Photo: Warwick Media Library and Liam Simmonds

Students cross the picket line by organising own lectures

A group of History students have been organising their own lectures after concerns over missed contact time during strikes.

Organisers arranged for students from higher year groups to cover basic material in order to reassure undergraduates worried about uncovered topics coming up in exam papers.

Katie Hopkins, a Sun newspaper columnist, has also publicly backed the student-led classes.

Ms Hopkins, who cancelled her planned talk on feminism at Warwick on January 30, praised the History students for “manning up and running their own lecture programme” on Twitter.

She also tweeted: “Lecturers – get your idle arses off strike and back in lecture theatres pronto. Be warned.”
Lucy Gill, postgraduate officer at the Students’ Union, told the Boar: “Comments from Katie Hopkins and others that suggest lecturers are ‘idle’ ignore the wider issues at stake.

“We should be supporting and not undermining staff fighting for fair pay.

“Teaching staff, some of whom are postgraduate students themselves, deserve to be paid fairly for the work they do.”

The student-led lectures have caused controversy on campus and have been accused of being anti-strike.

Ms Gill said: “Under any other circumstance, I would be hugely supportive of student-led initiatives in the classroom […] However, I am disappointed by the timing of these lectures and the political motives behind what could be a laudable action.”

“I understand that it is disappointing to miss a contact hour, but to camouflage what might otherwise be interpreted as a positive step under the auspices of campaigning for ‘our fees’ and ‘our experience’ is divisive and disappointing.”

Students organising the lectures have emphasised that they are neither ideological nor against the strikes.

Remy Osman, a second-year History undergraduate, said: “We try not to be ideological and respect the right of lecturers to strike.”

“However, we also feel that as fee-paying students we should not constantly miss contact hours.”

Alexander Bunzl, a second-year History student, said that they are not replacing “the hard work of our excellent lecturers and tutors” but are demonstrating “entrepreneurial spirit”.

He added that the response from students who have attended the lectures has been positive.

Andrew Burchell, a French and History finalist said: “While I understand these students’ frustrations, there is nothing stopping them from doing the work themselves, at home, or meeting up with friends”.

“It is somewhat disingenuous for them to claim that going a step further, and actually trying to organise replacement lectures, is in some way a neutral desire to help their fellow students.

“It’s clearly a political act, and I doubt they would be quite so keen to put on replacement classes if the lectures had been cancelled for other reasons.”

Members of ‘Protect the Public University’ have repeatedly posted on the organisers’ Facebook group with one incident of a threatening image being posted.

Matt Davies, a Politics postgraduate, commented: “I feel that many teachers deserve security in their wages because they do have this extra level of knowledge, that is the very reason they are lecturers and seminar tutors.

“This strike breaking then… undermines the idea that many lecturers, especially postgraduate teachers, deserve better.”

The group of History undergraduates are encouraging students from other departments to do the same.

Larissa Quinn, a second-year History student, said: “I am very proud to help this happen.”

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Comments (6)

  • To be honest, it’s not the political arguments of this issue that undermine discussion of this issue. Rather I think it’s the language used by members of the student body, particularly those in Warwick Labour, that undermines true discussion of the impact of these student led lectures. When words such as scab are used to describe those who organise these lectures it makes the whole debate seem pathetic and just creating this left-wing/right-wing debate that doesn’t get to the core issue of the affects of the strikes and the student led lectures. Personally, I don’t believe there is a political motive behind the student led lectures and I do support them, however I think there are legitimate reasons to why people might disagree with them, in the same way there are legitimate reasons people disagree with lecturers striking, and the petty language that is used doesn’t allow for these sensible, informed discussions to occur.

  • Richard Mayne

    Is it fair to say “Students cross the picket line”, when students aren’t actually on strike? I mean let’s make this clear, none of the people involved are members of UCU; none of us had a choice in whether these strikes would happen or not, and none of us have joined the UCU and thus have some sort of ‘code of honour’ to abide by. Neither do any of us seriously believe that student lectures are a like-for-like substitute for actual lecturers talking to us! We are simply choosing to create a space for students to discuss materials uncovered as a result of the strike, which is quite frankly better than absolutely nothing.

    • I strongly agree with this comment, the title is misleading and inaccurate. The quality of journalism here dips below the Tab. Perhaps the Boar should invest in a red top?

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