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More censorship concerns at University of Sussex

4 March 2013

Questions about academic freedom at the University of Sussex continue to be asked as a bitter row about outsourcing jobs and services shows little sign of abating.

The university wants to outsource a host of services, which will result in 235 staff becoming employees of a private company. The union said the row over outsourcing has seen a number of serious issues of censorship come to light that cast serious doubt on the university's commitment to academic freedoms that the university publicly commits to upholding.

Members of the university's ruling body - the Council - have been told not to engage with the trade unions and there are now concerns the Council's email list is being censored. One Council member has discovered an email they tried to send via the Council's email list welcoming the union's contribution was not sent out.

The latest concerns follow on from recent revelations that members of staff were banned from wearing a badge opposing the plans or using the image in emails.

Despite the university's statutes guaranteeing 'the right of any member of staff to express political, religious, social and professional views, both privately and in public, provided it is within the law', a member of staff was made to remove a 'support the 235' logo from his email signature and others have been told to remove lapel badges that simply read '1/235'.

The union says the outsourcing plans, that will affect staff including porters, post room workers, security and catering staff, are being rushed through and need greater consideration. UCU added the apparent efforts to shut down debate at Council meetings and amongst Council members were particularly worrying at a time when proper scrutiny had never been more important.

The censorship concerns come while hundreds of students continue to stage occupations on campus.

UCU regional official, Michael Moran, said: 'We urgently need to find out if Council members at the university are being silenced. This reflects really badly on Sussex and I hope it is an oversight and not an attempt to close down debate. We have been calling for a halt to these plans so there can be proper scrutiny.

'Understandably, staff employed by the university want to remain employed by the institution. They do not want to see their contracts auctioned out to private firms. History tells us that private firms cut pay and benefits in their drive to make money, which results in a bad deal for the staff and a bad deal for those who use their services.'

Last updated: 10 December 2015