What do Sussex students really think about the strikes?

After 10 days of UCU strikes we found out what students really thought of them and discovered three types. Which one are you?

Today is the last day of 10 days of UCU strike action on campus over staff pay, pension cuts and working conditions.

No one will ever tell you better about what is going on on campus than a student, so we spoke to many Sussex students to give you an insight into what they think about tutors taking part in the UCU industrial action. 

During our investigation we came to the conclusion that there are three types of students: The happiest golden retrievers, the grumpy ones, and the supporters.

Our first group is made of human golden retrievers. These are students who found the silver lining in the cloudy sky and are happy to have a couple of days off. And let’s be honest, a day or two without lectures never harmed anyone. They can catch up on readings and some have even been fortunate enough to get a “pre-strike action support pack” from their tutors.

One second year biology student said “I have been quite lucky I must say, Only one of my modules is cancelling its lectures and seminars. We have had beforehand a list of recommended readings to do during that week, tips and additional tasks. Yes, it feels like online learning is back, and this is not what we are paying for, but they have to fight for their rights and they are trying to do it in the most arranging way. So no, I can’t really complain.”

A first year geography student told us “I have a lot of catching up to do, like, too much. This is great timing”

Our second group, on the other hand, feels that they have been let down by the university. Much like Squidward, grumpy but rational, these students feel that they are collateral damage. 

Second year law student said: “If we are treated as clients, and we are unsatisfied with what is going on, the university should reimburse the money that has been paid.” 

Megan, a third year history student told us that they felt: “The universities silence is not acceptable. Us students are not the ones at war with them, we simply pay our fees and go to class. All we want is a decent education. I am getting in debt at 20. I have friends that are paying double because they are international students. The university should either give us financial compensation or, accept to pay professors what they are due. It’s my fourth year at university, and there hasn’t been a year without strikes. They need to sort this out.”

The third category is passionately invested in the strikes. As Ned Flanders would, they believe in what is right and think that everyone’s rights should be respected. 

Many have highlighted that education is a human right, and they feel like the universities alongside the government are making it inaccessible to some. Solidarity has had an important role to play in their positioning.

A third year film student said “As annoying as they can be, I support the strikes because we are paying too much to have unsatisfied professors. How does our Vice-Chancellor earn over £300.000, whilst some of our teaching staff struggles to pay their rent? As selfish as it may sound, I support the strikes because I would like my value for money. And in order for that to happen teachers and staff need to be treated fairly.”

A third year international development and Spanish student said “I support the strikes because the UCU has always supported students and made student campaigns. It is important to maintain solidarity between unions, students and workers.”

First year English student told us “It’s important that people have the ability to challenge their employers when they feel that they are being mistreated.”

Esteban Gutierrez, a Colombian master’s student, feels strongly about the current situation. He said “Education is a basic right and it has been violated here.”

For him, the ongoing strikes are due to the commercialisation of education. “Universities are like industries, they focus more on quantity than on quality. Having been a professor in Colombia myself, I understand how these issues can affect professors”.

For Esteban and others, the University’s support has been very disappointing. In Colombia, students benefit from an academic guarantee: When strikes take place, the academic years are extended and students can access the missing parts of their education.

A University of Sussex spokesperson said: “”The industrial action was called over national issues and while we disagree with the strike action we respect the rights of our staff who have chosen to take part.“For everyone affected, we really hope that a long-term resolution can be found. “Here at Sussex, our overwhelming focus and a huge amount of effort has been put into minimising disruption to our students’ education and keeping university services running.“We have, and will continue to make a wealth of information available to students on the Hub page which can be accessed here.”

Now that you’ve seen the round up of student opinion, which one represents you the best? Are you the golden retriever, a grumpy Squidward or all out supporter?

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Jubilee lecture theatre sit-in has been ongoing for over 150 hours

Sussex Renters’ Union has occupied Jubilee building on campus

Sasha Roseneil appointed as new Vice-Chancellor of University of Sussex