The following statement of solidarity was recently adopted by the University of Birmingham Disability & Mental Health Student Association (DAMSA), in support of teaching staff at the University of Birmingham:
We, the committee of DAMSA, as representatives of all disabled undergraduate, postgraduate and graduate teaching assistants at this university, would like to extend our full solidarity and support to all teaching staff at the university and UCU (University College Union) members currently being victimised under the university’s draconian disciplinary measures which, to our understanding, fly in the face of their right to feel safe, supported and not to be bullied and targeted in their workplace.
We have had reports from the UCU of staff being harassed, bullied and threatened with redundancy for the most minor of transgressions in their workplace. Situations which would, ordinarily, have been resolved by their line managers or colleagues are being taken up to the highest level and disciplinary procedures meant only for the most serious misconduct (stealing, cheating, harassment etc.) are being enacted for much lesser charges. This behaviour is not acceptable from any employer, not least a university – a place in which, one would hope, an environment of constructive critique and learning would be in place.
More worrying, however, is the way in which feedback from students is being dealt with by the university management. It is, of course, important that students and teaching staff are able to take part in a constructive dialogue around the course, marks and the methods of teaching. However, feedback is not being taken in good faith and there have been instances where student feedback is being used against staff at disciplinary hearings and used to justify redundancies and cuts to the department. Students are not aware that their feedback is being used in this way and DAMSA are appalled to hear that feedback that is meant to be used constructively is instead being used as a way to victimise their lecturers. We will not stand for it. No worker deserves to be victimised in their workplace; an injury to one worker is an injury to us all!
We urge students, then, not to participate in any of the university’s formal feedback processes as we know that this is being used in totally inappropriate ways for which it was not designed. If you must feedback to lecturers we urge you to do so directly and informally in order to subvert the system and to ensure job security for all staff. We must humanise our lecturers and understand that this is their livelihood and they are not merely here to facilitate our careers or advancement but to educate and challenge us whilst earning their own living as we are wont to do, too.
We urge all students and Guild officers to speak out against this injustice and to stand in solidarity with the very people who hold our institution together.