THAT’S A STRIKE: YOU’RE OUT OF HERE!
As the University strikes come closer, student opinions are becoming stronger. Some more than others. Fractions are forming. Could there be a strike against the strike?
George Bush and Al Gore. Man United and Man City. Viallis and Sicilians. All great rivalries. But have you heard of Dieudonne and Miguel? No? Well now you have.
Both have strong views about the upcoming University lecturers strikes over pay. Dieudonne Munyabarenzi, a second year History student, has sparked many disputes on Facebook for his views against the strikes.
Such opinions have been rebutted by another strong character. He goes by the name of Miguel Costa Matos, Undergraduate Social Sciences Faculty Representative at Warwick SU and a 2nd year PPE student who strongly backs the strikes.
So without further ado let the opinions surface and the great debate begin!
Explain your views on the strikes and the subject you study?
Miguel: There are many reasons why I support the strike. I’m really concerned about support staff, as they get a really bad deal. Job insecurity, low wages, and often very little respect by the general community.
But I’m not going to pretend the main reason isn’t selfish. I definitely am not paying higher fees for Warwick to cut on how much it spends on teaching staff. The reason they can do this when they have more students is that they have forced staff to take a real pay cut of 13% over the course of the past five years!
Some of my tutors are paid less than the minimum wage after calculating their wages to account for seminar preparation, as their contracts state they should. I’m just being realistic here.
Dieudonne: My view on the strikes is simple. The staff have a right to strike, and the student have a right to an education. Whilst the exploitation of certain staff is something I recognise to be an issue, even if only because I want to become a lecturer myself, it is not a great concern to me.
First, as a black student the fact that despite making up over 5% of the student body, less than 0.5% of academic staff are black, is an issue I am more willing to strike off, than the pay of those of the privileged few who get in. When I applied to study history at warwick, a large part of that was the fact that Warwick was advertised as an institution of higher learning which aims to attract the best possible students.
In reality, I got 64% last year putting in less work than I did for my history coursework alone, never mind the other A levels I had to take, and the countless exams I had to take to get here. That is appalling, and shows that something is fundamentally wrong with the way history is both examined and taught. You actually do more work as a school pupil for your GCSE exams, than your first year of university.
School is free, university is not, and that is essentially why I am angry. I am paying 9 grand to be able to do nothing, and get a good grade for doing so. The system basically encourages laziness – what student will do work when they can get away with doing less for the same if not a similar grade? As a student, I have to travel to campus for a seminar, knowing I am going to be one of 3 students who actually says more than 5 words in this seminar. How can that environment possibly be the one that best helps me as a student ?
Do the lecturers have the right and justification to strike?
Dieudonne: Anyone who is paid for their labour has the right to withdraw that labour if they feel like the terms of their contract are not met. My problem is not with the staff who choose to strike, is with the staff who chose to strike who I feel, are getting paid for what do I not consider labour.
What I take issue with, is those lecturers who seem to think it acceptable to stand in front of us, and deliver power point presentations. No matter how amazing a lecture you deliver, if you are simply reading pre-wrote information to use, why not give us the information and forget the lecture? But, that is not my problem, it is the problem of the department. I have paid for an education, not for someone to read power point slides to me. Before I will support any strike on pay, I feel like staff should do what they are paid to do.
Miguel: I think that anyone who receives a pay cut of 13% over five years has a right and justification to strike. I definitely think that anyone who’s really paid less than the minimum wage has a right and justification to strike. I think that anyone who has an insecure job has a right and justification to strike. Nobody should have to accept crap jobs, and let’s face it, that’s what the University is offering.
Have you got what you have paid for?
Dieudonne: If when I chose to study history at warwick, i had done so wanting to become a corporate lawyer, then every penny I have paid has been worth it. We have a history society, which doesn’t advertise things to do with history, but can manage to get over 10 networking events to spam my facebook feed with.
We have a department that can’t solve the issue of seminar participation, despite the fact there are numerous things that do work if only implemented. Although there is plenty of research funding and undergraduate research journals, they are not advertised as part of the course, and yet we have to sit through 3 terms of making history, which was and still remains the worst module I have studied in my life.
Miguel: Have I got an amazing University experience? Yes. Generally, my lecturers and tutors are engaging and committed. Which is truly a blessing bearing in mind that many tutors have to work several part-time jobs to make ends meet, and aren’t paid for preparation or advice and feedback hours.
What can you see the future of history and warwick university looking like if the same thing keeps happening?
Miguel: If the same thing keeps happening, it’s because the University isn’t listening. If the University continues to not budge on this, then students and stuff must resort to non-violent direct action to contest their petty stubbornness and to reclaim the University for those who study and work here.
The future graduates of Warwick University – we, the Students – must accept our responsibility in securing the best for Warwick. Paying our staff decently is a necessary and reasonable first step.
What steps have you taken to strike against the strikes?
Dieudonne: I have not taken any attempts to stop the strikes, but I have however attempted to reason with the students supporting the staff strikes. As I have told numerous students, the government does not care about us, and it is naive to assume they do. Governments and indeed most if not all institutions work on reform and repression.
Warwick University is first and foremost a capitalist enterprise. For this to work, it relies on the exploitation of those working here. As a student, I am well aware of the fact that the fundamental problems at the heart of Warwick will not be solved by a staff or student strike.
Until the profits of this university are at risk, no real change will take place. Why else would we keep a vice-chancellor who seems to make it his aim to spend as much money as possible.