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CUSU angers disabled students over strike action

There are accusations of failure to provide sufficient information to disabled students

On the 18th November, Jess O'Brien, Disabled Students Officer from the DRC (Disability and Resource Centre) released a post stating that members of the DRC and UCS (University Counselling Service) would be behind the picket line in the upcoming strikes.

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Students were advised to reschedule appointments and instructed to not cross picket lines in support of the strikes, causing online backlash as this was seen as an instruction which would cause harm to disabled students unable to access resources.

An angry response began across social media, with students taking to Camfess to make their views known.

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Post taken from Camfess

CUSU President Edward Parker-Humphreys then released a statement in an attempt to clarify the issue.

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Statement from Parker Humphreys released on the 20th November

He later promised to send an email to clarify CUSU's stance but this has yet to be received by students as of 22/11/2019.

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JCR presidents asked for this information to be passed on to students and for CUSU to admit that incorrect information had been shared

In response, Homerton College and Robinson College are putting forward the following motion at the CUSU council on Monday.

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The Action Motion will be raised on Monday 25th November

When contacted for comment, Jess O'Brien released the following statement in response to Varsity's questions:

Varsity: Was the initial post a statement, and if not why was it framed like one?

"The initial post was made by request of a few college Disabled Students’ Officers answering the question of whether the DRC/UCS would be on strike. They asked me to post it in the form of a Facebook post so that it could be easily shared to their JCRs."

Varsity: Whether you will be offering an apology for the factual inaccuracies in the first post?

"I understand that the unclear wording of my first post caused confusion and for that I do sincerely apologise.
To clarify, the issue was in the unclear use of the phrase 'picket line'. The DRC and UCS will be behind what is often referred to as a ‘virtual’ picket line, because workers at both services will be on strike. However, there will not be a physical picket line in place at the Benet Street entrance, although there will be at other entrances to the site. This is the same at some other departments across the University, for example the Department of Chemistry. Some students may choose, in solidarity with striking staff, not to cross picket lines whether virtual or physical.

"I hope from this it is clear that the issue was poor wording, rather than factual inaccuracy, and I have explicitly stated this in my recent statement."

O'Brien has released another statement in order to clarify, with a focus on welfare.

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Jess O'Brien via Facebook

The full statement contains details of alternative welfare services, with O'Brien concluding that "students should prioritise themselves."

As the political debate over the strikes and their effects on the student body grows, perhaps the most salient conclusion drawn from this controversy is the importance of clarity.

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