Student solidarity with staff strikes

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A newly established Facebook group has called for students to “rearrange tutorials” and “not go to lectures” during the academics’ strike scheduled for October 31st.

Meanwhile, Balliol has passed a motion to take its JCR banner to events taking place in Oxford on the day of the strike in a sign of student solidarity with striking lecturers.

In addition to boycotting tutori- als and lectures, the ‘Support our Staff’ Facebook group urges students to “get down to picket lines to back fair pay and our academic community – Hallowe’en theme optional!” The group had almost 200 members as The Oxford Student went to print.

Nathan Akehurst, a third year Historian at Lincoln and one of the founding members of ‘Support Our Staff”, said: “We set up the group in order to help raise awareness of the strike and the issues around it, start a debate and garner maximum support. Students should back the strike firstly to stand beside a vital part of our academic community who are facing a programme of unjust and unnecessary attacks on their pay and conditions.”

He added: “Strong student support will help those lecturers who don’t want to let their students down feel able to go on strike, raise the profile and effect of the day and what me lose from missing a lecture is far less than what we will lose from allowing management to get away with these incursions into our community. And also, it’s sort of turkeys voting for Christmas, isn’t it?”

Barnaby Raine, a fresher at Wadham and co-founder of ‘Support our Staff’, said: “The government mustn’t succeed in dividing staff from students – we’re all in this together if we care about education. I want to go to a university with motivated staff, not staff who feel under-valued and under attack, and I want to live in a society that invests properly in higher education and enjoys the return on that investment in the form of skilled graduates.”

The call to action, however, has not inspired everyone. Marco Alessi, a second year English student, commented: “Thursday 31st October 2013: the day nobody goes to lectures and attendance levels don’t change.”

The Balliol banner waving proposal was part of a wider JCR motion, proposed by Xavier Cohen and Daniel Turner, to issue a “message of support” to workers and lecturers striking across the country. Co-hen said that he wanted to “support workers who are fighting against real pay cuts of 13% since October 2008, whilst their workloads have very often been increasing.”

At the JCR meeting, concerns were raised that the day of strikes would harm teaching and lead to the ‘marketisation of education’. Balliol JCR President, Alex Bartram said: “I’m committed to representing the views of Balliol JCR, and the JCR as a result of this motion issues a message of support for striking lecturers and other academic staff across the city and country’’.

The JCR banner was last carried by Balliolites in 2011, during the student protests against the government’s decision to increase tuition fees to £9,000.

The strike has been called by the University and College Union, and is not limited just to Oxford but applies to all members of the UCU working in British Universities. As the percentage of the university’s staff belonging to the UCU is thought to be relatively low, the effect of the industrial action on students is as yet unknown.


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