Week six has been and gone. Some students went home for a break, whilst others got involved in Do Something Different week. Some students joined the picket line with staff taking industrial action on Thursday 21 and Friday 22 February. Others went to the library as the stress of summative season kicked in.
You can read all about the reasons for the strike on our front page story, continued page 3. Speaking to some of the professors and union representatives on strike, it was clear that no academic on strike wants to make things harder for their students.
It’s hard not to feel a little frustrated when you have upcoming deadlines and suddenly no access to an academic who knows what they’re talking about. But we need to remember that striking is the last thing lecturers want to do.
On page 16, an academic writes for us about how hesitant they feel about taking the action they are. “This is something lecturers have agonised over for weeks as they have weighed up the disruption to the students they went into academia to teach and develop, and the financial implications of receiving no pay for the duration of the dispute and whether they can pay their mortgages or rent,” Professor Lee Marsden writes. When researching for our front page story earlier in the week, I spoke to a professor on the picket line on the second day of the strike. She told me that she had met university staff on the picket line who hadn’t ever been on any kind of protest.
It’s not just lecturers on strike. In Matt Nixon’s photograph on our front page you can see the UEA librarians on the picket line. It’s important to remember that this pension plan change will affect staff working in different departments of the university.
UEA has a strong history of supporting workers’ rights, and you can read about some of the more recent campus protests in Features this issue. Protest is in the air this week, with Global taking a look at what was another horrific case of gun violence in America. Teenagers are fiercely debating news anchors and politicians in a national spotlight, only days after experiencing devastating trauma and loss. Some universities in the country have said that prospective students who are punished by their schools for taking part in one of the many walkouts planned across high-schools will not be penalised in their admissions process.
After so many cases such as the one in Florida, it is easy to be a cynic about the potential for any change from Republicans on the issue of gun control. However, the collective voice of the teenagers speaking out is a powerful one. I would like to be hopeful about the future. Speaking of hope, it isn’t something UEA feels with regards to Donald Trump’s impact on the environment. Science editor Beth Papworth spoke to students about whether they felt more anxious about global warming given a White House who think climate change is a hoax made up by wishy-washy progressives.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. On page 5, I write about a local initiative to fund bikes for asylum seekers and refugees who are new to Norwich. This spirit of helping those in need is what I love about Norwich. (Just after all the great places to buy greasy food, a list of which you can find in our Foodie Features section.) Our friends at Livewire also embodied this with a charity quiz for the eating disorder charity BEAT – you can read more about that on page 6.