Archive for Kent

No time for complacency

As many University of Kent students no doubt know, the university has moved forward with plans for compulsory redundancies amongst staff in the university’s Biosciences department. The University and Colleges Union (UCU) branch at the university voted to take action to stop the twelve members of staff losing their jobs and livelihoods.

 Biosciences course representatives were quick to establish a Facebook group to protest against the proposed redundancies in the department however, this group has since been taken over by the official Kent Union bureaucracy and much of the original fervour and angst has been diluted, turning the group into a talking shop and information site, rather than a group dedicated to taking robust, determined and forthright action against any job losses.

The group now looks complacent, only willing to discuss the situation, rather than lead with proposals to fight back against the university’s ill-advised and, frankly, crass decision, to force hard-working, committed members of staff, out of their jobs and onto the scrap heap.

Fortunately, a new group has been created to address the complacency of Kent Union official bureaucrats, ‘Student Activism against the Biosciences cuts’. The group will endeavour to put forward a plan of action against cuts and redundancies in any department at the University of Kent. It will look to other campuses, such as  the University of Sussex’s ‘Stop the Cuts- Defend Sussex’ campaign, which enjoys the healthy support of University of Sussex Student Union (USSU) officers, including Josh Jones, USSU’s  Education Officer, who has recently called on Sussex University management to take a 10% pay cut!

Students at the University of Kent need full-time officers like Josh Jones and the other USSU sabbs. Students need officers who will support and encourage grassroots, student-led activism, that won’t rule out any tools at the disposal of students to challenge unfair decisions from the university management. The student movement’s greatest strength is its sheer size in numbers, as well as the close proximity students have with one another, particularly on collegiate campuses such as Kent.

A vibrant and robust anti-cuts, anti-redundancies, pro-learning campaign is needed at the University of Kent. Students need officers who are familiar with grassroots campaigning, aware of the need to promote a culture of activism on campus and in the community, and ready to utilise the student body behind any action.

Mobilising students is no easy task; it takes time, effort and good organising skills to do so. However, what is needed, more than anything else, is engagement. It should not be a matter of students’ going to the union, but of the union going to students. There should be regular, weekly campaigns from union officers. Union officers need to be quick at recognising issues, and even quicker in responding to them.  

In short, students need activism, not complacency.

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Britain’s Got Talent winners back Aaron Kiely for VP Welfare

My mate, and all round brilliant person, Aaron Kiely, has received the backing of Britain’s Got Talent winners, Diversity, in this year’s Kent Union elections.

Aaron is running for the position of Vice-President (VP) Welfare. He’s running on a clear, progressive platform addressing the student housing crisis, of improving safety and well-being on campus and in the community, as well as promoting liberation campaigns, combating discrimination and inequality, and fighting for a greener campus.

If students are looking for a seasoned campaigner with passion, enthusiasm and vigour, then Aaron is the guy for the job.

I recommend to all Kent Union students to give Aaron their vote in the upcoming elections and to make him your #1 for VP Welfare.

Check out the video from Perri and Ashley.

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Statement of support for Biosciences staff from VP Welfare candidate

Aaron Kiely, a committed student activist and community campaigner, as well as candidate for the position of Vice President (Welfare) in the upcoming Kent Union elections, has come out with a statement of support in favour of the UCU and those opposing cuts in higher education. Aaron said:

I am absolutely behind our lecturers and their union in this. I attended the meeting where they voted unanimously to campaign against these redundancies and defend their members, OUR lecturers. To make someone redundant at a time like this where no one is employing is outrageous and these people have families and themselves to support.

The whole process that staff have been made to go through is degrading, with them being graded against an arbritary scale. Female staff are also being disproportionately hit and all four female staff are threatened with redundancies. Science is male-dominated enough, we should be employing and supporting more women in the sciences, not laying them off.

I am heartened to see a lot of student support and look forward to working with the UCU, and other Unions in opposing these redundancies and the mistreatment of staff.

You can join the Facebook group opposing the redundancies here.

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Cuts at the University of Kent

I was informed from a close friend that there is due to be cuts at the University of Kent. The department in question is reportedly bio-sciences, whilst this is unconfirmed, and there may indeed be further cuts to other departments, the whole thing is propostuous.

How can top-quality, higher education be guaranteed when vice-chancellors and others are prepared to take the knife to lecturers and staff?

How can they justify doing this when they are so intent on making university the default choice for almost every young person?

How can they expect students to pay more for their education, yet have less staff members, less contact time with their lecturers and seminar leaders and less of a quality education?

I will post more information as I get it, but I think Kent might need a bit of the Sussex flavour, if you get what I mean.

Update: I have received an email with a bit more background to the story, please be aware that I have crossed out any reference to personal information.

It appears that the first ‘phase’ of redundancies has been amongst people who should now be considered ‘permanent’ workers but who the university is making out  to be ‘fixed term’ workers reliant on funding contracts. There also seems to have been a practice of approaching people individually in the ‘first’ phase, obviously making it a lot harder for people to guage support and contest any redundancy selection process on a more collective basis.

In addition, there is a refusal on the part of university human resources staff to understand the gender implications of targeting non- professorial and/or teaching staff in a department which appears to have an extremely poor record of promoting and retaining women.

After XX years working in Biosciences, X has been subject to an extremely problematic redundancy selection procedure and faces being out of work very soon. This is in advance of the current proposed redundancies.

X will therefore be raising at the meeting:

1. The issue of which groups of people (women, previous fixed term workers, older people) are more likely to be targeted in this, and other, university redundancy selection processes and the political and  legal implications of these practices. (To make it clear: I am  against all forced redundancies);

2. The fact that these redundancies have been preceded by  a strategic ‘picking off’ of certain members of staff. For this reason, we need to adopt a more critical analysis of how job losses are being pursued in  the university. It’s not always the case that people are told  that they are part of a redundancy ‘at risk’ list. In fact, we need  to be  aware of those who are left to fight individual redundancies and support these people just as effectively.

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