As this episode was based more around interviews and less around secondary sources, I don’t have many to add here this week. However there are some great articles which have heavily influenced my thinking, and which I’m sure have been read by others on the picket line. I’ll share these here for you to read through if you would like a look, and offer some thoughts of my own. I also have included some other articles/twitter threads connected to the strikes which you should read if you’re interested.
Here is a fantastic article/blogpost from the three-week mark of the strikes by Grace Krause. It’s a phenomenal read, which really gets across the emotional experience of solidarity. Click here!
Another great article (from week two of the strike) about how the strike has brought people together, and the possibilities which it has opened up. From the Punk Academic blog.
Here is an excellent article about how the twitter hashtag NoCapitulation rallied support and defiance, leading to what became an impressive assembly by the war memorial in Alexandria park in Cardiff. #NoCapitulation
It’s not a manifesto, but maybe it should be? Jason Hickel, who writes a lot on Degrowth (there’ll be an episode on this at some point I’m sure) has written a list of demands related to the emerging movement in academia, which I’m definitely going to be organising around when work starts again tomorrow. create utopia
Before the strike started I was struggling with some deeply personal issues that I’m not really ready to write about yet and had become a bit disillusioned with my PhD fieldwork, on top of the ever-present worry about what I’m going to be doing after I finish. I wasn’t tired, but just felt a bit lost and was lacking purpose. One of the things that struck me as I got up each morning to join the picket line was the sense that I was contributing to something, in however minimal a way, that was a collective project I could believe in. So much of the PhD process feels individualising, or at least the in terms of activities needed to ‘succeed’. I think this had the effect of grinding me down somewhat, so the personal issues I was going through were stopping me from working.
As a PhD researcher and a member of UCU, I was able to take part in the strike but because of the nature of PhD studies, it felt weird to not work entirely- I would just be eating into my own funding period, and I did not have significant teaching responsibilities during the period. Additionally, before I even knew about the strike I had agreed to complete some paid transcription and report-writing work for an external organisation and felt obliged to make progress on this when I wasn’t on the picket line. So during the strike days, I was usually spending a few hours on the picket line before leaving to work elsewhere on the transcription/report for the rest of the day- a lot of times this was quite tiring, but also satisfying.
Simply being around colleagues for extended periods of time with a shared purpose, often in freezing weather led to that feeling of solidarity, so well described by Grace Krause. It’s had something of a healing effect and I actually feel far better than I did before the strike began. Pleasure and care are at the centre of long-term organising, and we need to remember that. I feel more secure and ready to continue my fieldwork than previously and I’ve also found a new commitment and determination to creating the change so many of us want to see inside academia.
I also want to apologise to all the students who have suffered and struggled with this- all I can say is that you should put pressure on the university management to find a suitable settlement with UCU. I also seriously doubt that this is the end of the strike action, and cannot say how it will end. This strike is part of a struggle which needs to escalate and widen in scope. Fees mean you are getting a bad deal from Universities, and we do not want to be part of that deal any more than you do. In fact, we’d like the deal to be decided between us ideally and do away with this tier of unaccountable management.
I also want to share with you some articles and information about the strike, to highlight some people at particularly sharp ends of the marketisation of the sector.
University cleaners are poorly paid, casualised, and often mistreated by their employers who because of outsourcing are often not universities themselves. They deserve better than this for a job which is so difficult, and are going on strike soon in London.
Tier 2 Visa holders and others are being pressured by the Home Office to not go on strike. This is wrong and possibly illegal, as Nicola Barker shows.
Solidarity, and #NoCapitulation.