On the UCU strikes

Before I get down to it, I’d like to get one thing out of the way: as it happens I am against (pretty much) all forms of education cuts, lecturer pensions included.

What this rant (and there is no point in pretending this is anything but) is against, is the way in which the protests are going ahead.

Firstly, the striking itself. I know that in some instances, it can be seen as the only option. I’m not going to discuss striking in general here, because I haven’t the energy. But I will say that, as a student, I am not happy with the UCU strike. My feelings are that I get few enough contact hours with my lecturers and tutors as it is. It happens to be my bad luck that most of these are on a Thursday. As a result, even though it isn’t all my lecturers that are striking, I have lost a significant amount of contact time. Aside from the fact that I am paying large sums of money for my education – the proportion of which pays for the lecture I am missing today, I will not see again, incidentally – some of the content that I am being taught is already too condensed to be of real value. As a result of today’s strikes, those lecturers who are taking action have now said that they will incorporate the material for this week into next week’s lecture. To those who would say that this is the point – that without these losses the value of lecturers etc. wouldn’t be appreciated – I sincerely hope you are speaking for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, and do not genuinely believe this to be the case. I’m not the one cutting the spending for education, and neither are any of the rest of the student body. Why are we seemingly the only ones to suffer in this strike? Why does my education have to suffer as a result of this?

My other strike-related concern isn’t with this strike in particular, but with picket lines in general. I abhor them. I fully appreciate that a show of support is necessary in any cause, and I have no problems with people standing around with placards and chanting. My issue (and I realise that this is something that happens with varying degrees from group to group) comes when that group forms a coherent line, with the express purpose of forcing people to make a point of walking through them – i.e. crossing the picket line. There are times where one needs to be on the other side of the line, regardless of how they feel about the cause.
As a for instance: at my university there is a picket line around one of the campuses. Students (I presume others are being stopped as well, that would seem logical, but am only hearing of this happening to students thus far) are being stopped and interrogated as to their intentions. The people in the picket line are then ‘discouraging’ them from entering the building. Put aside the fact (once again) that students have nothing to do with the cuts, and that if they are going to attend a lecture it is because the lecturer is not part of the union that is striking and therefore has nothing to do with the action, and the fact that despite all this striking students still need to keep up with their education or they are the ones that will be penalised, it should not be the case that people should be made to feel guilty about actions that are well beyond their control.

I could go on and on (I’m in one of those moods) but whatever else I would say would either unconstructive, to the point of nullifying the rest of this entry, or is material that would do better in another piece of writing altogether (for example, I don’t feel I’ve put my point about contact hours and the value of education across very well – that is something that really warrants its own piece).

At any rate, I have a lecture to go to.

Until next time.

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