Dear students, in solidarity [continued]

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FULL ARTICLE

Samar Khan addresses Cameron Scheijde's response to his original article, questioning whether it is fair to call the efforts of the Student-Staff Solidarity Group 'militant'.

In my last article, I addressed the claim that the students who have mobilised to join protesting staff are ‘self-indulgent’ and ‘middle-class’. However, I’m not sure how to respond to the Cameron Scheijde’s description of the entire Student-Staff Solidarity Group as ‘militant'. I’m not convinced that a small group of students banging pots and chanting warrants this description, though I appreciate that this behaviour can be seen as harassment and I openly described it as a ‘failed enterprise’ in my last piece.

The Staff-Student Solidarity Group exists because of the energy that these disruptions have aroused. I am not a spokespersonn, but I can assure you that we are just a bunch of students and staff that want to have meaningful discussions about our experiences of University, and make a difference where we see it to be necessary. We came together because we all believe that the cuts to our staff pensions are totally out of order and ought to be resisted for the sake of our educators and education system. Our future will be shaped by our belief in a system of higher education that is diverse, accessible and fair.

I want to draw attention to what has been the bulk of our activities. For weeks we have been leafleting outdoors, postering inside buildings, organising events, ensuring staff know that they are supported and conversing with students to keep them informed. It is very clear that student support is winning this battle; lecturer Stephen James said this was the case in his speech at the rally this morning. The pressure from students and the UCU throughout the nation have brought UUK to the negotiating table.

In Bristol, with the full support of staff, we have managed to force Hugh Brady, who has been cowering from open discussions, to talk with students and the UCU. Some students are currently occupying the top floor of Senate House, waiting to have a meeting with management and deliver our demands. Again, this action is accompanied with a huge amount of support from staff, who were cheering the student occupation of Senate House from the rally outside this morning.

'I fully agree that being told not to come to campus on strike days in annoying and difficult to hear.'

We have been encouraging students to study elsewhere on strike days because we believe that zero activity on campus will send a strong message demanding management to give our lecturers what they deserve. As a massively inconvenienced third year student, I fully agree that being told not to come to campus on strike days is an annoying and difficult thing to hear. So I want to be clear that supporting the strike by having conversations, attending rallies, talking to your lecturers and complaining to the Vice Chancellor is more than enough. If everyone that supported the strikes did these things we would be showing a strong, united front. Only by acting together can we bring this strike action to a close.

Arguing with one another will not get us anywhere. Progress is achieved by open discussion and action. I hope the cracks that these strikes have exposed will create spaces for every member of the University community to express their perspective.

If you do not agree with what our university management is doing then do whatever you think will help. If you do not agree with the actions of the Student-Staff Solidarity Group, or have more creative ways we can engage with students, then tell us. If you want to be part of shaping an alternative vision for a University that benefits everyone, join us.

Like us on Facebook and come to the discussion group tomorrow.

Featured image: Epigram / Samar Khan

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