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/

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