"Opening our eyes" isn't your job - a response to "Dear Students, in Solidarity"



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Online Comment Editor Cameron Scheijde criticises the actions of the "Student-Staff Solidarity Group" and contends that their militant methods only serve to put people off the important cause.

Day Six of the Universities and Colleges Union pensions strike, and we've had more news than students know how to deal with.

The strikes, over changes to contributions to pension schemes, are justified and right. Lecturers and University staff members stand to lose tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds due to these changes. If I were a lecturer, I'd be striking to protect my pension and ensure that a precedent is set to prevent University employers from exploiting their employees.

The thing is, I'm not a lecturer. Just like the large majority of you reading this, I am a student who is looking ahead at a potential 2-week long holiday due to wide spread disruption to teaching. Whilst I respect staff's right to strike and respect why they have chosen to, there is nothing that confuses me more than students disrupting lectures, harassing students that chose to work in libraries and spread intimidation to those who dare attend lectures that are still on.

The presumption that, simply out of the political "duty" to support our striking lecturers, we shouldn't go to the library or attend lectures held by those who chose not the strike is ridiculous. As much as students would adore to have that freedom, most simply don't have the choice.

"Demeaning or calling out as 'scabs' those who do chose to attend is simply insulting"

Assignments are still ongoing, courses are still being taught and dissertations are still being written. Essays need to be handed in and read for with sources found in the library. Google scholar can only do so much.

Some tutors and lecturers have, for their own reasons, chosen not to strike. Their lectures are still ongoing and they are being paid for those teaching hours. Not attending these lectures on the basis of supporting strike action is your prerogative: but demeaning or calling out as 'scabs' those who do chose to attend is insulting to those who see the education they're paying for as worth more than some political virtue-signaling.

"Marches of hundreds of academics and students peacefully walking alongside are far more impactful than a bit of shouting and militant defending of picket lines"

For many, not attending some of these seminars, tutorials, meetings or lectures will not only affect the progress of their degree but also lead to penalties for non attendance. Critisising students who want to avoid these penalties is misplaced in the extreme.

I understand and, to some extent, respect the commitment of the "student-staff solidarity group", but I think they're unaware of the culture they're creating on campus. When Comment Editor Ed Southgate questioned them on the militant nature of their protests, they simply denied knowledge; despite there being clear video evidence of such militantism.

Running around, banging on frying pans and chanting "I'd rather be a picket than a scab" has two extremely negative affects. Firstly, it makes student politics laughable. In an age when our generation are constantly being lambasted, unjustifiably, for being 'snowflake millenials', videos and images of students chanting and causing disruption is the perfect ammunition for our critics. Secondly, it undermines the seriousness of the cause. It is far easier for the University to ignore or, worse, discredit a movement who are militant in their action. Marches of hundreds of academics and students peacefully walking alongside are far more impactful than a bit of shouting and militant defending of picket lines.

The Solidarity group stated: "Whilst banging pots in our peers' faces and shouting at them is clearly a failed enterprise, students should not be apologetic for asking their peers to open their eyes to the reality of our situation". It is refreshing that they accept the futile nature of this action, but the job of 'opening their eyes' is that of the UCU and the University, not some hastily-organised student group.

Political action is always exciting; and involvement should always be applauded. However, militant extremism that allows those with whom the blame really lies to dismiss this cause can only have a negative affect.

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Cameron Scheijde

Former Editor | Co-Editor-in-Chief 2018-19 | Online Comment Editor, 2017-18