Staff support for student occupation

Fri, Dec 20, 2013, 01:06

Sir, – University of Ulster lecturers from the University and Colleges Union (UCU) want to voice our full support for our students in their occupation of the Coleraine university Senior Common Room, which is threatened with closure.

We are a learning community, not a business community. The SCR is the perfect illustration of that, and its closure is yet another landmark on the journey of university management’s cuts. The SCR is a shared space where every member of our learning community has the opportunity to meet, relax and work, sharing ideas and knowledge. University management plans to convert it from a shared space into an exclusive executive dining room.

Students are saying “enough is enough” after class sizes have increased, student support services have decreased, and the university canteens have been privatised.

We lecturers welcomed that the student occupation was started in solidarity with our strike on December 3rd, when all groups of staff, technical, support and academic, across higher education in the UK, took action in an ongoing call for fair pay. We have been offered a pay “rise” of just 1 per cent in the context of pay having fallen 13 per cent in real terms over the past four years.

Far from the stereotypical images we often see represented of students criticising their lecturers for going on strike and seeing it as detrimental to their studies, the students’ union’s support of our strike, the large numbers of students joining us on picket lines, and the SCR occupation tell us clearly that what students see as detrimental to their studies is not staff striking, but staff and students suffering cut after cut to pay and services. That is why on December 11th UCU held a rally to support the student occupation: staff standing in solidarity with the students who have stood in solidarity with us.

The SCR occupation is peaceful and is vibrantly reclaiming the space for its rightful purpose. Students are asking for meaningful dialogue with university management, but thus far it is not forthcoming. This is a great shame, because meaningful dialogue is what a learning community is all about. – Yours, etc,

GORETTI HORGAN (UCU

Ulster President) and

Dr LINDA MOORE

(UCU Ulster Vice President)

on behalf of UCU

Committee,

University of Ulster,

Cromore Road,

Coleraine.