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.

Correspondence with Mike Weatherley MP for Hove and Portslade

Dear Mike,

I’m sad that this has deterred you from delivering your talk on drug policy reform. As much as I oppose what happened on Wednesday, it is also a real judgement of your character and belief in your policies. Denying yourself to be heard due to such an event about has made me very disappointed. Dealing and persevering with crude opposition is always going to be in the nature of your profession, and you are ever so fortunate to be in the UK. Such timid action is probably a justification for using harassment and intimidation to get a point across, is that a message you would like to portray?

In terms of university security, I’m sure they will learn from their mistake. I don’t think anyone thought this would have happened. (However I am more than happy for you to give management a hard time.)

Thank you for your prompt reply. I’m happy for you to take this point rhetorically.

Kind Regards,

Yasmin Centeno

From: WEATHERLEY, Mike []

Sent: 16 November 2012 18:20
To: ‘Yasmin Centeno’
Subject: RE: Apologises

Dear Yasmin

Thank you for your kind and well reasoned email.

I wish I could have had the opportunity of explaining why this is a good law – and to hear why persons like yourself disagree with it. But alas that was denied.

I doubt I will be coming back to Sussex Uni any time soon. At the moment they are in denial about their security arrangements which just means my talk scheduled for the 30th November on drugs reform is now cancelled. Such a shame.

In have passed on your good wishes to my staff and they are grateful.

Kind regards and thanks once again.


Hove and Portslade

From: Yasmin Centeno []

Sent: 15 November 2012 00:19
Subject: Apologises

Dear Mike,

I am a student at Sussex University and I am writing this letter as an individual and not as a representative of any student or official body whatsoever.

I am not politically inclined towards the conservative party however I am concerned about what happened at my university yesterday. It denied you the basic right of being about to talk freely and this troubles me deeply. As much as I disagree with the squatting policy that was passed over the summer I believe that you should have had your freedom to explain your side of the argument. I’m sure I speak on behalf of a majority of politically inclined students and staff when I say that we were genuinely enthusiastic for a lively and evenly matched debate about your stance on this issue.

The actions of a select minority did not just undermine our university but the very liberal morals and ideologies that we collectively stand for in this society. It worries me in a place of study, such as Sussex University, that such acts occurred and I apologise that you and your staff were at the brink of it.

I would like to say thank you for coming to Sussex despite what happened today. Please don’t let the actions of a select minority determine your perspective of the general student and staff population of Sussex University.

Please send my regards to all your staff who were affected by today.

Yours Sincerely,

Yasmin Centeno