Goldsmiths UCU call for an assessment boycott and pursue Action Short of a Strike

They are also not covering for staff who are absent and will not be working overtime

Goldsmiths staff are no longer releasing marks for any ongoing assessments, as their trade union (UCU) have been pursuing Action Short of a Strike.

Since February, Goldsmith’s trade union – the UCU – have been taking industrial action in the form of pursuing an Action Short of a Strike and undertaking an assessments boycott.

The strike means that staff will also not be covering for their absent colleagues and will not work overtime in the period.

What exactly does this mean?

First off, GUCU has stressed that this does not mean their staff are striking. Instead, they’re doing what’s called an Action Short of a Strike: putting pressure onto Goldsmith’s Senior Management Team (SMT) over their “failure to ensure our Members (Goldsmith’s academic staff) that they will not be left jobless in the midst of a pandemic.”

Their action includes “an assessment boycott, in addition to other things like not covering up for absent colleagues or not working overtime.” 

The assessment boycott means that students should expect a delay in getting marking back for any ongoing assessments. The GUCU have assured students, however, that they should still expect to “receive support and guidance from your teachers in GUCU, who remain committed to your learning, to your growth and to your wellbeing.”

Why is Goldsmith’s UCU doing this?

In a letter written to students on the 20th of January, Goldsmith’s UCU explained: “Once staff are made redundant, they will not be replaced. Once Programmes are closed, they will be lost for many years or even forever.

“We are pursuing Action Short of a Strike – we are not on strike. We are pursuing this action because we do not want to disrupt your learning any more than we have to and we regret it has come to this. We have spoken to Management but they are unwilling to compromise in any way that can give our Members hope.

“Staff losses will affect students directly. You, as students have had a truly terrible year in so many ways – but you have also produced outstanding work and we hope that you know, if it were down to us, we would have done things differently about how the Universities sector treated students during the pandemic and in struggles before this.

“Staff have been hiding their own struggles as much as possible, but we really now have no other choice.

“We believe our demand is reasonable. Management should allow us all, at the very least, to genuinely ‘recover’ from the pandemic, by continuing to keep our jobs, and to make sure that we are fully staffed to deliver the best of our work in the months to come, with safely manageable workloads.”

How long will this last for?

At the moment, there has been no concrete information released as to when this will end.

Goldsmith’s UCU said: “It is our greatest hope that SMT will decide to meet our demands ASAP so that the negative impact on students can be minimised. However, the responsibility lies with them to do so and stop further industrial action.

“If SMT does not cooperate, or if they take punitive measures such as withholding our pay, we have to be honest with you, there may be more disruption to come.”

What does this mean for students?

The main issue this raises for students is of course the delays in getting any marking back for formative and summative assessments.

Teaching will go on as scheduled, however teachers will only be working their contracted hours and not doing any unpaid overtime. This means that it might take longer than usual to get replies to any emails.

For practice-based modules, students may be overseen by their teachers, but again won’t receive feedback for their work until the action is over.

If you are planning on going on to further study, teachers will still be able to write letters of reference and provide support. The UCU has said “this has already been done during past industrial action and all students have been accepted onto their courses.”

For those graduating this year, the UCU has been a little vaguer, writing: “We do not aim to affect your ability to graduate. However, this may be a knock-on effect of not receiving your grades if SMT do not work with us and listen to our demands.”

Of course, the timing of this couldn’t be any worse for Goldsmith’s students. With all learning going online, students already aren’t getting the support that they usually would. On top of this, the coronavirus rates in London have been soaring in the past few weeks, and we are currently in a national lockdown. Yet students are still paying £9.25k a year for their courses.

There will be a Staff-Student Forum on the 28th January, 12-2pm, where students can voice their concerns and seek clarification.

Students can register their concerns and dispute the impact which this is having on their studies by writing to Frances Corner, Warden, using this open letter template.

You can read the full letter written to students here.