Here’s everything that went down at Peter Mathieson’s McEwan Hall Q&A
From what went wrong in Hong Kong, to his pay package and of course, the strikes and occupation
Tonight Peter Mathieson, accompanied by outgoing EUSA President Patrick Kilduff and Vice President of Education Bobi Archer, addressed approximately 200-300 students at a reception in McEwan Hall.
Here's a summary:
On opening, Peter, who emphasised that he wanted to be known by his first name, spent the first couple of minutes going through what you might expect, that he was new here and this was a better job than Hong Kong and spoke a little bit about our appalling student satisfaction (which we'll come back to) before answering questions form Patrick and Bobi.
During their interview, Peter was asked about his stance on the ongoing UCU strikes, to which he told students he "was hoping the dispute would be fixed quickly", and when assessing us staff will likely "take into account the disruption", we have faced.
When asked about the large payment package, Mathieson diverted the question a lot, before saying to the EUSA members and the audience: "I accepted it, I don't regret it.'"
One of the most pressing concerns for people at the event was the prospect of tuition fee refunds due to the strike. In summary Mathieson replied:
"I do not accept that there is a concrete correlation between contract hours and tuition fees, we have other service open such as the library which your fees go towards. In certain instances I see reason for refunds for expenses, such as towards mother's who study and have unnecessarily paid for childcare."
He was then asked by the floor on certain issues, which we'll break up for clarity:
An audience member asked: "You mentioned satisfied staff is important, but you haven't supported UCU strikes outwardly? Will you do so in not docking their pay?"
Peter avoided the answer to this for a good amount of time, focusing on his 'resolution', which was a speedy one with focus on certain groups that will be affected, such as striking women. This aggravated the audience member, who shouted out, requesting that he not be vague, another member screamed 'Yes or No, Peter!', to which Peter said, 'We are deducting pay.' (This received a solitary 'boo')
A PHD student asked how some refund costs, such as accommodation costs, are any different to the potential mother who paid costs for nannying earlier. Mathieson said "because it is different, in my opinion it is straight forward and this is easily affordable" and then rambled about tuition fees, which isn't actually what the lady asked about.
So Peter, what went wrong in Hong Kong?
Perhaps a highlight of the night is when someone started his question with, "How's it going Pete, alright?" and then spoke about the 80 per cent of students who attended the University of Hong Kong, where he previously worked, claiming that 'he didn't effectively protect student's academic freedom or understand the needs of students or staff. ' Ending on "so, Pete, what went wrong in Hong Kong?"
'Pete', as he mentioned earlier argued that Hong Kong was different in that they politicised everything, he tried to please too many people, resulting in him offending both the anti and pro establishment citizens for instance. He also argued that the methodology they used when conducting wasn't necessarily reliable. He also said the students thought he went from a friend to an enemy after complaining feeling unsafe when he couldn't leave a building cause of a protest.
Only half an hour pay to mark an essay?
A PHD Tutor asked a question about being paid only half an hour's worth of work to mark an essay, a time he rightfully deemed insufficient, to which Peter admitted he wasn't aware of that and would try to right the situation.
Annnnd the post conclusion shout about the occupation
Less controversial questions where asked about whether he was going to reach out to certain marginalised groups, to which he obviously agreed and whether class expansion could be avoided, something he couldn't promise. After bidding his goodbyes however, a student shouted, "what do you think about the occupation?"
Peter said he wasn't really involved in it, although he had been updated, and wanted them to be safe. This lead to more shouting from both sides, with people shouting "when are you going to get rid of them" to "do you even know what the strike is about?", to which he apparently wrongfully answered yes to when he said about the UCU strikes. However he was cut off.
All in all, 'Peter' answered most of the questions and has committed to some good things, and whilst there was a lot of shouting and rucus, he did give answers to the key questions students wanted to know and has at least made an attempt to listen to us through this.