Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Questionable Action

Pay strike set to shut down universities. I know I am going to get panned for this, and I am also aware that I am not that well qualified to make any informed judgement about all of the issues surrounding this action by academics, but I will say my piece anyway. I am aware of some of the issues under discussion as I have been informed about them; however I still think that it is wrong that students should have to suffer, especially at the most stressful time of year, and in some cases of the end of university life, for them. It seems to me that academics see this as the only way to make their point, and I have to ask whether or not they have explored any other form of action to make their point, i.e. withdrawing from administrative duties etc. I am afraid that, even at the risk of alienating myself from my friends, this time my sympathies lie with the students.

9 Comments:

Blogger roadrunner said...

yep - you'll get panned for it. Just what are academics supposed to do in furtherance of their claim? They see University Principals take an average pay rise of 25% per year last as a reward for increased productivity which is actually delivered by the teaching staff. They see a veritable explosion in the support staff in Universities (e.g. accountants) who are being paid commercially competitive rates couples with an increase in various bean counters whose job is simply to make sure the academics are doing their jobs properly. The harsh reality is that if it doesn't hurt, it doesn't work. This is the history of industrial disputes across many ages. I regret that, but I fume at the cavalier cynicism on the part of the employers (i.e. the Government) which has destroyed the very basis of trust and goodwill. I also total contempt for those who seek to undermine the intellectual basis of their society - an intellectual basis which it is the job of the Universities to foster and to renew. Get rid of the Universities by turning them into slaves of the mood of government or the workhorses of business and I give it a generation before the social and intellectual progress achieved over centuries is reduced to rubble, and society is run entirely by the whims of the press barons. Just look at where the main research is being undertaken today - in countries whose Universities are nurtured either by no-strings private funding or by enlightened government thinking.

Students may indeed be victims of the current round of industrial action. But they are even more the victims of successive governments who have withdrawn student gratns, who have neglected pre-University education, and who have undermined morale across Britain's once great University sector with the result that some of our very best brains have left to go elsewhere. My view is that had we stood firm 25 years ago, then we would not be where we are today. And whilst I have little confidence in the AUT, my trades union, I have no confidence in this Government. I have no confidence in its morality. I have no confidence to its integrity. I do not believe our Universities are safe in their hands.

So BB, I agree that it is unfortunate, but it is bewlidering that you - you of all people - believe that the social justice cake can be baked without breaking eggs.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006  
Blogger MilliGoon said...

Thanks RR you have done what has needed to be done from the start made the case for this action using the facts which most people are probably totally unaware of, I was actually trying to provoke BW to respond as I know fully how she feels about all of this but it seems she is keeping her head down. On the other point, I was unaware that we still had a social justice cake, I thought that this bunch of morally bankrupt loonies had eaten it already!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006  
Blogger BondWoman said...

RR responded without my prompting, but it's funny that he used both one of the points I made last night when we were discussing it (hefty pay rises for VCs) and also one of the analogies (breaking eggs). Clearly RR and I are intellectually joined at the head...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006  
Blogger MilliGoon said...

Either that or there is something BB should know about...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006  
Anonymous Daffodil said...

If I might comment?

I've been reading your blog for a while.

I was a part-time temporary University academic until last year. The lowest of the low. Paid less than I had been paid outside academia more than fifteen years earlier. And yet ... I had to tell my students (all 200 of them) of the previous strike action and I heard and saw their panic, their distress at the uncertainty in created, especially in final year students. I would not have gone on strike, whatever, when the whole point of teaching for me was the students. Nor would the AUT have ever supported people (largely women) in my invidious position - doing most of the teaching for peanuts, so I was b*****ed if I was going to strike for others better paid than me.

But I did leave and will never regret it. And my income was my household's second and I could afford to vote with my feet. My sympathies are with those academics who are underpaid and overworked (not all fall into that category), but striking is the moral equivalent of neglecting my children because society doesn't respect my role as a mother.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006  
Blogger roadrunner said...

An interesting perspective. But an alternative one is that the government traditionally has taken responsibility for investing in students to provide the type of society from which future generations will benefit in myriad economic, social, political, intellectual, etc., ways. It is in that responsibility that successive governments have become entirely derelict. Unlike a parent, I have not chosen to have children but I have chosen to have a career. And I do not understand why I should have anything other than a mature, supportive and economically motivated relationship with my students. And I do not regard part of that relationship as being at the expense of the economic welfare which my children have as a consequence of the curtailed growth of my earnings such that it has fallen way below our traditional comparator workers. You make the point yourself.

And, of course, individual students are, in general, statistically likely to go on to become among the higher remunerated members of society (albeit I concur that the financial premium today is less than in previous times). But then, it is these self same students who - as sometimes well paid members of future societies - then entirely selfishly demand that governments lower the level of personal taxation (understandably to privilege their own offspring) on penalty of being voted out of office thereby diminishing further the public pot of money available to any government with which to maintain the educational system.

If I believed for a moment that by not taking industrial action I would contribute to providing a next generation of students who WERE prepared to invest in the educational regime from which they benefit by being willing to pay higher taxes for a decent education system, then I'd be the first to vote against industrial action. But the harsh reality is that the vast majority of students - when they become graduates - lose all interest in the University system as consumers, and re-configure their interest as individuals who pay for the educational system, and in that guise typically are unwilling to pay sufficient taxes to finance the system from which they benefited. That is what - after 25 years in the University sector - really depresses me.

I regularly see my students graduating into jobs that pay significantly above the avereage lecturer's pay, and sometimes above the professoriat average pay! OK - the answer is to leave the sector and take a job that pays more. But is that the answer?

So, let's get real. Let's get a decent pay award that reflects the considerable energy that the overwhelming number of academics already give to their students - largely unnoticed and certainly unrewarded. I am usually exceedingly proud on graduation day, only to be exceedingly ashamed when I meet many of these charges in later life who are all too ready to advocate the further under-funding of the system from which they gained so much.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006  
Blogger BondWoman said...

"But the harsh reality is that the vast majority of students - when they become graduates - lose all interest in the University system as consumers, and re-configure their interest as individuals who pay for the educational system"

As evidenced also by the low levels of alumni giving in the UK in comparison to the US, for example...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006  
Blogger roadrunner said...

And altruism has to be a two-wat street. Otherwise there is no incentive to be altruistic. If today's students undertake to sacrifice their future income stream to fund University education, then I'd be willing to undertake to sacrifice some of my current income stream. But that isn't what's happening. What I regard as the income stream I have already sacrificed has not been matched by a corresponding sacrifice by present generations of tax payers and former students. So, why should I be prepared to sacrifice more today? Why should I not use whatever muscle I have to pursue my interest?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006  
Blogger mądry said...

We do not neglect our students’ education – we merely refuse to certify what sort of benefits they got out of the process. Consultants charge, at Government behest, large sums to tell us how to run the Universities. Why do they baulk at paying us when they ask whom they should employ to charge such fees?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006  

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