Vote of No Confidence: University of Sussex Vice Chancellor, Michael Farthing should resign

Reasons why Farthing must go

1)   Undermining the Student Body

Over 600 students voted a motion of no confidence in the vice-chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group. This means that 3.5% of the student population does not see Michael Farthing and his management to be capable of running the university. This motion has constantly be an everlasting theme during the last few years of cuts and outsourcing complaints. The current suspension of five Sussex students has done little to settle the choppy waters between the academic body and university management.

John Duffy has denoted concerns and aims of the occupation are met with “a tiny minority – many with no connection to the University.” Ideas that the occupy movement and general strikes does not reflect the concerns of the majority of students has justified the VC and his management to effectively ‘ignore’ these concerns.

However over 3,000 people actively follow the Occupy Sussex page on Facebook, and many others have signed petitions and letters against the outsourcing of services on campus. Furthermore, there were 9,372 signatories against the suspension of Farthing’s 5. A quick search on Google would show that there is general discontent towards university management by a collection of alumni, students and staff.

Lastly, the university does very little to support the Student’s Union. At one point the union was facing bankruptcy after being charged 81,000 pounds in rent for Falmer House for an academic year. Considering that they are willing to indefinitely lose 171,000 pounds from a bad investment in an Icelandic bank back in 2007, it seems as if the university is happy to see the SU go bankrupt over what they see as change money.  More so, elected officers and representatives from the student body have very little agency to comment or share their opinion in council and senate. Although the HEFCE reports show that the university has a satisfactory student participation score, this measurement does not show the extent of which students are allowed to challenge university policy through official means.  

The reason why the occupation was formed in the first place was from growing frustration at the university who would not listen to student concerns via official channels of communication. This should and would not happen at any other reputable university that is highly dependent on student fee income. In terms of communicating to the student body, Farthing and his management team have failed. At the end of the day we are paying his salary. So shut up and listen!


2)   Expansion

Over the course of 5 years, the University of Sussex is to invest 500 million pounds into its expansion programme. The recommended surplus of a university is 4-5 percent to ensure that the university will not affectively go bankrupt. Two thirds of this budget is to come from the university’s own pocket. But at an average surplus of 6 percent over the last 3 years and a projection of 3 percent in 2013/14 how is the going to fund the expansion and continue to run the university? This is considering that the university was making a loss for a few years before 2009. The obvious answer is to firstly charge more for overseas students and secondly borrow more from the bank and investors. This will put the University of Sussex in a vulnerable financial state. This is on top of the cuts and outsourcing efforts made by university management to mitigate both their costs and liability.

To put into context how unrealistic the expansion plans are, Brighton University spent an aggregate of 125 million pounds on investment into new infrastructure over the course of 10 years, whilst maintaining a healthy surplus of an average of 5 percent. This is fifth of the expenditure that Sussex is hoping to spend over double the amount of time Sussex hopes to complete the expansion.

The fact that the expansion plan to have 18,000 students at Sussex is going to break the bank, amount to more cuts in world class departments and undermine the great work and determination of the staff and students of this university. The fact that John Duffy in his Q&A session last year used expansion as reasoning for the cuts and outsourcing, the university should be justifying the need to expand in the first place. If Farthing and his management cannot give a good reason why the university has to endure this process then he should resign.

If you share the same discontent for Farthing and his management, please find the Farthing Must Go page on Facebook.





Snowden marking the end of US world dominance?


In all honesty, this day had to come. Espionage and unlawful surveillance from a country that uses uncommon  acts of terror to justify two full on wars should not be a surprise. In fact it confirms the suspicions of most.  These allegations  now give governments the leverage to eventually say no to the USA, and to say no to it’s invisible hand that has been dominating the world since the 2nd World War.

The government of Hong Kong refused to revoke Snowden’s right to travel, and like most governments instead turns the table on the agenda at hand: it instead asks, what information do you have about us that we don’t know about. Whilst being a ‘threat of national security’, Snowden has done little but highlighted the USA’s impeachment of the fundamental human rights of it’s citizens and of other foreign individuals. This gives significance to the information that he holds. He is seen more trustworthy than the American political and legal system, that is seen to have failed not just the American people but it’s constitution. More so, his has more diplomatic agency than any American consulate or embassy has in the world at the moment.  No country, under international law has to deport Snowden. It is even encouraged by Amnesty International that he should not deported back the USA in fear that he may be tortured or mistreated by US authorities.

In many instances, targeted countries would not collaborate with a country that has betrayed them; put them in a collective meeting or alignment in a political summit or committee: this could be most powerful than any legislation or action conducted by the USA.

With the lack of trust in America from the global community (both organisations and nations), it’s economic decline (china predicted to take over by 2017),  and it’s failures in Iraq and Afghanistan: it could be said that America is eventually crumbling into economic, military and political decline. However, unlike Europe’s colonial powers of the early 20th century, it may not be so willing to except this eventuality.

Compass guiding the way for Sussex Uni Services

Despite the protests, the publicity and the occupation: the management of Sussex University has still decided to outsource it’s  catering and housing services. Today we have found out that Compass catering company will be full filling the role . From the ethical argument that this decision has been made without consultation or much support from the academic body. Firstly monopolising catering services on campus to restrict the choice of students makes the cost of living more difficult to finance for most. Sussex, being one of the most liberal and alternative universities in the country does not attract students and academics would who endorse and support a monopolistic system the university management seem all so keen to enforce. Having small locally owned restaurants, stalls and cafes would be more in tune to the ethos of the university.

But one can not say that outsourcing may give employees of Sussex University’s catering and housing services a stronger opportunity to advance in their careers than what Sussex University can offer as their employer.  As I have alliterated before, this outsourcing protest movement should not be political, it should be orientated around the needs and concerns of the workers who have been affected. Now this decision has been made, it is them who decide whether they are better off or not; not the student or academic body of this university.

In response to Gabriel’s response to this news, I do agree that the company may have a shady history. But no matter how the company has attained this contract, fairly or otherwise, this decision has been made. From experience of working in venues that are managed by Compass, they seem fair and operate to the law. Again this movement is about the employees and their confidence in their employers, we should only be here to support them as a token of appreciation for all the work they have done for us and the community.

Malaysia’s Racial Politics

“Malaysia truly Asia”: The tourist board boasts beautiful islands, lush, green rainforests and a multicultural metropolis in the name of Kuala Lumpur. For the average tourist, that is probably what you will see. They try hard to hide the underbelly lurking the background: racial politics.

Malaysia is and has always been divided. Unlike the lights of the European system of class, Malaysian politics is more dynamic. It is a turbulent whirlpool of race, religion, place of origin and economic background. It is no longer as simple as whether you are Malay, Chinese or Indian. There is now a growing migrant class in Malaysia, attracted by relative political and economical stability. Without migrants, like most developed and emerging economics, the country would be a standstill; but they are treated as an underclass in society.

Petitions have been published and spread around the web calling for the governments of countries where most of these immigrants originate from to disallow them to vote in the general election. One petition states: “We have gathered solid and undisputed evidence that a great number of them are now being used by irresponsible parties to undermine the electoral process in Malaysia, as they have been granted dubious residential status to vote in our forthcoming general election.” It goes on to request that “those who are found to be involved should be duly punished under your national law.”

Such protesters for ‘fair and free’ elections go further to formate a petition written to President Obama, calling it a “democracy crisis in Malaysia”. It is not just through petitions and slandering quotes on the social media that we see such prejudice, it is also prominent at polling stations. A member of the public proudly publishes a video of other voters picketing a bus of voters, of whom they believe to be immigrants, to deter them from voting. But why do people care?

According to the census of 2010, the population of non- Malaysians is only 8.2%. However with the implementation of a new scheme to record and grant amnesty to over 2 million illegal immigrants, the actual number of registered immigrants could amount to roughly 15% of the entire population. This would make them a larger group than ethnic Indians which only accounts for 7.3% of the population. This act of registering illegal immigrants has obviously been seen as a coy to generate soft votes for the ruling party.

However this was one of many blatant exercises to win votes. Subsidies, government backed loans and bumiputra discounts on properties and other material goods are all symbolic of classical boom and bust economics. Yet there was little complaint of this from the opposition, maybe it was because they benefited. But they don’t feel that they benefit from immigrants.

Prejudice towards the immigrant class has been ingrained in Malaysia for years, and it is them who face the brunt of the unjust diversion of frustration with the ruling party. Most of those who have signed petitions and cooperated in ‘flagging up’ these ‘fraudulent’ voters originate from an ethnic minority. It is a gross contradiction to what Malaysian ethnic minorities are attempting to achieve: fair and free elections, and more importantly equal political and economical rights to all Malaysians.

It does not occur to many Malaysians that the majority of immigrants come from marginalised communities. Innocent people from Sri Lanka, Burma and other parts of Asia come to Malaysia to simply seek political asylum, and many of whom do what they can to contribute to the Malaysian economy. These people have chosen Malaysia to reside, they have the legal right to reside and they have the legal right to vote. Free franchise is a basic human right regardless of race, and yes, that also applies to immigrants as well. You never know, they might have voted for the opposition.

We are a business

The interests of the people who simply want to live their lives are put on the back-burner as those who pledge to represent us try to run this country as a business. This goes from the constant belief that the balance sheets have to be evened out, even at the cost of the livelihoods and standard of living of those they are meant to be acting on the behalf of. This is not just judgements made by government bodies but by other public institutions.

British universities, long before the cuts to higher education, have been stretching far and wide for potential international students to profiteer from. There are so many universities these days that public funding is not enough to run all of these costly institutions, and funding has to come from somewhere. And to that extent I understand the need to at least break even. The optimum level of income should be at normal profit for contingency reasons, for instance higher running costs or maintenance in the future. 

But this is not what universities are doing. Sussex alone made £13.8 million in the last academic year, yet tries to justify making cuts in the services sector for money saving purposes. Sussex is a very small university relative to the lights of Nottingham and Manchester. Nottingham University beginning in 2000 began to outsource their education to international branches in Malaysia and China, giving local students a taste of British education without leaving their country. These students are still charged international fees and have the opportunity to go to Nottingham to study as a part of the degree, it is effectively an in-house twinning programme. These programmes are not rare in this part of the world. 

In a way, it gives talented students a means into the British education system, which before hand they would have never been able to afford. But it still attracts an elite, unless one is extremely lucky to receive a scholarship. But it shows that a public institution such as Nottingham University that accepts government funding are trying to run their institution as an expansionist business. Students are now seen as clients instead of a source of intellectual ability. It does not harness the pure purpose of university: To provide an education beyond the textbook and to allow the individual student to research and come up with innovative, new ideas. The only way universities see themselves able to survive is to run as a business, and demand is ever-growing due to lack of alternatives. 

The solution is to simply have less universities and more access into employment for the youth in the UK. Universities are essentially a place of research and innovation, not a assembly line of identically minded young adults to exit with a piece of paper. It should be industry and other public institutions specialising in specific skills that supply vocational skills to those who are not academically inclined or interested. At the moment, for many there is no alternative to university.

With this those who are serious about learning and what to contribute to their field of study can study at a university free of charge, and hopefully will not have to be too concerned of that university’s reputation. Whilst the rest can do what they want to do without being in debt for the rest of their working lives. 

Class- Submission to the NUS Website

Thatcher once said, “there’s no such thing as society, there are individual men and women and there are families.” There is perhaps no wonder why she missed the boat in comprehending the legacy of her policies. Society, no matter how disjointed, exists in Britain as much as it does in the rest of the world where there is some form of human civilisation. We are, after all, social beings. Quoting John Donne: “ No man is an island”.
But I do contend with the idea of class as originally stated the communist manifesto. Yes, at the time of writing, there was a clear economic division in society. And yes, there is still a level of inequality in our society today, but not in the same dire conditions illustrated by the works of Marx and Engels. I am not saying that they were the first to recognise the existence of class, but they were the first to recognise that exploitation had to be combated.
Class, like religion, gender, race and other binaries set upon us as either voluntarily or otherwise, is another means of segregation within our society. It is ranking individuals with some form of socio-economic status that is unnecessary and unjust in this day and age. Regardless of class, everyone is required to work in some mode of employment to make ends meet. How much one earns does not eradicate this point. We are all clogs in the rusting clockwork mechanism of a society. Like Marx and Engels said “the labourer, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity.”
We are all dependents on an elite group of people, who I would say are above the government or any authority.  They are the ones that see us as bait for their next Ponzi scheme, especially Britain, as we trade nothing but magic paper and pixels on a screen. We are a net exporter of services, basically nothing particularly tangible. And as we see the increase of education standards across the globe and higher living costs in Britain, Britons are going to be seen to be more disposable than ever before.
We are all on the same boat. However is it not all doom and gloom. No matter how much one earns, it is a matter of how much one values money relative to everything else in life. The very founder of capitalism, Adam Smith said in his book: The Wealth of Nations that “the value of any commodity to the person who possess it and who means not to use it, is equal to the quantity of labour with enables him to purchase or command.” In more simplistic words, he is suggesting that someone who works harder for something will value it more than someone who did not have to endure the same level of work.
What I am trying to say that class is irrelevant today, however is it still in existence in contemporary society. But we need to stop comparing ourselves to what our neighbour has, or how many cars Jeremy Clarkson has or how big Jordan’s fake breasts are, and just concentrate on ourselves. The most important thing to ask, is not how much do I have but how happy am I? As my tattooist once said, “sometimes more is less.”

British Food is dire: What the hell is sambal tempoyak?

Why is food in Britain so bad? It’s not bad I suppose, just heavy, bland and boring. Absolutely everything lacks one thing: chilli! For someone who names their blog after a traditional Malaysian dish, food is important. Even when I go back to KL, I find that searching for actual good food is increasingly difficult to find. Apart from a couple of random but trustworthy stalls in food courts in some dusty vintage mall built in the 80’s and of course the street food in an obscure residential or office block, food is hit and miss. But if it’s good, it’s amazing.
In Britain, good food comes at expense and is never traditional. OK there is the odd roast and pie, and maybe a burger done well. But it is nothing I would get excited about.
So to answer the question, what is that dish that my blog is named after?
It’s basically fermented young durian mixed in with chilli. It can be eaten like other sambals, ie as a condiment to your meal of nasi campur, or mixed rice. Or it could be a dish itself with addition to petai, which is a type of broad bean with an acquired taste (you have been warned), ikan bilis (dried anchovies) and daun kayu, which translated to wood leaf. From what I remember it is a kind of wild green that has to be cooked for a bit to soften it. Then a bit of lemon grass to enhance the flavour a little and coconut milk to thicken the sauce. Minus the anchovies I suppose it’s ideal for vegans.
Now that is how I remember it, and more than likely my mum would tell me that I have got this completely wrong. This is what happens when you watch Anthony Bourdain on the travel channel on an empty stomach: nostalgia and home sickness.
When is Malaysian Airlines going to airlift me from this gastronomic black hole of disaster?

It is time for a new world order

7926126812_33571c3544_b[1]Photo Credit to Luc Forsyth:

When the world is ran by some form of imaginary paper and digits on a computer, it is time for humanity to realise that both their perception of economics and politics is based on pure bullshit.

Bitcoin is probably one of the most innovative ways to show how flimsy the whole financial system is, it maybe the means to the solution of devaluing the philosophy associated with imaginary paper, or what we call money. The problem that we are faced with is not the financial crisis, that just flagged up the problem. No, our problem is money itself. Bitcoin is a beautifully simplistic definition of currency. It is deregulated to the fact that there is no single place where it is stored. It is stored on a open source system, so your details are basically decrypted somewhere in the cloud, not in the HSBC ledger. It is not a national currency, it has no central or federal bank and it is ‘mined’ according to the value of the currency against now the USD. And more importantly, its value will not be politically motivated by the lights of China or someone nasty.

But imagine if the Bitcoin  was the global currency and no other currency existed. It was mined to the extent to which the world could feed itself and attain a standard of living that we see acceptable. This is going to be low for our standards in the west, but more than adequate for someone in Haiti who is rummaging through the scraps. But anyway, we get to this stage of equilibrium and no more bitcoins are mined and is distributed evenly. We then just let nature take its course, remembering money can no longer be generated artificially.

This is will either turn the world into an autocratic quasi-communist system or an autocratic quasi-capitalist system where people will end up starving to death regardless. The problem is still going to be money, but now in the form of bitcoin. We unfortunately value everything that we have on something that is purely meaningless. Before the 1970’s we had the good old gold standard. But as we started growing a conscience in trying to create economic equality in western society, generating wealth out grew the supply of gold. In other words aggregate demand, that was generated artificially by government owned companies employing people who would otherwise be unemployed, led to demand for money. This led to the demand for gold, but there was not enough of it. So the gold standard was dropped.

We come to the system that we have now which is the floating exchange rate. This fluctuates with the base rate (which is rate of interest banks and lenders can charge their creditors) and quantitative easing as it fiddles with the supply of a currency, as well as speculative demand. So one currency is valued against another currency which technically has no value. So money is pointless.

But it has universal purchasing power of absolutely any product that you may need, from a prostitute to a loaf of bread. This is despite money having no value whatsoever. With this absurd logic, a pair of headphones which is priced at $10  is the same price as a grain of rice which is priced at $0.00005 because they are all bought with money which is valueless (10×0=0.0005×0). And it the same logic that leads to the unnecessary deaths of people who die of hunger and malnutrition, or of cold weather during the winter. These people are dead due to a lack of something that has no extrinsic value.

Deregulation was unfortunately necessary during the reign Margaret Thatcher after the collapse of Keynesian economics, it still caused the same problem of generating artificial supply of money. Money was seen to be as bottomless as a root beer float at A&W. It led to risks to be made as gains were seen to be limitless in the banking and insurance sector, as at the end of the day it was a massive ponzi scheme with everyday mortgage holders and loan bearers at the bottom of the pyramid. There is one good thing with bitcoin, it will eliminate the banks but it will not solve inequality.