Sophia presented Policy 1314P22 and reiterated that under the policy, the decision of Education Zone Committee would be an interim decision, until the next Union Council meeting on 2nd December.
There was some discussion about the meaning of the Policy (Votes 3 and General 8) and whether the Committee should be discussing the support for their dispute or their support for the action. David argued that the policy stated that Education Zone Committee only had the power to decide on SUSU's support for the action. Giles and Sophia suggested that policy enabled Education Zone Committee to take a stance on both the dispute and the action. David's stance was accepted by the committee.
Emily noted that this is a 'marking boycott' rather than 'a strike' and should be referred to as such.
David noted that were the action to change from a marking boycott to a strike, then another emergency meeting would be needed in order to come to a seperate decision. Giles asked what tangible effect SUSU's support would have. Sophia clarified that there was a wide spectrum of support that SUSU could offer, and this would a matter for the committee to decide.
Sophia invited Carla to present a summary of the dispute, and the arguments on both sides (attached). Questions were then invited, and included:
- Shruti asked for clarification on the benefit of the CRB model - Carla gave more details, but noted that it was up to the committee to think about which model was more beneficial.
- Sophia clarified the university was considering other options to ensure that work was marked. However these considerations could not yet be made public.
- David clarified that this is an assesment boycott rather than a marking boycott as it could also apply to any advice a lecturer offers to a student with regard to their marks.
- Giles also noted that not all university staff are UCU members and therefore will not neccesarily be striking.
- Shruti wanted clarification on formative assesments. William wanted clarification on advice (eg. on mark schemes): David reiterated Giles' point.
- Bobby wanted clarification on parity of experience - some Medicine staff are NHS employed. Giles clarified that thiese situations would be up to the individual academic.
- David clarified that this action would not apply to support staff.
Discussion was opened and the following points were made:
- The escalation of last years' strikes were a reasonable process as the length of the strike was increased incrementally: this jump to a marking boycott is a much quicker escalation. This is an an agressive starting point, based on proposed - not implemented - changes;
- UCU may be escalating quickly because the incremental escalations didn't work;
- The zone aims to improve education - voting in favour of this boycott would undermine this aim;
- This UCU chapter refuse to scab against other UCU chapters; they will not cave in, even if we support them;
- UCU are not directly acting against the university, but using the students as pawns to harm the university;
Sophia noted that the university were discussing how to deal with boycotters and there was talk of pay docking - although the university had not confirmed any course of action. Sophia clarified that UCU have offered to talk to SUSU, but she didn't feel that it was appropriate to invite UCU without having someone from the university to talk also.
David clarified that he had spoken the the Democracy team while the meeting was happening, and they had clarified that the committee should be discussing the dispute before discussing the action. He apologised for his mistake, and for confusing the running of the meeting. He clarified that the committee's decision on action would be informed by their feelings on the dispute. Discussion continued:
- Several representatives felt that they didn't have enough information to take a view on the dispute. Several asked if they were able to abstain. Carla clarified that this is always an option open to each individual committee member;
- Supporting the dispute but not the action might minimise damage to our relationships with academic staff;
- UCU's assertion that the proposed changes would discourage potential staff members from working here was implausable;
- Several students reiterated that this had happened quickly and that they needed more information from UCU;
Sophia at this point clarified that her usual contacts in UCU were normally very forthcoming, and very communicative. She noted that they had not got back to her with any concrete information, and suggested that this was perhaps because the boycott was moving quickly for lecturers too. Discussion continued:
- Representatives have not had enough time to consult with the students they represent.
Sophia suggested that if the majority of the committee did not feel well-informed enough to vote, another meeting could be held in two days. David said this was not tenable. Carla clarified that each committee member was able to vote indepdently, and should exercise that vote. Discussion continued:
- University Superannuation Scheme - who administer pensions - are entirely seperate from the university. The university is not choosing to do this;
- Given how busy the committee is, there is no feasible opportunity to take this vote before the next Union Council - this is what the committee is mandated to do by union policy;
- The committee should have prepared for the meeting by informing themselves about the dispute and consulting members;
Sophia moved the committee to a vote on their support of the dispute. The committee voted as follows:
- Against - 3
- For - 0
- Abstain - 8
The committee expressed some confusion that there would be no vote on the action. Carla reiterated that if the committe did not support the dispute, they could not logically support the action. She asked if the committee were happy with the vote just taken. The commitee agreed that they were.
At this point, Bobby left.
Emily asked how this decision would be communicated. Sophia said that she would write a blog to be publicised by the committee. She suggested that given the number of abstensions taken, it wouldn't be feasible for SUSU to take a strong anti-dispute stance, and that SUSU would seek to work with both sides to end the dispute. The committee suggested that any communication stress that Union Council could - if it chose - supercede this decision.
David apologised again for causing confusion over the interpretation of the policy.