The SRC passed a motion yesterday evening which calls upon the UCU and University of St Andrews to “refrain from further interrupting scheduled classes, assessment, and examinations”, following the recent spate of strike action
The motion itself resolves to call on the UCU to stop strike action from interrupting such academic experiences, call on the University to take all possible measures to prevent further strikes, and keep students informed impartially of strike action with regards to negotiations, announcements on further industrial action, and how the University examinations will account for missed learning due to the strikes.
The motion also states that it moves to “demonstrate support for the right of university staff to strike, where support does not conflict with the prioritisation of student academic experience.”
Association President Lewis Wood and Director of Education Zachary Davis drafted and proposed the motion to the SRC on Tuesday 3 April, in the first meeting with the newly elected members of the SRC and SSC.
Though the motion was passed by the SRC, no information is available on statistics of the vote, including how many voted for and against the motion, as the SRC moved to vote in camera, or privately and anonymously.
One of the reasons cited for this was to protect SRC members’ private beliefs, particularly from their lecturers.
The motion acknowledged the Students’ Association previous motion to support strike action on Tuesday 20 February, and how that motion resolved “to work with the university to minimize effects on students’ academic experience as a result of strike action.”
However, Mr Wood stated that one of the reasons for this new motion was because how the situation has changed. He stated that the current offer from the UUK “has been much more positively received” and will be voted on by the UCU, as opposed to the previous motion which was unanimously rejected by all UCU branches.
Mr Wood said, “I think a lot of people are recognising that the original things [members of the UCU] were asking for are now on the table, and I think a lot of people are now asking, ‘What is further striking going to do?’ To me, the answer is, ‘not that much.'”
He continued, “I think that striking now, when they have an agreement and they have’t even decided, is unfair, and I think it’s taking too much advantage of students.”
Last week, the UCU announced a further five days of strike action for 13 universities, including the University of St Andrews, from Monday 16 April to Friday 20 April.
On further strikes, Mr Wood said, “There is no limit to how much they can strike. I think that is a real anxiety turner.”
The motion also states that “student support has been cited as one of the reasons for continued action.”
In the debate and the motion itself, Mr Wood discussed how he saw this theme on the UCU’s emphasis of student support on its social media as well as the email from Chris Beedham of the Modern Languages Department, dated Tuesday 13 March.
Mr Beedham said, “We are currently at full strength, with unprecedented support, we need to do justice to that fortunate situation.”
Mr Davis also commented on this factor while speaking in support of the motion.
He said, “The momentum that they have gained has been cited as the reason [for] further strike action … I don’t think I can consciously approve a further strike action, which is the current situation we’re in, because people’s jobs depend on this and people’s grades.”
On the motion, Rector’s Assessor Camilla Duke, who is not a voting member but was present for the debate, said, “I think the important thing to point out, like Lewis said, is that it’s between the University and the UCU, or the UUK and the UCU, and it’s not really about us. This does a good job of removing students from the debate part of it and placing our education as a priority.”
The motion also addressed the “very real threat that UCU will boycott examinations” and referred to further comments from Mr Beedham’s email, where he stated, “The exams boycott (especially non-marking) is our one unbeatable weapon.”
The debate regarding exam focused on fourth-year students and study abroad students, who were said to be particularly affected if the exams are boycotted due to study abroad students’ need to reach the required number of credits and fourth-year students’ degree classifications, applications to higher education, and graduate job offers.
Fourth-year Jamie Minns, incoming Director of Student Development and Activities, said, “I’ve been fortunate enough to go to the last two graduations … Those sorts of times are supposed to be really happy times. The only time that [you] should be nervous is when you’re walking and you’re scared of tripping.”
He continued, “I still support the strikes in general … but when it gets to that point now [in fourth year], it’s quite scary.”
Markus Hansen of the St Andrews Socialist Society, who was present for the motion but could not vote, expressed his disappointment of the results with The Saint.
He said, “As it was pointed out several times by Wood himself, student pressure is an integral pillar of the current success of the strike. Therefore, it is a tactical blunder to officially ease the pressure put on the University senior administration and the UUK by the SRC.”
He continued, “I fully recognize that students are stressed and anxious by the prospect of graduating without a classification, even though we have been promised that graduation will not be delayed. I am myself amongst them. However, I think that unilaterally disarming by taking such a strong weapon off of the table is in total opposition to the goals set out in the former resolution passed by the SRC, which fully supported the strikes. If we want a hasty solution, then we need to facilitate and apply maximal pressure.”