First and foremost, let it be said that I fully support our striking staff members and stand in total consensus with their rights and reasons to withdraw their services to the university during the strike period. Through voicing support to lecturers, sending various emails of written complaint to both the new Vice-Chancellor and, most recently, attending the UCU rally of support in Bristo Square last Monday, there are multiple ways to show student solidarity with staff members threatened by significant cuts to their pensions.
We should not however, be expected to damage our own education any more than is already being done so as a result of the strikes. Therefore, students should not be made to feel guilty for continuing to use university buildings and attending still-scheduled tutorials and lectures over the course of the strikes.
As a final year student studying a joint honours programme, the currently planned fourteen days of strike action are set to affect my entire timetable. As it stands, I receive seven hours of contact time per week, taking place from Monday to Thursday, and therefore will have received a solitary few hours of tuition over the course of the next month. Despite the sharing of online petitions, currently, it does not look likely that students at The University of Edinburgh will be compensated for lost tuition time. And yet, despite the lack of teaching and the continued paying of fees, we will still be expected to submit essays and sit final examinations over the coming months.
In this case, however much we might share the frustration and anger of striking academics, provided we take an active role in expressing solidarity in its written and verbal forms, it seems somewhat futile not to attend tutorials and lectures that are still set to run. Whilst students continue to pay for the university’s services they are fully entitled to make use of those that are available to them.
While the full impact and extending influence of the strikes remains to be seen it seems likely that they will cause significant disruption to the summer exam period, particularly for final year students who are set to enter the last stages of degree assessment. Nevertheless, it is important to highlight that it is not just students who are set to suffer as a result of the strikes. The staff themselves, who have been pushed into taking such action, are sacrificing potential weeks of pay whilst opposing a pensions fund which would become open to the shifts of the stock market. Under the newly proposed pension scheme, lecturers could be set to lose up to £10,000 each, per year.
So, show your support where it matters. Express solidarity with your lecturers, pick up a pen, take to your email, and continue to write to the Principal, incessantly, until a satisfactory answer is received. Attend rallies, take a stand and make your voice heard. But don’t be made to feel guilty for going to class and, if you need to, crossing the picket line. As students, it is essential that we continue to support our academic staff during this crucial time, but this need not be to the further detriment of our own education.
Image: Anna via Flickr