From teach-outs to tea and coffee - how some students are going above and beyond to support the strikes

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By Ellie Brown, News Subeditor and Molly Pipe, First Year Social Policy and Politics

Members of the Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group (BSSSG) have been supporting striking staff since industrial action began on Monday 25 November.

The group is run by students and has been a visible presence on and around picket lines on campus and at demonstrations.

These include the rally on Wednesday 27 November, where a representative of the group announced that they would be running ‘teach-outs’ for six days of the strikes.

'Teach-out' activities range from banner making to creative writing, and include several talks by striking staff on topics such as ‘Capitalism and Mental Health’ and ‘Medieval Penis Trees.’

We have some new additions to our teach-out schedule! Firstly due to difficulties securing speakers we've replaced...

Posted by Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity on Monday, 2 December 2019

11 events have been planned so far, and are due to take place in Bristol churches and community centres, as well as the SU’s own Stacy Room.

‘It’s just a form of alternative learning’ says Ruth Day, a member of the group.

‘While students hopefully won’t be going into their lectures, and lecturers won’t be teaching for the University, we’ll have a space where we can all learn together as an academic community, rather than as this divided group between students and staff.’

Additionally, the group has been meeting at 7.30am outside Senate House each day of the strike, bringing ‘energy, food, tea, coffee and endless solidarity’ to lecturers on the picket lines.

Stalls helped build support for the strikes: Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group

According to Day, membership of the group has been growing throughout the strike action. ‘We started off with about five or six of us, and we’ve got a group chat of people supporting the strike with about 75 people in it now, just through building support through stalls on campus’ - though the group’s core membership is made up of twenty students.

‘A lot of students find that they support the strike when they know what [its] about.’

Student support has been welcomed by striking academics. ‘Staff really appreciate seeing so many of us on the picket lines with them in the morning, handing out tea and coffee’ said Day.

One lecturer, who wished to remain anonymous, told us she was ‘really pleased to see students rally together and work with us. If we build that movement together, we have much more capacity to make changes together as we go forward.’

To students who are unsure about whether to support the strikes, they commented that ‘this movement is part of a wider movement in the disintegration of workers rights...our pensions are their pensions. If pensions get worse, when they’re older their pensions get worse. It’s as much their fight as it is our fight in whatever job they want to go into.’

Students have been standing on picket lines with lecturers: Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group

The lecturer also commented that the working conditions of academics have repercussions for their students. 'Exhausted' staff working '12 to 14 hour days' and suffering 'decreasing morale', are ‘not able to build the same kind of teaching relationships as they would like to.'

'Students are being affected [by this] every single day' she said.

Featured image credit: Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group


Have you been to any of the teach-outs? Let us know!


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