Striking staff are failing their students: I want my lectures back


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Phoebe Chase questions where her money is going if lecturers continue to strike over exam period.

As 64 universities wearily trudge into what is supposed to be the last week of staff strikes against the USS pension reform, it appears, unsurprisingly, that there is no definitive end in sight. An atmosphere that in the initial week of strikes was reminiscent of a kitchen on steroids, has now gradually dropped to something more along the lines of tired, blind, dogged determination. This, the fourth week of cancelled lectures and seminars for many students at universities across the Uk, heralds no victory for anyone involved. In short, everyone is fed up. This disruption herds great stress for students. We are expected to write essays on topics that have not even been covered, sections of the term's exams papers have been cut, and deadlines are being desperately extended in an attempt to minimise the unavoidable affect on grades.

"Our lecturers also have a duty to their students, and in this duty they are currently failing"

I highly sympathise with the crisis that many of the lecturers at the University of Bristol are facing. The treatment of staff by the Universities UK is inexcusable and I understand fully the importance of these strikes in protest of the proposed pension cuts. However, our lecturers also have a duty to their students, and in this duty they are currently failing. If these strikes continue, many students will have missed almost an entire term of teaching. This is unacceptable. I have been reassured countless times via email that 'your education is extremely important to me' and that if there was any other way of achieving their goal these strikes would not be happening. While I am sure this is true, the actions of our lecturers do not reflect this at all, and it is very difficult to feel comforted when the breaking news came in that the strikes are now set to continue possibly even into exam season. At this point, am I actually going to get my degree at all, or should I just sod off now and try somewhere else?

Although I do support the reason for the strikes, I strongly disagree with the way in which they are being dealt with by the university governance. What exactly have we been paying for for the past four weeks? True, I've used the library a fair amount, exercised my right to book reservation, and bought more coffee from the Source cafe than possibly ever before - achieving the generous gift of a free cappuccino, but one might hope that 9k would cover a little more than this. That students are not being compensated for canceled lectures is one of the biggest problems of these strikes.

"Am I actually going to get my degree at all, or should I just sod off now and try somewhere else?"

It points to the arguably wider issue that during this time of stress and confusion, when students are struggling to find ways to structure our daily lives and make up for missed lectures, we are receiving the bare minimum of support from our university. Whilst at the time of writing, some have received reassurances from their faculties that there is not an expectation to do exams and essays on topics not covered, many certainly haven’t received any such news. It is still mystifyingly unclear to a large number of students, the extent of which our grades will be affected by the strikes. During this time, I refuse to be expected to merely teach myself the missed material. I did not pay to come to university to be my own lecturer.

This is a time of great uncertainty for both lecturers and students, and we must treat each other with respect and understanding for our respective situations. This does not mean that we must also agree with those situations that we have been unwillingly thrown into. I want my lectures back. So does every student that I have spoken to about this issue - and there are many. I earnestly want the demands of the UCU to be met by the UUK, but I don't see how obnoxiously bashing one's entire crockery collection at students trying to go study in the library is going to achieve this. The animosity especially from a number of student picketers towards other students merely attempting to not fail their education is extremely disappointing. Are protests going to escalate even further? Abseiling down from the top of the Will's Memorial Building shouting 'support our lecturers' is not going to make the slightest bit of difference.

Featured image: Epigram / Cameron Scheijde

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