J4CS claims Senior Tutors have rejected campaign demands

The Cambridge UCU-run campaign said tutors have “rationalised changing nothing at all in the supervision system”

Justice4CollegeSupervisors (J4CS) – the Cambridge University and College Union’s (UCU) campaign – has claimed that Senior Tutors “refused to even meet with [J4CS]  and rejected (their) demands outright.”

The campaign obtained the minutes of Senior Tutor’s Standing Committee on Education meetings (STEC) via Freedom of Information Requests this week.

Among other things, STEC is a representative body that sets the terms for employment for supervisors. They also consider educational policy and student welfare. Over the past year and a half, J4CS has submitted various papers for discussion to the committee, outlining their three main demands:

  1. Paid training for hourly-paid supervisors. Supervisors are required to attend mandatory training before taking on students, but the time spent attending many of these training sessions is unpaid.
  2. A pay rise to more accurately reflect working hours
  3. A secure contract

An email was sent out by J4CS graduate student signatories of their petition, asking for graduate students’ support to “end to casualization in the university” on December 1st. The email linked the campaign website, and was sent on behalf of Jarrah O’Neil and Taylor Hughson, co-grad representatives and PhD students.

The campaign’s interpretation of minutes, outlined on their website, is that tutors have “rationalised changing nothing at all in the supervision system.” They also provided a link to read the full minutes.

With regard to paid training for hourly-paid supervisors, the STEC noted administrative challenges due to the collegiate system. This same point was brought up when discussions of a secure contract for supervisors arose.

In response, Taylor Hughson told the Tab that “it is unfortunate that the colleges persist in citing administrative challenges as a barrier to paying supervisors fairly and raising the quality of education across the University.” Hughson pointed to the University’s £400 million deal with the UAE, alluding to its “enormous capacity to act.”

Hughson then suggested that “what [the University] needs to do is turn that kind of deal-making capacity to getting a fairer deal for supervisors and their students.

When considering pay raises, the minutes noted: “the Committee was concerned that it would require colleges to cut library resources, nursing and mental health provision – or alternatively, significantly reduce the number of undergraduate supervisions offered.”

Jarrah O’Neill responded, “colleges are transparently attempting to frame undergraduate and graduate students as adversaries in order to distract from their own mistreatment of hourly-paid supervisors and their steadfast refusal to negotiate with us on any aspect of our working conditions.”

O’Neill also noted,  “In reality, undergraduate and graduate students want the same thing: a well-functioning supervision system.”

Hughson further said, “Colleges promise prospective undergraduate students an outstanding education – in large part based on the supervision system – yet are unwilling to pay supervisors for all the time it takes to teach, including preparation and marking. Supervisors are the heart of Cambridge’s undergraduate education system (they’re the front line staff) so making the system function well should be the colleges’ top priority.”

The University has been contacted for comment. 

Feature Image Credits: Saide Mobayed

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