I first learnt about Strike On! Teach Out! a few days ago. The PoLIS department at our University organised it as a means of getting students and staff together to discuss the UCU strikes. I arrived to the back room of The Bell Inn which was full of people, sitting on the floor and leaning on walls. The atmosphere was buzzing. The discussion opened with the idea that in this space, we could cast aside our prescribed roles of teacher and student and just be ourselves. With no formal structure, students and staff were equally able to contribute their questions and discussion points.
I got a taste for this communal feeling at the recent anti-Gylnis protest, where staff and students joined forces at the door to the Council Chambers in a massive display of outrage at her ridiculously high pay and the golden handshake with which she had been sent off. As a final year student, this communal feeling has been visibly lacking for most of my time here. It feels good. I realised the extent of this when I caught myself instinctually going to hug one of my lecturers as he approached, stopping myself just in time for us to both hover slightly awkwardly and laugh it off.
Getting to speak with my lecturers has opened my eyes to how hard the decision to strike was for them. To face ridicule from colleagues and anger from students, all whilst standing at a freezing cold picket line and not being paid, is not out of choice. Our lecturers are not fighting for an added benefit to their lives, they are fighting to save a basic necessity.
We got onto discussing what we want to make of our Teach Out space. Do we want film screenings, workshops, debates, games, Ted style talks by our favorite lecturers and guest speakers? Do we want to get up and share our own knowledge or lead a discussion about something we care about? Do we want to organise a massive music event to celebrate the success of the strike when it comes? Yes we do and yes we can. The room was filled with possibilities. It’s an incredible feeling to be able to create something together. To meet with strangers who are all there with the same goal, to bring staff and students together to stand in solidarity against those who are managing our universities like a businesses. To stand against the marketisation of universities, which forces students into the category of consumer and staff and their lectures into products.
If you don’t know what marketisation is or how it will impact us all, come down to the Teach Out today. Both staff and students will be giving short talks on different outcomes of the marketisation of university: increasing fees and rent, worsening work and learning conditions, obsession with league tables, casualisation of staff pay and axing of pensions. These things are all linked. Everyone will have a chance to ask questions and add their own view to the discussion.
Where: The Bell Inn
Teach Out Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StrikeOnTeachOut/