Declaration of laziness: since I originally penned this (14/11/14) the strike has been cancelled and rescheduled twice, and it’s finally been called off entirely. Real life got in the way and I’m just now finding time to type it. I’m posting it now for posterity more than anything else.
Declaration of vested interest: my fiancé is an academic, as are many people I consider personal friends, as am I in an ideal future. I will thus happily confess that my desire to see the aforementioned being treated by their workplace in the manner they deserve may have thwarted my impartiality somewhat.
Declaration of subjectivity: I possess the ability to empathise and I’m not an utter douchecannon.
For those outside the bubble of academia which floats blissfully within, but apart from, the real world, our bubble has been clouded recently by a series of industrial disputes not dissimilar to those blighting our public services and the fast food industry.
A major difference, and the one I will address here, is that McDonald’s customers and council tax payers aren’t feeling as though the money funnelled into these services on their behalf entitles them to an importance greater than the democratic rights of the majority of an institution. And those guys have paid actual, physical money.
Obviously the democratic right to express an opinion, be it verbally, in print, publicly or privately, is as importance as the right to strike. Therefore, this article is not seeking to shame alternate viewpoints. But it does seek to readdress them.
An Open Letter to Anyone Bringing the Words ‘We’re Paying £9k’ Into this Dispute:
– 90% of you could not show me a receipt for this £9k if you were asked, and that is because 90% of you have paid a total of sweet fuck all thusfar. Nor will you until you earn £21k (now lowered to £17,335), after which it will be repaid at the rate of less than you probably spend on alcohol. We in the £3k club start paying at £15k. When I start making that salary, I will happily forego the pint currently accompanying this deluge of the written word, in recognition of the people that helped me earn that salary.
– Yes, lecturers are being paid out of the tuition fees paid on your behalf. For every pound the university earns, everyone contributing to its prestige, day to day running and customer satisfaction is paid about 40p between them. And university staff -not all of whom are union members – encompass more than lecturers. Newcastle University happily states its income surplus stood at £30.3 million this year (2013-14) – I’ll leave it unsaid how much of that went to pay rises for its front-liners, and even more unsaid how much their pay has been continually cut every year that the University improves. If you’ll insist in phrasing everything through the lens of tuition fees, a few of your lecturers are still paying off theirs.
– In light of the fact your mentors at university are training you to hopefully get a job considerably more well paid than their own, claiming they don’t care about their students is at best ignorant and at worst insulting. The amount of the work they have to do both to keep their jobs and to keep their heads above water as scholars isn’t paid by the university – and the more they do for students, the less time they have to do this. But they do, rather than getting a job in an industry that doesn’t practice the immoral renewal of short-term contracts with no job security, because they genuinely love what they do.
– This strike isn’t about how much people are and aren’t being paid; it’s about pensions. In other words, how they are expected to support themselves and their families after 10+ years of education and a lifetime of contribution to the global intellectual consciousness. Just because our study of historical figures ends at their death does not mean their biographers’ careers should.
– The strike itself may not reverse changes, but it will likely lead to better terms being put forward – it has before, hence its use again. Yes, it’s unfortunate that the only way to get results involves holding students over a barrel; but that is a problem with the attitudes of the university heads, not the staff. Also, how many of you have been part of protests against fee rises/budget cuts/neo-fascist groups? Did that make a difference? Was that even what mattered?
– I assume those up in arms about where the money they’ve yet to pay is going have never missed a single class or lecture. Because if that money’s worth more than people’s livelihoods and the long-term future of the university system itself, it’s definitely worth more than an extra hour in bed. Yes?
Students are perfectly allowed – and indeed encouraged – to air their grievances; their grievances are listened to. However, next time you reflexively call your academic mentors selfish, narrow-minded and unable to see the wood for the trees, stop. Think. And preferably look in a mirror.