Bristol student Lois asks students to support staff strikes and avoid crossing picket lines.
Students are currently under a lot of pressure with deadlines. In light of this, many feel a sense of entitlement to attend university on strike days. The rhetoric goes: ‘I’m paying a lot of money for this, I have work to do, I am entitled to go.’ We all have work to do, students and staff alike.
I have been sincerely disheartened by the lack of motivation and willingness to compromise from some students during the strike. However, I feel that this stems from distinct lack of understanding about the importance of their participation rather than a genuine lack of support.
Something needs to be made clear. Probably unlike any other political actions you may have been involved with in the past, as a student, your body - your physical presence and where you decide to be during strike days - is an inescapable political decision. You cannot absolve yourselves of responsibility here; by going to any university premises, attending libraries or lectures during strike days, you are making a political decision. You are choosing a side. Siding against our lecturers and affiliated staff. There seems to be a distinct lack of comprehension about the gravity of this. We should be voting with our bodies to be on the side of our striking staff.
The actions of the students at last Monday’s rally - entering lecture halls, shouting and telling people to leave and join the rally - were intended to raise awareness by asking students to acknowledge what their actions mean. Their support is greatly needed to speed up and put pressure on negotiations regarding pensions.
Claims that these actions were ‘militant’ are absurd, greatly exaggerated and completely misunderstand the urgency of the situation. Some may have felt intimidated by this, but I feel it is a necessity for students who have been crossing the picket line to take responsibility for their actions and understand that their support is integral to the success of the strike.
I want to emphasise that the decision to strike has not been taken lightly. Our lecturers do not want to strike- they want to be teaching. This disruption is inconvenient at the very least for everyone, but it is insignificant compared to the impact that these pension reforms will have on staff. The strikes and concomitant actions are taking place to make these negotiations happen quicker and a lack of student action and support will only slow down this process.
The strike is about pensions, with average lecturer losing £10,000 a year in their retirement. It is also about changes to employment contracts, whereby far more staff are working on casual, hourly paid contracts with no guaranteed pension whatsoever. Ultimately, it is about resisting the marketisation of our education and the persistent conversion of our interactions with teachers into a consumer/service provider relationship.
If we continue to allow management to do this to our staff, they will continue to do similar things to us, such as raising our fees yet again and continuing to strip back fundamental resources such as welfare systems. Our staff supported us, stood with us on our rallies when our fees were raised. We cannot absolve ourselves of this responsibility; we must support them.
Featured Image: Bristol Student-Staff Solidarity Group