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Assessment boycott: update

‘When we revolt it’s not for a particular culture. We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.’- Frantz Fanon

On the 4th of January GUCU (Goldsmiths University and College Union) called for industrial action, specifically action short of a strike (ASOS), which includes an assessment boycott. Staff members across the university have been battling the College’s decisions repeatedly over the last few years, often in the form of strike action, this action is not taken lightly and is being done because of a complete lack of confidence in the decisions being made by senior management (SMT). Decisions such as their failure to guarantee a fixed period of time with no compulsory redundancies to staff in addition to unreasonably increasing the workload of teaching staff and failing to protect precarious staff members. SMT has consistently undermined the trust of staff and students by not honouring their commitments nor being transparent about their intentions, for these reasons we say loudly and clearly that we stand in full solidarity with UCU.

Some of you have contacted us over the last week confused and rightfully frustrated about how your academic experience has been affected by the pandemic, and now the industrial action. We hear you and we have been in direct discussion with UCU about these concerns and the steps being taken to mitigate the impact of the industrial action on students academic performance and mental health. It is, however, essential that frustration is directed towards Goldsmiths SMT, who are wholly responsible for UCU being compelled to take this action. SMT continues to further entrench neoliberal logic into the structures of the university, this logic directly impacts students' learning experience and takes away from the quality critical learning that so many of you came to Goldsmiths to receive, and that so many staff members are fighting to preserve.

Many of you have already written collective statements in solidarity with UCU, we encourage you to write to SMT and demand they listen to the demands of staff and students. We at the SU have been working to hold SMT accountable these last couple of years, alongside thousands of students, through collective action as well as through our spaces on the College’s core committees and working groups. We are also working on a national campaign that focuses, in part, on tuition fee refunds for all students. UCU also supports the call for the government to underwrite a refund for tuition fees. Finally, we have been in consultation with the College about mitigation measures so that students grades are not adversely affected by circumstances they can’t control. We will be sharing more information about this next week.

SMT seeks to drive a wedge between students and staff and divert attention away from their poor and harmful decision-making. Most recently, the College told staff that they would not furlough staff taking part in the assessment boycott and management are yet to retract this statement, it is actions like this that explicitly seek to silence and disempower precarious workers that we will continue to respond to with outrage and action. UCU says that ‘our working conditions are your learning conditions, we agree wholeheartedly and encourage everyone to support UCU and all Goldsmith’s workers to stand up to SMT and fight for better conditions for all!

Your concerns for this industrial action remain valid and we will continue to work with UCU to ensure the impact on students’ experiences is mitigated through what is already a tough period to be a student. We do not underestimate how tough this last year has been, students have been consistently failed by both the government and universities, and we will continue to fight for you. We encourage you to continue getting in touch with your concerns so that we may adequately support you, there are also a number of initiatives that UCU have agreed to during the industrial action period;

  • Regular student-staff assemblies; where students can bring their concerns directly to UCU to be addressed and keep updated on the industrial action.The first assembly will be held on Thursday January 28th from 12-2pm
  • They will produce a detailed FAQ document for students
  • A clear PowerPoint presentation for students on the action, detailing the impact of SMT’s decisions on students
  • A Goldsmiths UCU (GUCU) email for students to get in direct contact that will be regularly monitored
  • Weekly meetings between your Sabbatical officers and UCU
  • A page on their website that will be updated regularly to keep students informed

Rage and Solidarity,

Your Sabbatical Officers,

Niquella, Fowsia, and Sara