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MPs attack suspensions of University of Sussex demo students
The University of Sussex has suspended five students for “persistent disruption” to campus life following a string of high profile protests.
MPs have slammed the move with hundreds of staff and fellow students holding a demonstration at the Falmer site yesterday.
University bosses claim the action was necessary to quash “violence, intimidation” and “serious disruption”.
Protesters say the move is a serious threat to freedom of speech and lawful protest.
Law and international relations student Michael Segalov is one of the five who received his suspension on Wednesday evening.
He said: “I came back from work to see the letter. It’s unbelievable. We all dispute that we have done anything wrong, but even so given this is a so-
called democracy you would think we would be given a hearing or a chance to defend ourselves.
"It’s worrying because we have exams coming up and many need to use the facilities on campus for study.”
The university has seen numerous protests in the past year over the outsourcing of campus jobs.
In the spring a 54-day occupation culminated with violent scenes and arrests before a further occupation which ended on Tuesday.
The university said it singled out the five as those involved in “organising or leading the repeated serious disruption of campus”.
They are banned from stepping on campus until internal disciplinary action has concluded – thought to be some time in the new year.
Dubbed the Farthing Five, they are masters student Adriano Marotta Merola, final year students Lewis Nielson, Hichem Maafi and Michael Segalov and second year international relations student Can Aniker.
About 500 students and lecturers gathered for a rally at 1pm yesterday calling on management to lift the suspensions.
Among them were University of Brighton lecturers Jem Price, 48, and David Watson, 50.
Mr Price said: “We’ve come over in our lunch break to show our support.
“This feels like the victimisation of a group of students and I think there could be a different approach from the university.”
Representatives from unions, stu- dent groups and the Green Party gave speeches including city councillor Phelim Mac Cafferty.
He branded the suspensions “callous” and “awful” before reading a statement on behalf of Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, unable to attend because of the autumn budget statement.
She said: “Those students who speak out and engage in legitimate peaceful protest should not be criminalised.
"Our universities and the government have a choice and we must continue in our efforts to get them to put people before profit.”
John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, has also pledged to raise the issue in Westminster.
University registrar John Duffy explained students would have the opportunity to defend themselves.
He said: “We have excluded these students to protect the interests of all of the students, staff and visitors who are entitled to use the campus without fear of intimidation and serious disruption.”
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