Four of the five students who led the 2013 protests against the privatisation of the University of Sussex’s services have been let off with a caution by their university.
The protests took place under the name of Occupy Sussex, occupying university buildings to register objection to the university’s outsourcing programme.
The students who occupied a University of Sussex’ conference centre were suspended in November for threatening the safety of students, staff, and visitors to the University. The University claims they damaged property, stole from staff and intimidated those who were in favour of the proposals.
In January, the deputy Vice-Chancellor Michael Davies gave a radio interview condemning the protesters; this lead to doubts about his impartiality as chair of the hearing and its subsequent collapse. However the University of Sussex maintains that it acted properly at all times during the process.
The collapse of the process cost the university £18,154, which adds to the university’s claim that the protests costs £13,890 in criminal damage repairs and loss of trading at the conference centre, Bramber House.
The costs of the hearing process since its collapse this year remain undisclosed. Despite the large total cost of £32,044 claimed by the university, the students could only have been handed down a maximum £250 penalty by the university’s hearing.
The protestors won the backing of human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, who lambasted the hearings process, labelling the lack of student representation illegal.
A petition had also been circulated, obtaining around 10,000 names—including local MPs, human rights lawyers, and free speech advocates amongst the names of students at Sussex.
The ‘Sussex five’, as they have become to be known, refused to take part in the hearing’s process and are continuing to seek legal advice, according to their lawyer Simon Natas.
Instead of a resumption of the process, the students will now receive an official University of Sussex warning letter. The University of Sussex will seek no further reprimand.