We shouldn’t talk about our university in hushed tones. After all, are we not amongst fellow students, lecturers and staff; people with whom we speak aloud?
It seems, however, that as soon as university management are within earshot, we decide that our mouths, that were open until then, should remain silent. Too often do I experience a self inflicted silence from the audience during speeches from members of our destructive management team.
We have stood by idly whilst they announce cuts to residences, responded poorly to devastating fatalities and persisted with raising rent prices and the implementation of the TEF: our government’s plan to rank universities and raise fees yet again.
What's more, because of our universities management team, our libraries are cramped from their addiction to expansion, our lecturers pensions could be gambled on the stock market and, to top this all off, our dated assessment system pecks away at our already vulnerable sanity; all whilst debt piles up day by day. I can think of no reason why we should stay silent and suck it all up.
Fortunately, I can be sure that i’m not the only person that thinks this. Recently, two student bodies: Bristol, Cut the Rent and Keep our Communities came together in a demonstration on the steps of the Victoria Rooms to defy the universites plans to cut wardens and senior residents out of halls. It is a plan that will put student welfare at an even greater risk and was blatantly formulated to save them a bit of money.
The most striking moment from this recent demonstration, for me, was a conversation I had with an elderly alumni. She recalled her time as a student, when the senior lecturers were often paid more than the vice-chancellor and the job of the management team was to maintain the university as a great educational institution. Now things are different. The role of the management team is to streamline the university as much as possible, making cuts to systems that don’t make economic sense whilst benefiting themselves. 19 members of the management team are paid more than 100,000, all whom have secure pensions - a fact that does not deter them from thinking it appropriate to cut the pensions of the staff that make the university what it is. We, as students, are the main component of this institution and cannot allow it to be corroded by the business-minded people sitting in senate house.
If your memories and affections for halls are long gone, we are about to experience action by the UCU (University and College Union) that will definitely affect you. The UCU is standing up to the UUK, the board representing the management of the countries universities. ‘The UUK wishes to axe the guaranteed pension for tens of thousands of university staff. Independent research shows the typical UCU member stands to see their retirement income reduced by £10,000 a year if these cuts to the USS pension fund are imposed’ (UCU website). The union has planned 14 days of strike action, supported by 88 percent of union members that turned out to vote. This will obviously have negative consequences on our studies and every lecturer i’ve heard from is both concerned and upset about this. However, we need to consider the long term effects a pensions cut will have.
Firstly, cuts will affect morale amongst lecturers and subsequently the quality of teaching that students receive. Secondly, this affects our own financial futures; many sectors have seen cuts to their pension by executives that mismanage their companies and think only for themselves - if we don’t learn to stand up to them we will be treated with the same disrespect as our educators. We should view the strikes as an example of the drastic measures that need to be taken just to be listened to by a structure that no longer serves us.
It’s easy to imagine that going on strike is a nerve wracking experience for staff. They are conscious of potential attacks from two sides: their employers and the students. We need to make it clear to lecturers that we are on their side of the struggle with the university. Only by supporting the strikes can we minimise the effect on our studies and help our lecturers achieve their goal to be listened to and have secure futures.
Students have a few ways to show support:
STAY IN BED on strike days
If you need to do work don’t come into university - DONT CROSS THE PICKET
EMAIL or chat to your lecturer and tell them you support them
JOIN the picket lines outside university buildings
Until we find our voices, the management will not stop treating us like wads of cash that keep this business growing and their salaries astronomical.