Student Q&A in relation to the AL/GTTs marking boycott...

What does AL/GTT mean?

Graduate Trainee Tutors (GTTs) and Associate Lecturers (ALs) are some of the (many) precariously employed staff at Goldsmiths who are employed on fixed-term and hourly contracts to perform crucial, often poorly compensated work such as teaching, leading seminars, holding tutorials, providing pastoral care and marking your work. Even though they serve such an important function, they do not have the same security or benefits as permanent members of staff (mostly convenors and senior lecturers) including contract renewals, extensions, or additional pay for extra working hours. What does this mean in practice? Your seminar leaders and tutors are paid for approximately two and a half hours of preparation time for a seminar and approximately 20-30 mins to read and provide feedback for the essays that you spend weeks researching and writing. Any additional work that is done to uphold the standards of education and care at Goldsmiths outside of these hours is unpaid, which is a regular occurrence. Outside of the teaching terms ALs and GTTs have no income from the university at all, in spite of having many of the same financial commitments and caring responsibilities as permanent staff.

 

Who are the casualised academic staff at Goldsmiths?

Many of the casualised academic staff at Goldsmiths (ALs/GTTs) are also PhD and Mphil students. The college gives PhD/MPhils the ‘opportunity’ to teach alongside their further degrees as a way to gain teaching experience, but uses this as a way to extract additional and unpaid labour from casualised academic staff whilst offering them no job security or protection. Many tutors, teachers and seminar leaders remain on precarious contracts for years beyond the completion of their studies with no pathway to secure employment within the university. Crucially, a high proportion of casualised academic staff are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds and/or with caring responsibilities. At Goldsmiths the cost of AL/GTT wages makes up roughly 7% of total salary spent across the university and they make up 39.3% of the academic workforce

 

Why is there a Marking Boycott?

On the 12th of May Goldsmiths Senior Management Team (SMT) announced a hiring freeze on all new part-time and hourly paid Associate Lecturer (AL) and Graduate Trainee Tutor (GTT) contracts. As a result, the majority (at least 64%) of your seminar teachers who are on precarious and hourly paid contracts will lose their jobs. 

Besides announcing a hiring freeze, Goldsmiths senior management have also issued a blanket refusal to furlough ALs/GTTs through the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which would have provided some much needed financial security to us at this uncertain time. They have not properly explained the reason for their decision and they have so far been unwilling to engage openly and honestly with us. Furthermore, many ALs and GTTs across Goldsmiths have not been paid for additional work carried out during lockdown - moving teaching online and providing pastoral care and support in what has been a difficult time for all. 

ALs and GTTs are devastated by this news and believe that it will not only negatively affect their livelihoods and research but it will also impact you as students, diminishing the quality of teaching and education on offer at Goldsmiths. The threatened loss of casualised staff risks decimating the capacity of casualised and/or early career scholars, with no guaranteed ‘return’ to academic work. This will disproportionately impact women, BAME, disabled and working class colleagues, aggravating the racial, gendered, and class disparities that already exist at Goldsmiths.

For these reasons, a group of ALs and GTTs across different departments at Goldsmiths have collectively decided to refuse to undertake further unpaid labour and marking (temporarily at least) until all unpaid labour has been compensated and our demands met. The full rationale for this action as well as our demands can be found here. 

 

What does the Marking Boycott hope to achieve and why is my work not being marked?

We want to reassure you that your tutors are reading and marking your work offline, but they are withholding the marking and feedback from the institution. In practice this means that they are not inputting the feedback and marks into the Turnitin system. Why are ALs/GTTs doing this? So that when Goldsmiths senior management concede to the demands of those organising the action, your work can be released as swiftly as possible in order to reduce the disruption this causes to students. 

The organisers of this action are making the following demands:

  1. Pay for additional hours worked during the lockdown. 
  2. Extend the contracts of all casualised staff until 31 October in order to address workload crisis and support staff and students through Covid-19. Contracts to be agreed with ALs/GTTs on level equal to or above existing/recent contracts. Where necessary for financial reasons, furlough eligible AL/GTTs and backdate furlough to the date of contract termination or when ongoing work ceased.
  3. Revoke the hiring freeze: provide assurances that those ALs/GTTs who held a realistic expectation of further work this year will not lose this employment due to Covid-19.
  4. Enact temporary salary cuts to Senior Management to fund the contract extensions of ALs and GTTs (approx £2.1 million per year budget for ALs/GTTs). This is to include the Warden’s Office, Executive and Governance Services, Finance Services, Goldsmiths Strategic Venture, Strategic Planning & Projects, Organisation and Strategic Services and Planning).

 

How do I know if my coursework will be affected by the Boycott?

At the time of writing (8th of June 2020), the Theatre and Performance department, the Art department, the Anthropology department and the Media, Communications and Cultural Studies department have joined the action. If you are taking a course in these departments and have submitted coursework for grading in the summer term, then you will most likely be affected by this action. The organisers of the action however cannot provide information on which courses will be affected in order to protect the anonymity of ALs and GTTs participating in this action and to prevent the institution from singling out individuals. 

The organisers are confident that the mere prospect of a marking boycott will be enough to bring the college to the negotiating table and to change its callous course of action to the most precarious teaching staff. They hope that neither students nor colleagues will have to suffer any major fallout from this course of action.

 

How will the Marking Boycott affect me?

The most likely consequence of the planned action is a delay in receiving feedback and results from coursework submitted at the end of the Spring/Summer term. Different departments have different deadlines so this will very much depend on your degree programme and course. The timeline of the planned action is in the hands of the Senior Management Team. A swift response from Goldsmiths minimises the disruption caused to students. 

 

What can I do to support the Boycott?

Tutors and seminar leaders who are participating in the action are actively encouraging students to participate in this action in order to protect the quality of student teaching and care offered to them at the university. The organisers have drafted a template letter that you can sign and email to Frances Corner, the warden of Goldsmiths college here.

You can email the letter to this address f.corner@gold.ac.uk

 

Who can I contact about the Boycott?

We are committed to keeping this process transparent and communicating with you all on a regular basis. For this reason we have set up an email address by department where you can reach us. We are also working closely with the Students’ Union, We Demand More and GARA to ensure that you receive regular updates about the progress of the action.