STATEMENT ON SENATE MEETING: LITTLE HAS CHANGED

Many of you may have learned that the Senate, which along with Council is the supreme governing body of the University of Warwick, was supposed to vote on June 14th on whether to support the proposed reform of statute. This vote did not happen due to objections to the reform. While some may see this as a victory, the tactics that senior management used at this Senate meeting, and the position that the Senate adopted make it absolutely clear that those who oppose the draft statute need to continue escalating the fight to stop it from becoming reality.

Thanks to the extensive lobbying of members of Senate by students and staff members, along with multiple large mobilisations of staff dissent (like the Assembly and the UCU Emergency General Meeting) opposition to the changes has achieved a foothold in the Senate. However, members of senior management were aware of their weakened position and came prepared to this Senate meeting.

At one point a small group of senate members proposed a motion to completely reject the proposed changes to statute, but senior management managed to make sure that this new motion was not voted on and instead forced a “compromise”: a small working group of Senate members would review the draft statute.

We have seen again and again that senior management have been unable to give legitimate reasons for why the proposed changes to statute will improve the university. This was most blatantly seen at the recent Assembly where administrators did not put up a single person to speak up in defense of the proposed changes; instead, their strategy was to ignore the Assembly.

Management have tried their best to push the battle on to another day by forming a working group which will most likely propose cosmetic alterations to the proposed changes and then claim that staff and student concerns have been resolved.

 While we are grateful for the courage of those members of Senate who tried to kill the draft statute outright, we must recognise that we did not win anything tangible on June 14th. We have not defeated the proposed changes, we have only forced Senate to promise to discuss the proposed changes amongst themselves. We have still not been heard.

 That’s why it is crucial to continue lobbying members of Senate to completely drop the proposed draft statute and to join the Emergency Action on June 24th called by the Protect Academic Freedom at Warwick coalition.

To find out more about the reforms and how to help stop them, see here. To read an in-depth analysis of the likely impact of the reforms, and how similar proposals have been defeated at other universities, see here.

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PRESS RELEASE: EMERGENCY ACTION TO SAVE ACADEMIC FREEDOM AT WARWICK

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Students and staff to hold emergency action to defend academic freedom at Warwick University Open Day

  • Warwick University trying to gut Statute 24, which offers academics protection from managerial influence and legal representation during disciplinary appeals
  • UCU is considering industrial action over the issue
  • Student and staff plan to demonstrate to defend academic freedom and save Statute 24 on Saturday June 24, during a University Open Day

Student and staff are planning to gather at the Koan on Saturday June 24 to protest against the University’s plans to gut Statute 24, a part of the University’s constitution that protects academic freedom and job security. Warwick For Free Education, the student group which called the action, will only go ahead with the action if the University fail to immediately its reforms to Statute 24.

The action was announced on Tuesday to coincide with an emergency UCU meeting passing a motion to ballot for industrial action over the issue, just weeks after Warwick SU passed a similar motion condemning the proposed reforms. [1]

Activists and academics warn that removing employment protections from Statute could have grave consequences for academic freedom and job security at the University. They point to similar statutory changes at other universities, which they say have led to severe job cuts in the past. Salford University removed its employment protections from statute in 2006, and 13 waves of job cuts followed. [2] With Aberystwyth, Manchester and several other universities facing massive job cuts this year, many fear Warwick’s academic community could be next in line. [3]

Already, eight departments at Warwick have passed motions condemning the reforms. [4] The History Department said that the changes represent “a severe curtailment of academic freedom”, and the Centre for Applied Linguistic and the Centre for Education Studies warn that the reforms will “expose individuals to job insecurity if their academic priorities and/or ideologies differed from those of their line managers”. [5]

The Warwick Globalist recent published documents from the University of Warwick’s early years in which managers complain that statutory employment protections prevent them from dismissing politically “difficult” staff. [6]

“Academic freedom is crucial to the fight for a free, accessible, liberated and democratic education,” said Warwick For Free Education activist Ali Griggs. “The gutting of Statute 24 will suppress the voices of academics whose research may be controversial, and especially academics critical of the University – this is bad for students, bad for staff, bad for society, and ultimately will backfire on the reputation of the University.”

Nathaniel Panda, Post-Graduate Officer at Warwick SU, said: “Actions such as these are crucial in building resistance to management’s absurd reforms. It is vital to extend our solidarity to staff whose jobs may be at stake, whilst simultaneously acknowledging that erosion of academic freedom would be detrimental to students’ learning conditions. We cannot let academic freedom be endangered at Warwick University.”

[ENDS]

Contact details:

Connor Woodman, cdwoo333@gmail.com, 07954402113

Background: Warwick For Free Education (WFFE) started in October 2014 to provide a grassroots campaigning organisation to fight for a free and liberated education, and for the democratising of the university. On Dec. 3, 2014, police entered Warwick campus and broke up a WFFE sit-in, spraying students with CS gas and threatening them with tasers; following this, WFFE gained national media coverage. They fought and successfully defeated the proposed implementation of a postgraduate work-casualisation scheme, TeachHigher, later in the academic year. In December 2016, they occupied the Slate, a campus conference facility, for two weeks, winning significant concessions from the University. This protest will be part of a long heritage of political campaigning at Warwick and of Warwick For Free Education’s ongoing history of campus-based activism.

WFFE is affiliated to the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC); a national organisation geared towards fighting the government’s cuts to public services, neo-liberal policies, and privatisation of higher education.

References:

[1] https://www.warwicksu.com/democracy/all-student-meeting/results/2016-17term3/, https://www.warwicksu.com/pageassets/democracy/all-student-meeting/Protect-Academic-Freedom-Defend-Statute-24.pdf

[2] http://warwickglobalist.com/2017/05/12/statute-24-how-warwick-plans-to-jeopardise-academic-freedom-and-how-we-can-stop-it/, https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/6654/More-jobs-to-go-at-University-of-Salford

[3] http://anticuts.com/2017/05/11/tory-teaching-excellence-in-action-uom-cites-tef-as-motivation-for-massive-cuts/, http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/third-welsh-university-announced-huge-13009184

[4] https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/05/21/warwick-law-school-condemns-proposed-statute-24-reforms-for-infringing-upon-academic-freedom/, https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/centre-for-applied-linguistics-and-centre-for-education-studies-condemn-statute-24-reforms/, https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/history-of-art-slams-statute-24-reforms-for-infringing-upon-academic-freedom-and-intellectual-independence/, https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/06/01/institute-for-employment-research-warns-statute-24-reforms-will-lead-to-curtailment-of-academic-freedom/https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/statute-24-reform-will-cause-severe-curtailment-of-academic-freedom-says-history-department/

[5] https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/statute-24-reform-will-cause-severe-curtailment-of-academic-freedom-says-history-department/, https://warwick4freeducation.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/centre-for-applied-linguistics-and-centre-for-education-studies-condemn-statute-24-reforms/

[6] http://warwickglobalist.com/2017/06/06/warwick-managements-plot-to-dismiss-politically-active-staff-stopped-by-statute-in-the-1960s/

EMERGENCY ACTION: SAVE ACADEMIC FREEDOM AT WARWICK!

Academic freedom is under unprecedented threat at the University of Warwick. Statute 24 the key component of Warwick’s constitution which commits the University to uphold academic freedom, prevents politicised removal of staff, and offers a clear appeals process for disciplined academics is being gutted by Warwick’s management. Similar reforms have occurred at universities across the country. At some – like UCL – the proposed reforms have been fought off by a united student-staff campaign. At others – like Salford University – the statute has been smashed, and wave after wave of job cuts have followed, decimating the academic community and wrecking teaching quality.

We refuse to stand by whilst job security and academic freedom is squeezed and suffocated by the whimsical dictats of a managerial elite. We call for an emergency action during the University open day on Saturday 24 June, to stand in solidarity with staff and dig the last ditch for the defence of liberty at Warwick. We call on all students, staff and sympathetic observers to descend on campus and tell management in no uncertain terms: hands off Statute 24!

UCU, the staff union, today voted to move towards taking industrial action over the issue. At least eight departments have slammed the reforms, warning in the darkest tones that the era of academic freedom at Warwick hangs on a knife edge. The staff Assembly, the largest democratic body of staff on campus, condemned the proposed reforms with a majority of 97 percent. Management failed to even defend their reforms, and subsequently worked their age-old propaganda tricks to conceal the overwhelming mandate from staff to end the reform process.

Already, academics at Warwick and elsewhere operate in a shockingly stifled environment, reluctant to voice light concerns or put their head above the parapet for fear of an army of HR hacks, PR propagandists and branding bullies descending upon them to protect the University’s corporate image. As universities are forced into revenue-generating activities, protecting the University’s brand identity increasingly trumps intellectual honesty, rigor and free debate. Relentless sectoral competition, imposed by artificial league tables, attempts to cram the qualitatively multi-faceted educational experience into a series of crude quantitative metrics. You will find few outside government circles who believe British higher education is heading in the right direction. Academics and administrators on the continent watch the British experiment in HE marketisation with trepidation, fearing that their country might be next in line for catastrophic neo-liberal ‘reforms’.

It is in this context that the gutting of Statute 24 at Warwick must be viewed. Warwick seeks to make it easier to fire dissenters, those academic thorns-in-the-side-of-management with their pesky views and political engagement. When the vagaries of the market call for it, Warwick wants to be able to wipe legions of academics off the books, alleviating the University of the responsibility to pay them and leaving them to fight poverty.

Well, when management places its brand image above the livelihood of staff, above the principles of higher education, then we will respond by ruining Warwick’s image. We will disrupt, we will tell prospective students that they are coming to a University which cares not for open debate, free exchange of ideas, and job security. And if management think they can weather this storm by waiting it out until term ends: they are mistaken. We will come back in October and double down on our campaign to save academic freedom. If they gut Statute 24, we will fight until we get it back. We are prepared to use the full range of tactics available in our historical repertoire. For three months, UCU and others have tried to speak sense into management. Sadly, the University does not hear them. We are forced to speak the only language it does understand.

Warwick management: abandon your plans to smash Statute 24. Commit to leaving the Statute exactly how it is now. If you do, we will cancel our action and abandon our plans for an ongoing campaign. If not, you have a long fight on your hands.

To find out how else you can get involved in the Statute 24 campaign, see here. To find out more about the reforms, see here.

Staff union call emergency meeting to discuss industrial action over Statute 24 reform!

UCU, the academic staff union on campus, have called an emergency meeting for 12:30PM on Tuesday June 13 in OC0.03. Staff will discuss a motion to take industrial action against the University over the proposed gutting of Statute 24, which will severely imperil freedom at Warwick.

Industrial action could include a strike, marking boycott, or other tactics to place pressure on Warwick’s management through material disruption. Warwick staff embody a long tradition of such tactics, from a week-long strike of service staff on campus in 1973, to a marking boycott over pension reform in 2014/15.

The meeting will not be able to make the final decision over industrial action, but will move the union closer to making it a reality.

Email your tutors and let them know about it! We need as many staff there as possible to send a big message to management that academics are serious about fighting them on this. They also need to reach quorum to be able to go ahead with industrial action.

Defend academic freedom at Warwick! #SaveOurStatute

Statute 24 reform will cause “severe curtailment of academic freedom” says History Department

The Department of History has passed a motion against management’s proposed changes to Statute 24 at a recent staff meeting. Rejecting managements’ claim that the changes are to “simplify and modernise” governance, History staff stated:

“We believe that this represents a severe curtailment of our academic freedom. Statements about academic freedom carry very little weight unless academic staff (meaning those engaged in teaching, the provision of learning and/or research) are afforded the additional protections currently contained within Statute 24.”

The department’s motion comes in addition to 97% of staff across the University voting against the reforms in the staff Assembly, and at least five other departments issuing strongly-worded motions opposing the reforms.

Pointing out the disingenuousness of managements’ claim to be “standardising” the employment conditions of all staff, the Historians pointed out that:

Applying the same policies to all staff represents a ‘levelling down’ that is neither necessary nor fair, given the distinctive nature of academic work which requires extra protections due to the fact that our research may lead us to ‘unpopular’ conclusions and findings that might challenge the status quo and the views of our university management and/or government. Moreover, there are many areas of the University in which different policies and procedures have applied to different staff groups, most notably in relation to probation, which is five years for academic staff but only six-months for other staff.

Senate is a decision-making body that may have the capacity to reject these changes. The academic members that sit there should represent the interests of their faculties. Realising this, the History motion demands that the representatives on Senate and Council “oppose the changes to Statute 24”, and call “for a longer period of discussion, bearing in mind the magnitude of what is being proposed”.

The full text of the motion can be found here.

To find out more about the reforms and how to help stop them, see here. To read an in-depth analysis of the likely impact of the reforms, and how similar proposals have been defeated at other universities, see here.

#SaveOurStatute! Defend Academic Freedom at Warwick!

Management conceal result of staff Assembly in communications

Management have undermined the democratic process of the staff Assembly in their communications output following the meeting.

The result of the Assembly, which voted 97% against the changes to Statute 24 (changes which will gut academic freedom and job security at Warwick, according to numerous departments), was noted in an email sent by Warwick to all staff the other week. The University also posted an update online.

In the online update, Warwick asserted that “The Assembly is not a decision-making body”, essentially writing off the democratic will of the largest academic staff body on campus in one condescending sentence. They also failed to make it clear that the Assembly opposed the reforms, noting only that a “significant majority” voted for the motion “Reforming the University’s Employment Statute, Statute 24” – without explaining what the content of the motion was. This led to widespread confusion amongst those who weren’t at the meeting, with some believing that the Assembly had voted in favour of the reforms! This is clearly a propaganda tactic by management.

This obfuscation is part of a pattern of undemocratic management maneuvering as they attempt to ram these toxic reforms through. The University is showing no interest in debate, transparency and discussion – only in authoritarianism.

Stuart Croft, the Vice Chancellor, has said that the changes are designed to “simplify, clarify and modernise” the Universities governance structures. The language of “modernising” is straight from the neo-liberal playbook. As Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams write, “We all know today that ‘modernisation’ translates into job cuts, the slashing of welfare and the privatisation of government services. To modernise, today, simply means to neoliberalise”. We ought to bear that in mind when confronting the University’s attempt to reframe the changes as inevitable, progressive, modern adaptations.

To find out more about the reforms and how to help stop them, see here. To read an in-depth analysis of the likely impact of the reforms, and how similar proposals have been defeated at other universities, see here.

DEFEND ACADEMIC FREEDOM! #SaveOurStatute!

 

Institute for Employment Research warns Statute 24 reforms will lead to “curtailment of academic freedom”

Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research (IER) has passed a scathing motion condemning the proposed changes to Statute 24, saying the reforms would “undermine the protections [academic] staff are currently afforded,” lead to a “curtailment of academic freedom,” and promote “short term thinking and groupthink”.

If any set of academics are in a position to understand the impacts of the proposed reforms, it is the IER, which focuses on issues of labour markets, employment relations, and higher education. The motion details in clear terms the huge dangers posed by management’s reforms:

  1. “The university’s intention to move procedural detail from statute,” the IER motion notes, “will mean that at any future point policies can be changed or amended by university management without the current levels of scrutiny. We believe that keeping such detail under statute is the best insurance against any future management’s attempts to make unilateral changes to the substantive areas of discipline, grievance, redundancy and sickness.”
  2. “The proposed redundancy policy reduces council oversight in redundancy situations and places greater powers in the hands of HoDs. In practice this will result in a curtailment of academic freedom and is likely to lead to short term thinking and groupthink. Ability to challenge prevailing wisdom will be reduced.”
  3. “Similarly council oversight is removed from the disciplinary process […] Coupled with a disciplinary process which is more extensive in its detail of misconduct than defined under statute, including it is noted ‘conduct which does damage [to] the reputation of the university’, we are concerned about the message which this sends to staff.

This last point, noting that academics could now be threatened with disciplinaries for “conduct which does damage to the reputation of the university”, is particularly chilling. This is part of the marketisation of higher education, where universities are increasingly encouraged to act like corporate entities concerned about their brand image and the control of dissident thought, rather than as dynamic, heterogeneous, critical institutions, aimed at personal and societal liberation.

The IER joins Warwick Law School, the History of Art department, the Centre for Applied Linguistics and the Centre for Education Studies in condemning the gutting of Statute 24 in the strongest of terms.

To find out more about the reforms and how to help stop them, see here. To read an in-depth analysis of the likely impact of the reforms, and how similar proposals have been defeated at other universities, see here.

DEFEND ACADEMIC FREEDOM! #SaveOurStatute!