Eight hundred and seventeen pounds and eighty-five pence. By adding up module credits, lectures missed and lectures per week, apparently, that’s how much the university owes me in compensation. It’s probably not taking into account my astronomically low attendance, or the fact that the entirety of the £9000 we pay isn’t spent on tuition fees, but hey, that hasn’t stopped over 70,000 students writing to their university for compensation.
We’re well into the strikes now, strikes which I fully support. Students cannot be passive consumers of a product, when academic staff have seen their real wages fall 16 percent since 2009, stand to lose £10,000 a year on their pensions, all while facing serious dips in mental health levels and heightened job stress- I’m happy for them to strike at my expense. But universities aren’t the devil, it’s not like Cruela De Ville is somewhere in a tower slashing Mark from PPL’s pension, but there’s a billions strong deficit in the university budget that needs to be plugged somehow, but not with the ripped up scrapings of our lecturers pensions.
But, as I said, we’re well into the strikes now, so you’re probably bored of hearing preachy students shouting about them, so I’m here to tell you that instead of pressuring universities to open up the deficit even more , by spending money that could be spent on pensions compensating you, here’s four things you can do while the strikes are on:
Write to your Vice Chancellor.
Strikes stop when one of three things happen. One side gives up, the other side gives up, or the sides reach a compromise. Public opinion is a massive factor in this: if one side is seen to look worse than the other they’re likely to be the one to buckle (This has been ‘Strikes 101’ by yours truly). Writing to your Vice Chancellor to pressure them to negotiate is a key part in this. Imagine you’ve not checked your Facebook in eight days and you have hundreds of messages (I’ve heard this happens), writing to our VC will make him feel like that, except he’ll be less Gossip Girl and more Ron Weasley getting the Howler in Harry Potter. “DAVID RICHARDSON… HOW DARE YOU…..”
Talk to your fellow students about the strikes.
For those of you who aren’t lucky enough to live with me, I’m insufferable at home. The door shuts and it’s all “Guys! Guys! have you seen *current affair of the day*,” and then all “Jack! Jack! Shut the fuck up.” But within those sentences some information must go through, because a few days later my housemates seem to know a little bit more. This is what needs to be done with the strikes, talk to your mates, get them on board, make yourself insufferable.
Start your own study group.
You remember back in sixth form when you were looking at the UEA prospectus and all those lovely pictures of people socialising and laughing over work? You surely got here and were disappointed with the way expectations were shattered by the 3am sobs in the library. But this is your chance. Message your seminar group and meet up separately, do it off campus so you don’t cross the picket line, but go round to each other’s house, chat about how awful that book you had to read this week was, compare notes on that politics essay you can’t do or figure out that extra particle wave theorem or thermodynamic law that was mentioned in your physics class (I’ve never been to a physics class).
Do all that work you said you were going to do.
You said you’d do it. Last New Year’s resolution, this New Year’s resolution, the next New Year’s resolution- “get ahead of work.” At the risk of sounding like a budgeted Nike advert crossed with a motivational speaker- do it. Make that timetable you were going to, read ahead on that module, write up those lecture notes, plan that essay. It’d be fitting if you’re at your most productive to counter the university when it’s at its least. There you go, four things. Support your striking lecturers with one, support your striking lecturers with four. Just because the university has come to a standstill doesn’t mean you have too. But bear in mind that no one wants the strikes, so doing your bit to bring them to an end while trying to keep above water while they’re on is our best chance- but don’t throw the university’s budget, or the lecturers budget under the bus when doing so. SolidarityForever.