STUDENT VOICES: Hands Off Hastings

Staff and students turned out in force to angrily protest the controversial decision for the potential closure of the Hastings campus yesterday – a decision made by the Vice Chancellor, Debra Humphris, and a board of governors.

Debra entered Hastings’ University campus on Havelock Road heckled with chants of “Hands off Hastings” and “Debra Debra the Campus Snatcher”. The relenting crowd of angry students had no plans on letting up until they got answers: answers that affect their future, and that affect the students who come to the campus after us.

The attendance was extraordinary for a campus of Hastings’ size, demonstrating the passion and drive the students have for this campus – whether they are a first, second or third year. Room changes prior to the event – then two further room changes on the day – exemplified the sheer amount of opposition the students posed, eventually forcing them to be placed in the largest lecture theatre in the Priory Square building.

During the discussion, the V.C. failed to answer the majority of questions posed to her, at times even completely disregarding them, leading to much frustration from the students. Many questions focused on courses being moved within the near future. Despite the promises previously made by Debra, she stated: “These things take a lot of time”. Two years is not a long time in the grand scheme of things. Debra spoke of an independent review of student experience, but judging by the response, it seems no students were ever consulted.

Rachael Kumara, Student Union Officer at Hastings, is well known for being tremendously hardworking within our campus community and the passion in which she displayed her ‘outburst’ (as she put it) was inspiring to us all. As with her colleague, Bruno Batista, Head of the SU in Hastings, she argues that she has not been “working her ass off” for the past seven years, only for the campus to be swooped away from them by the newly appointed V.C.

Finally, students of all ages showed us all the true meaning of a student voice. Looking through the rhetoric being ignorantly presented to us like the journalists many of us are aspiring to be. Ré Poko, Head of the BSU Journalism Society, suggested Debra’s treatment of staff, students and the local community was “unimaginable”, and described the decision as “pulling the plug just before we actually have the lights on”, gathering an agitated response from those at the front as they tried to squirm away from being held to account.

The clip of student Terry Manyeh, which has been viewed over 40,000 times on Facebook alone within 9 hours of publishing, displays the true ignorance of our Vice Chancellor. He protested her resignation because of the opposition she faces with her decision. She earns more than Obama and Cameron – we should be able to hold her accountable. This perfectly displays the lack of care we believe Debra Humphris has towards Hastings campus. She refused to respond and walked out with what looked like a grin on her face bringing the ‘meeting’ to an abrupt end.

The protests then continued onto the streets of Hastings. Today was a day of solidarity for Hastings campus. The feeling was inspirational seeing our entire campus stood as one. The turnout was paramount to the success, showing just how damaging this decision will be for everyone at Hastings. Debra came completely unprepared for the onslaught she faced from students worried about their future. We wanted honesty and we are still waiting for it. We don’t want a ‘University centre’. We want our campus. Hands off Hastings, Debra.

Written by George Puttick

Images by Cydnee Holder

The Verse Staff

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