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.





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.

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. 

Watching Malaysia

Whilst growing up I believed that all people were innately evil. Not once did I see an humble act of good will be performed for the general good of someone else. Everything I thought was done for an ulterior motive. As the receipt-ants of the NEP reaped their gains given to them on a plate purely due to their race and religion, the poorest of the minorities scraped a living to make ends meet. No one will ever say that we lived in an apartheid state because the economic climate made it difficult to realise how much discrimination ethnic minorities truly faced.

Sitting a cafe thousands of miles away and being a child of a mat salleh, I am in the firing line to be criticised of having no clue about Malaysian society. But possibly, maybe, coming from ‘the outside’ I would have a point of view that will help one look at the ‘problem’ pragmatically.

Every bus journey home illuminates injustice. Watching the condominiums and shopping malls being built, cleaned and maintained by immigrants being treated as third rate citizens. Seeing them walking home after their hard labour to their make shift shanty towns on the side of a development; and the shameful contrast of traffic consisting of BWMs and Mercs driving by. My academic performance showed that I took education as a gimmick and the bus home made me realise how much I took for granted, how much my peers took it for granted but I suppose I was the only one who realised.

KL seems segregated into class, race and religion. Some of which obviously overlap. Those that do, especially the upper class areas, seem to be characterless and numb. The malls of Bukit Bintang, the cafes in Publika and Bangsar, all seem to be dominated with rich wannabes who lack any form of individuality or taste. It seemed dominated by people who thought that their appearance in such location equated to status and power, looking down at those whom the thought were below them. Their appreciation of art and thought doesn’t come from within, it is influenced by what is popular in western media. It made stealing internet in Starbucks infuriating, you just look at all the fakes walking in- you just think: please, grow a back bone and get a personality; and possibly one day I will earn more than you.

Those who express themselves are in their rarity. They seem to mingle in the only segment of culture that DBKL have maintained: Central Market. Malaysian authors publishing their work in their native language, promoting alternative political and economic thought. It is refreshing, it’s  promising and my goodness it’s what Malaysia needs. In a developing country where growth has attracted more graduates to come home during a global recession, the flow of new ideas is finally coming alive.

Without immigrants, without our ethnic minorities, Malaysia would be a mere slither of ink drawn onto a map. It is them who build, fund and manage our infrastructure, economy and intellectual capacity. Do not get me wrong, there are Malays who work just as hard and have done some amazing work for the country but it is now that everyone should be treated as equal.

Commercial Sex as a mechanism to enhance personal liberties of women

dev 5There is always an association of the sex trade and human trafficking, rape and coercion. [1]Even though the sex industry does not conform to social norms; it can benefit the workers . It is their perspectives that is often ignored and should be acknowledged before trying to prematurely tackling the topic.

In a Ugandan study, there are 3 recognised types of women who in the commercial sex industry.

1)      women who are economically dependent on prostitution for their livelihood

2)      waitresses in  bars who work for an institution of some form where they have a middle man mediating their activity

3)      successful entrepreneurs who own bars and businesses and also earn from commercial sex

The 3rd group who have financial independence from men are more secure financially and in terms of safe sex as they can negotiate their sexual relationships. In conclusion there is an inverse relationship between economic stability and vulnerability towards the women’s wellbeing and that most women who become commercial sex workers came from “a disadvantaged background…[with]…restricted access to economic resources.”  [2]

A cooperative bank in India by the Population Services International has now been set up to allow women to save small amounts of money which elevates their financial difficulties which prevents them taking unsafe risks.[3]  From the Ugandan study it is possible to see sex work for a group of women elevates them from financial hardship independently. In combination micro-banking and prostitution has given some women an alternative to poverty.

There is a paradox within the feminist movement that either criticises the sex limitations of the female sex and the other implied that there was a higher cost for woman being too sexually active.[4] Sex workers are either supported or condemned by various fragments of feminist thought. It is ignored that sex work for many females who are marginalised either by society, for an individual reason or economically creates utility for the workers. It allows them to break off from the social constructs that limit their freedoms.

In India this is seen to be the case for a select number of sex workers. Many see it as a liberation from what would have otherwise been a mundane, monotone life dictated by the whims and demands of their potential husbands. It is a means of empowering oneself through creating a sense of independence. [5]It allows women to take a non-conservative path that gives them the same rights as men in their society, it shows the sex trade as a mechanism of closing that gender gap within certain societies.

[2]     Pp179, Women who sell sex in a Ugandan Trading Union, Life Histories, Survival Strategies and Risk, M. Gysels, R.Pool,B Nnalusiba, Social Science and Medicine vol 43, pp179-192

[4] Pp 702, What’s Wrong with Prostitution? Evaluating Sex Work,  Christine Overall, Signs , Vol. 17, No. 4 (Summer, 1992), pp. 705-724

The Wider Picture: World Mental Health Day

This Wednesday (10th October) is World Mental Health Day where we raise awareness of mental health issues but more significantly the stigma attached to people who suffer from mental illnesses. As we fight for a greater understanding and acceptance in the developed world, developing countries barely have the provisions to treat and care for the mentally ill. 

If you have time look through these pictures.

There is wrong and then there is inhumane. Should there be a universal definition and course of treatment for the mentally ill? And should there be a minimum standard of care that should be provided by the state. Considering this issue was not properly recognised until the late 1950’s in the UK what can we expect from the emerging economies of today?