Lecturers and academic staff at the University of Sheffield have been declaring their support for students who are occupying an auditorium over “the ongoing marketisation of higher education.”
In a letter of solidarity to the Independent, 42 signatories, so far - including a collective one from the Sheffield UCU Committee - have said they share their concerns about the increasing marketisation, and the implications this has for free academic discussion and debate.
The letter adds: “We would like to emphasise the occupation is not designed to disrupt learning. The occupiers have been fully supportive of any lectures that have gone ahead. Rather than disrupt learning, one of the key aims of the occupation is to question and rethink the nature of educational space.”
The staff’s move has come shortly after the occupiers sent an email to university management on 3 March over its decision to cancel classes, despite the students insisting their occupation is a peaceful one.
The email read: “The decision to reschedule seminars and lectures unconditionally - without consulting academics and allowing them to make discretionary decisions - also shows a lack of consideration for staff.
“We request a statement is made openly by the university, and distributed to all academic staff and management, categorically clarifying that lecturers who make the decision to resume teaching in the occupied space will not be penalised.
“We have nothing but respect and solidarity for the academics within our university and, as with our students, we have no wish to inconvenience them.”
Students from The Free University of Sheffield have been occupying the institution’s Richard Roberts Auditorium for a week now. Announcing their intent to occupy on 29 February, the group said: “We’re seeing students treated as consumers - to be passive recipients of information for the sake of employability - rather than producers of knowledge.
“Students have been cowed by fears about debt and failure in an increasingly competitive job market, purging the reciprocal engagement between academic and student which should underpin learning in the university.
“Through our occupation, we aim to protest these problems in the university and, more importantly, realise an alternative.”
Announcing how it has recently been issued with a possession order to appear in court on Tuesday, the students said: “The University of Sheffield is taking its own students to court tomorrow. We would greatly appreciate any expressions of solidarity and, as always, the occupation is in the Richard Roberts Building and open to all that want to join.”
Solidarity statement in full:
Further to the Independent’s article Free University of Sheffield campaigners occupy auditorium to highlight ‘assault on higher education’, we, the undersigned, write in solidarity with The Free University of Sheffield. The university has now begun legal action against the occupiers. On 3 March, they received a possession order which will come to court on 8 March.
Like Sir Richard Roberts - the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist after whom the lecture theatre the students occupy is named - we, too, believe the goals of The Free University of Sheffield are laudable, and should be supported.
We share their concerns about the increasing marketisation of higher education, and the implications this has for free academic discussion and debate. We would like to emphasise the occupation is not designed to disrupt learning. The occupiers have been fully supportive of any lectures that have gone ahead. Rather than disrupt learning, one of the key aims of the occupation is to question and rethink the nature of educational space.
Dr Umberto Albarella, Reader in Zooarchaeology
Dr Ansgar Allen, Lecturer in Education
Dr Caroline Bland, Senior Lecturer in German
Craig Brandist, Professor of Cultural Theory and Intellectual History
Dr Harriet Cameron, Academic Director, ELTC
Dr Matthew Cheeseman, University Teacher
Dr Esme Cleall, Lecturer in the History of the British Empire
Dr Alasdair Cochrane, Senior Lecturer in Political Theory
Dr Fabienne Collignon, Lecturer in Contemporary Literature
Dr James Cranch, Teaching Fellow, School of Mathematics and Statistics
Keith Faulkner, Initial Teacher Education Tutor
Dr Roy Goddard, Honorary Lecturer
Dr Maxime Goergen, Lecturer in French
Dr Alice Honor Gavin, Lecturer in Fiction and Writing
Jamie Gough, Senior Lecturer in Town and Regional Planning
Professor Graham Harrison, Department of Politics
Dr Helena Ifill, University Teacher
Dr Matthew Malek, Lecturer in Experimental Particle Physics
Dr Sam Marsh, University Teacher, School of Mathematics and Statistics
Dr Lucy Mayblin, Research Fellow, Politics
Dr David McCallum, Reader in French
Dr China Mills, Lecturer in Critical Educational Psychology
Dr Emma Moore, Senior Lecturer in Sociolinguistics
Dr George Nicholson, Reader in Composition
Dr Owen Parker, Senior Lecturer in European Politics
Dr Sarah Pogoda, Lector in German
Dr Lisa Procter, Lecturer in Early Childhood Education
Dr Melanie Richter-Montpetit, Lecturer in Politics
Dr Simon Rushton, Lecturer in Politics
Dr Tom Stafford, Lecturer in Psychology and Cognitive Science
Dr Adam Stansbie, Lecturer in Music
Dr Peter Thompson, Reader in German (retired)
Dr Joe Turner, University Teacher, Politics
Dr Marcia Vera Espinoza. Postdoctoral Research Associate, Politics
Dr Peter Watt, Lecturer in Hispanic Studies
Dr Sophie Watt, Lecturer in French Studies
Dr Darren Webb, Senior Lecturer in Education
Dr Anthony Williams, Lecturer in Psychology of Education
Dr Lizzie Wright, Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Archaeology
Dr Dylan Yamada-Rice, Lecturer in Early Childhood Education
Dr Karine Zbinden, Senior French Lectrice in French Studies
Sheffield UCU Committee
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