Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Ben Firshman

The Boar News speaks to Put Warwick Students First about in-person lectures, the SU and Warwick University

The Boar News spoke with Put Warwick Students First, a student-led protest group who have created and circulated a petition that calls for the return of in-person lectures at the University of Warwick.  

The petition has over 1300 signatures, and demands that “the University reverts to lectures being delivered as they always have been: in-person. We are not interested in a dialogue, negotiations or talks of any kind to stall us. The University’s position is blatantly contrary to official government guidance and deeply damaging to students.

Speaking to The Boar News, PWSF discussed their main strategy for promoting the petition and described that to ensure that they maximise signatures, they would use targeted advertisements throughout their social media platforms. This strategy was explained as the most efficient way to garner support for the group.

PWSF said: “It’s the most efficient way to target students who have previously missed our social media advertising. We are focusing our social media advertising on politically-inclined students who are more likely to participate in student politics. It’s an incredibly refined tool that we have decided to use.”

They added: “The way that the advertisement is targeted as such that it targets students who are likely to be politically-engaged. The Warwick SU ‘All Student Vote’ (ASV) in October of last year gave us data that has allowed us to effectively fine-tune the algorithm, and these will be particularly efficient in promoting the petition among students who are most likely to respond.”

PWSF have also published several allegations on their social media platforms that the University of Warwick has offered their conference spaces for corporate events with a capacity of 1,200, despite keeping course lectures online.

The Telegraph recently published an article discussing how Warwick is under scrutiny for advertising their corporate Butterworth Hall for hire, when they have said that lectures with more than 50 students will remain online. 

Conservative MP Christian Wakeford, a member of the Education Select Committee said: “If you can’t have students, you can’t have corporate events.”

Ultimately however, the Students’ Union is meant to represent the views of the student body, and not supporting the petition because they do not want to make their working life difficult is frankly not good enough.

–Warwick SU Source

When asked about how they are communicating with Warwick about their demands, PWSF said: “We haven’t given the University a deadline, however we have communicated a deadline of  1 September for the Warwick Students’ Union to support our petition’s aims (in-person teaching for all lectures and seminars) publicly.”

They added: “If they do not come out in support of our petition, we believe we will have to mobilise a campaign for SU support, however we don’t expect to have to do this, as we believe that the SU leadership has the interests of students at heart”. 

A Warwick SU source has said that they speculate that the SU leadership teams do support the petition,  but that they “are not willing to come out and support in-person lectures because they do not want to sour relations with the University administration. 

“Ultimately however, the Students’ Union is meant to represent the views of the student body, and not supporting the petition because they do not want to make their working life difficult is frankly not good enough.” 

Moving onto their strategy if Warwick did not respond to the petition, a spokesperson for PWSF said: “We anticipate that Warwick will ignore us, or just stall us, so once we hit a certain number of signatures, we are going to present this petition to Matt Western (MP for Warwick and Leamington), specifically because he is Shadow Universities Minister and we are confident that he will be able to pressure Warwick”. 

Very recently, PWSF have alleged that they have heard from a figure involved in decision-making in education matters at Warwick university that Warwick’s “overall strategy includes having lectures online permanently to increase profits”. 

When contacted for a comment, the University of Warwick said: “Butterworth Hall is a 1,200-seat theatre venue run and managed by the Warwick Arts Centre. It has never been part of the university’s teaching estate. No timetabled seminars or lectures take place in the hall.”

They added: Reports that the hall is regularly used as a student lecture hall are therefore inaccurate and misleading. In fact, no student teaching facilities are available for external hire during the academic term. Instead, Warwick Conferences’ own dedicated facilities have been made available to support in-person teaching during the forthcoming term.

“As part of the University, all surplus revenue generated by Warwick Conferences is reinvested back into supporting world-class teaching, learning and research.”

The Boar News has contacted Warwick Students’ Union for a comment.

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