each successive tweet with hashtag ‘BDS’ is the worst thing to befall the Jewish people since the last.

This year, there’s been a bit of fighting-back. The creative @Rethink2014 campaign has gone viral, and consists of Jewish students explaining why they think IAW is a bad idea. My contribution, if I say so myself, was quite sensible (which is no doubt why it ended up on the Al Jazeera website… awkward!). So was Joe Grabiner’s. So was this one. So was this one.

Many others weren’t. Here are some arguments to avoid when opposing IAW:

Making these appallingly bad, logically flawed arguments is far worse than making no argument. There are enough rational, peace-orientated reasons to oppose the ‘apartheid slur’ and to argue against the narrowness of Israel Apartheid Week.

Please try to find some of them.



lobbyist[1]A lobbyist came to speak to my corruption classmates and myself last week – but astonishingly, he doesn’t see himself as corrupt.

“I don’t think I distort the democratic process,” said the individual who will sell his political lobbying services to the highest bidder, “because anyone with a good idea can access MPs and ministers. You don’t need lobbyists.” One wonders, then, why the profession exists…

He had a particular bee in his bonnet about the recent series of media stings (eg.) in which politicians have been filmed being corrupt, for example by offering to ask parliamentary questions in exchange for money.

“The thing I noticed about all of these lobbying scandals,” our speaker told us, “is that none of them involved lobbyists. They were all journalists!”

Yes, and police stings don’t involve criminals, they involve police officers, but if these stinging journos were behaving so unlike genuine lobbyists, I wonder why the MPs didn’t smell a rat and realise it was obviously a set-up…

A more positive development in the fight against corruption (You’re not saying that lobbyists aren’t an important part of anti-corruption? -Ed.) is the Indian website IPaidABribe.com, where citizens can describe situations in which they’ve dealt with corrupt public servants – all in glorious Indian English, of course.

For example, one man bought a meal at “No.1 Jaipur Railway Station: they charged me Rs 90 [£0.87] for that lunch. Quality of lunch was horrible, in addition to that they gave me dahi vada which was so amusing. Then I left that scene, to console my wife whose face has turned red by that time due to anxiety and anger. After consoling her (which was the hardest thing ) we rushed to catch our train.”

Hmm, happens to me all the time at Southern Rail’s restaurant at Falmer station.

Five of the best

I declare the following persons elected…
In tonight’s episode, the disciplinary action was pursued by Sharon Jones, with special thanks to Michael Segalov and Alex Jones for their tenacious FOI requesting. Other parts were played by the cast. Harold II was played by Roger Morgan. The elections were run in a fair and democratic manner as per the Education Act 1994. QTWTAINs are questions to which the answer is ‘no’. This was an Gabrielquotes production!


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