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‘It’s censorship’: Sheffield Hallam Uni asks students to ‘report’ lecturers for striking

Students used as ‘surveillance tools’

Sheffield Hallam University is under fire for asking students to "report" their own lecturers for striking.

Students have hit out at Hallam bosses after they were sent an email with a link to an online form titled "Industrial action: record of teaching activities not taking place", which they claim asks them to "grass' on staff.

Members of the University and Colleges Union at 60 universities nationwide are walking out for eight days from Monday over pensions, pay and working conditions amid an ongoing row with vice-chancellors' body Universities UK. The strike, set to last until 4 December, could severely impact student deadlines and exam preparation.

It comes as Hallam staff accuse the institution of censorship for allegedly ordering them to not discuss their reasons for striking in front of students.

An email, seen by The Tab Sheffield and sent on Friday, asked all students to "complete this simple online form", requiring them to name the staff member due to teach, when and where, "for the purposes of planning for any alternative arrangements".

It prompted outrage on social media. Lauren O'Donoghue, a Hallam creative writing student, wrote to the institution's vice-chancellor Chris Husbands, accusing him of using students as "surveillance tools".

"Take the reporting site down immediately," she wrote. "I am just one of many furious students who will be fighting against this tooth and nail. Do not turn your students into surveillance tolls and ask them to snitch on staff who care about them."

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The email that student Lauren O'Donoghue sent to Hallam's VC

Several furious lecturers tweeted screenshots of them filling out the form with fake responses. The widespread backlash prompted Hallam to remove the field asking for the "name of staff member scheduled to teach", however the rest of the form remains online.

Elsewhere Hallam lecturer Joanne Lee claimed on Tuesday that she was instructed not to mention of her reasons for striking in front of students, and said one post of hers on Blackboard explaining the situation to students "was deleted by management".

Why are lecturers at Sheffield Uni and Hallam striking? Here's everything you need to know

She says bosses then told her: "The University has asked that staff do not write and post messages to students about the strike action digitally or physically as communications around the strike is being managed by central university messages [sic].

"This is to avoid possible miscommunication as well as to ensure students don't get caught in individual staff points of view."

O'Donoghue told The Tab Sheffield: "This is a completely unacceptable attempt to prevent students from hearing all sides of the argument and making an informed decision. Higher education is supposed to be about critical thinking, but the university are attempting to ensure the only information we receive has been approved by them."

A Hallam graduate on Twitter called it a "disgrace", accusing the institution of "trying to censor and stifle staff-student dialogue".

Yesterday The Tab Sheffield reported how the neighbouring University of Sheffield had been criticised for threatening to withhold "100 per cent" of pay to staff who refuse to reschedule teaching time lost to the strike.

Sheffield Hallam University did not respond to a request for comment on the form. On accusations of censorship, a spokesperson said the institution "respects the right of staff to take action and voice their concerns."

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