Warwick students break university staff strikes by holding self-run lectures


Harriet Bignell
Thursday 30 January 2014 17:07

A group of history undergraduates at Warwick are causing controversy by organising their own student-led lectures while their tutors go on strike.

The group arranged for older students to deliver a lecture on the subject they would have been taught if not for the strike disruptions – to the consternation of many of their peers and tutors, who have accused them of strike-breaking.

Larissa Quinn, one of the organisers, defended the initiative: “If a friend of mine had happened to take a module last year that I currently study and had gone over with me the topic of a lecture I had missed due to a strike, his help would not constitute ‘anti-strike behaviour’.

"This is exactly what we are doing, only on a larger and more universal scale.”

Lucy Gill, the Warwick SU’s postgraduate officer, attacked the replacement lectures for showing a lack of respect to university staff.

“Unfair pay and an increasing reliance on casual, short-term contracts for teaching staff fundamentally devalues the contribution tutors make to our university education. I understand that it is disappointing to miss a contact hour, but to camouflage what might otherwise be interpreted as a laudable action under the auspices of campaigning for ‘our fees’ and ‘our experience’ is infuriatingly selfish.”

On Facebook, James Foster said that the lectures would be less controversial if they had been put on at a time “when things aren’t so politically charged”.

“By doing them at the time of the strike, [these lectures are] an overtly political statement undermining the power of the strike action. By doing them at any other time, at least in terms of perception, they’re for the purpose of learning.”

History student Neel Sapat disagreed, arguing that “the role of the university must first and foremost be to provide education to the students. This is an argument between the staff and governing body, not the students and it is not right that we are jeopardised. It is unfortunate that the education system seems to be neglecting its primary aim in the face of monetary conflicts.”

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the union representing academics, UCU, said: “We understand the frustrations of students who want to get on with their education and share their concerns about further disruption. However, we have tried to negotiate with the employers for months to improve their miserly pay offer of 1 per cent.”

“Further escalation of the dispute, including a ban on marking, will unfortunately lead to greater disruption. We urge students to contact their vice-chancellor or principal and ask them to lobby the national employers’ negotiating body, UCEA, to urgently reopen negotiations.”

Meanwhile, the controversial public figure Katie Hopkins is set to visit Warwick tomorrow for an event. She tweeted: “Uni of Warwick - heading your way on Friday. Lecturers - get your idle arses off strike and back in the lecture theatres pronto. Be warned.”

She also tweeted: “Looking forward to meeting the students at Warwick Uni – manning up and running their own lecture program whilst Academics strike.”

Lucy Gill made extremely clear how she felt about Hopkins’ comments, writing “Let’s face it, when Katie Hopkins praises you on Twitter, alarm bells should start to sound.”

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