Your guide to supporting the UCU strike action

How you can support your striking lecturers


The UCU (University and College Union) has voted in favour of industrial action on the basis of pension cuts , with academics set to lose out on £240,000 each on average as a result of the pension changes and the pay of academic staff, having seen a 20% drop in pay in real terms over the last ten years. This will commence upon the 25th November to the 29th November and continue from the 2nd December to the 4th, which is the end of the academic term. This is in solidarity with over 40,000 university staff at 60 universities nationally.

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A UCU infographic explaining why staff are choosing to strike

Many students value their lecturers and want to show support, but are confused as to how -so we present your comprehensive guide to supporting lecturers through these next two weeks!

What if I need to go to the department library?

To access books, a useful tool is the Strikebridge Facebook page- you can post in the group the book you need for a PDF version and people can offer you access to their college libraries.

Alternatively, for online access always try iDiscover or use one of the links provided on the Strikebridge Facebook page for alternative access options.

You can also access University libraries on the weekend. If you are still going to access such libraries during the strike period, try and do so outside of the picket line times; crossing them can undermine them.

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There will be an invisible picket line around the UL and so should also be not be used (this means you won't get lost in it, so there are definitely positives to avoiding the UL)

How about returning books?

This year, all regular loans are automatically renewed thus unless requested there is no urgent need to return books to department libraries. However, if books are recalled by other students there are various ways you can return them to the library. Firstly, if your book was from a departmental or faculty library it can alternatively be dropped off at the main University Library Reader Services desk, from Monday to Friday of strike weeks. For the weekends, the Sidgewick Site drop box can be used to deposit books.

Also, don't worry about fines; the Cambridge University Library Leadership Team has agreed that fines for the late return of recalled books will be waived during the strike period.

What about my classes?

According to the University, many lecturers have already communicated whether their classes are on or not in the striking period. If in doubt, email your lecturer and keep checking both your emails and Moodle.

Attendance of mandatory labs, dissections etc during the strike period are not being considered as crossing the picket line by the UCU, so don't worry about these.

What about supervisions?

Due to being paid for by colleges, supervisions are unaffected and will continue as scheduled. If your supervisions are still in the department, email your supervisor and ask if you can move it to a college. You may have to book the room yourself – make it easy for the supervisor to move the supervision, they will appreciate it!

What about my lectures?

By attending lectures in University buildings, you are breaking the picket line and so to show support with staff, non-attendance of lectures, if being delivered, is encouraged. Even if there is no physical picket line, all University buildings and sites are surrounded by an invisible picket line for the whole of the strike period, so these sites should be avoided.

Due to the strikes, many lectures are likely to be cancelled also.

Instead of attending a lecture, perhaps join your lecturers on the picket line or attend a Teach Out by UCU, which are "free public events addressing themes raised by the strike over threats to pensions and deteriorating pay", as taken from the UCU website.

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A CUSU infographic showing where the physical picket lines will be. However, all university buildings are surrounded by invisible picket lines and should be avoided.

How do I know if a lecture is cancelled or rescheduled?

You will most probably be informed by your lecturers via email, Moodle, or announcements at the start of lectures in the week prior to the strike if your lectures are on. However, lecturers have no mandate to inform the University if they are striking prior to the strikes starting, so it may just be a case of waiting to find out on the day.

How will I receive missed lecture notes?

There's currently no university-organised means of getting your missed lecture notes. However, initiative goes a long way! Ask your college parents for last years' notes or ask upon the StrikeBridge Facebook page.

Some lecturers are also posting their notes online, just not giving the lecture, so you can catch up without attending (which we're sure you've definitely done before).

The University has recognised the disruptive impact of strikes and has committed to taking into account missed classes and teaching in the setting of examinations. This however does not mean that you won't be examined on missed content, as supervisions are still going ahead.

How can I make my support public?

Changing your profile picture, although minor, can show your fellow students that supporting the strike is a popular decision, and may sway them to also support the strikes.

How can I pressure the university?

UCU are encouraging students to email Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge and tell him that we support the strikes. Also asking him to pressure Universities UK and UCEA (Universities and Colleges Employers Association) to negotiate is encouraged.

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Make sure that this man knows you support your striking staff and want to end the commodification of higher ed!

How can I actively support the strikers?

There are a variety of ways you can lend a hand in supporting your academic staff.

Firstly, don't be afraid to join the picket line! Showing your concern for their struggle is a fundamental way you can support staff. Picket lines are likely to be in the mornings and on the Sidgwick Site as well as others, so keep this in mind if you're unsure of when or where to go.

Feel free to join the daily rallies on King's Parade!

Winter has hit and Cambridge is chilly; no doubt lecturers would appreciate you assisting food and hot drink runs! These are being run by CUSU, leaving at 8:30 and 10:30.

How can I support disabled students?

It has recently been brought to light the detrimental potential impact the strikes may have upon disabled students. We must be aware of the difficulties this may pose to them. Do not shame students who choose to work in faculty libraries – they may find college libraries or cafes unsuitable work spaces. CUSU Lounge is also being offered as an alternative workspace outside of the picketed sites.

The Bene't Street entrance will not be actively protested, so use this entrance to the UCS and the DRC.

What if I still want to go to my lectures?

We appreciate that many students will still want to attend their lectures, or will need to access books, or may not be able to get mandatory contact moved to non-picketed sites. Make sure you understand why the strikes are happening and know why you are making your choice, but if you cannot avoid picketed sites, you could take some of the above steps to show your support in other ways if you still want to show solidarity.

The use of we in this article refers to the authors' opinions and does not reflect the opinions of The Tab Cambridge.

Photo credits to: UCU Twitter, UCU Facebook, CUSU Facebook, Cambridge University Library, Lysanne Larose