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.