Here’s what you as a student can do to support the lecturers’ strike
You don’t even have to leave your bedroom
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past fortnight, you're probably aware that some University of St Andrews staff will be taking industrial action over the coming weeks. This will cause disruption throughout weeks 4-7 and will accumulate to fourteen days of lost contact for students. Ideal.
The strikes come as a result of proposed changes to the current pension plans of lecturers throughout the UK, changes which would create a deficit of roughly £10,000 per year for the average lecturer in retirement compared to the current plan. This is a significant amount of money and I reckon university staff are entitled to it, given the effort, research and time they dedicate to our lectures and tutorials on a weekly basis – never mind the fact that this amount of money is what was agreed as fair exchange for their work.
These strikes will inevitably affect our learning and our general experience of St Andrews university. As the article by Georgia Davies earlier this month accurately pointed out, this isn’t fair – especially when the cost of education has only increased in recent years. Eye-wateringly expensive education is only justifiable when we are in receipt of that education – which, thanks to the strikes, we won’t be. However, the calls for compensation of university fees won't be entertained by the university in these circumstances. So, if we don’t have contact hours and we don’t have compensation, what do we have?
We have the ability to support our lecturers. Some staff have already told students of their expected absences and even provided a template letter, enabling students to directly appeal to the principal to reopen negotiations over the proposed pension scheme. As the dates of the strike steadily approach, however, it seems this approach is not enough.
An alternative approach to consider is a student strike. I know, students don’t exactly provide a service which can be withheld in the way that lecturers do – but, at its core, the strike is intended to cause maximum disruption to university operations by removing the very purpose of the institution, our education.
As much as there can be no lecture without the lecturer, there can also be no lecture without an audience. True, a tutorial absence may be a blot on our attendance – but several lecturers have expressed reluctance to record it as such, since it represents student solidarity with them.
If students withheld their attendance for even one day it would cause disruption to university proceedings, show support for the staff and wouldn’t have a directly negative impact on us (such as the withholding of income), where it will for the lecturers.
This is not a call to arms, but rather a call for aid. We, as students, should support our lecturers in this decision. Rather than resent them for the withdrawal of their labour, we should resent the organisation which does not maintain the pension promised to them.
Because the fact is our lecturers don’t want to do this. They don’t want to deprive us of our education, or sacrifice their own research time, or stand outside in the freezing February weather; equally, they don’t want to not be able to feed themselves in retirement. As students, as academic peers and as empathetic beings, we should support the strikes.