& opinion


The University of Sussex Students’ Union (USSU) is facing total shutdown in week 8. Unless the University supplies the Union with the £41,000 needed to avoid catastrophe, all services will collapse, from welfare support and financial advice to sports clubs, societies and student media outlets like the badger, Pulse and possibly URF. USSU will stay closed until the Easter holidays and on into the summer term if Vice-Chancellor Alasdair Smith does not cough up. As President Ros Hall put it, ‘this is the most critical time for the union, they have to give us the money.’

The Union’s financial crisis has been high profile since week 1. Finance Officer David Mooney reflects that ‘with such little funding it’s quite amazing we’ve kept going so long.’ It would seem that there is no other way to stop the union shutdown other than the university giving what is needed. Irrelevant of opinion, predictions or political standpoint, the money is running out. Communications Officer Robert Jones implores, ‘this is a highly regrettable situation which the sabbatical officers did not initiate. It is down to the complete inaction of the Vice-Chancellor that we have been working hard all year on a skeletal budget, and are due to run out of money in week 8.’ Since the AGM back in November, where the decision was taken to not spend reserves, this date has been set.

As Jones explains, ‘we have been pushed back and back into a corner, and there is no option other than an immediate increase in funding.’ David Mooney backs up this stance with a hard fact. ‘We are asking for £41,000. That is 0.04% of their annual budget of £100 million.’

At present, USSU is one of the worst-funded unions in the country when compared to universities of a similar stature. Where other institutions advertise the students’ union as one of the main attractions, the USSU is downtrodden and ignored. Is it because our union is shit? There must be a reason we’re not pulling in the cash like others. Sussex has one of the leading politically-active Unions in the country, with the highest voter turnout in the South of England at this years’ Sabbatical Elections. Providing countless extra-curricular activities and work experience to Sussex students, it appears the Union is a sound organization which provides all activities that don’t involve lectures, yet it cannot continue to function if chronically under-funded by a business-orientated university. David Mooney adds, ‘it is a daily struggle to convince the Vice Chancellor and senior management that their main priority should be the student body, despite the fact it is the students who give them all a job. The VC should know now that our company will make no more than the budget prediction, and the reserves cannot be used to bail out the university yet again. We’ve got no money left!’

It is clear that national newspapers are waiting for this story, with the Guardian, Times Higher Educational Supplement and national radio stations in regular contact to get the latest news. From the overwhelming vote of ‘no confidence’ levelled at the Vice Chancellor to this current countdown, the University should be keenly aware of how strongly students’ feelings are running on this matter. It seems the students of Sussex are going to have to hold firm and unite on this issue like never before.