Students’ guest refused entry by Dean
Students in the Faculty of Biological Sciences invited a representative of their lecturers to come and talk to them this afternoon at a meeting arranged at 5pm in the Conference Auditorium. But when that representative turned up at that meeting, the Dean of the Faculty stated that under no circumstances must the staff representative, Mark Taylor-Batty, an executive of the UCU, be allowed to talk. It was explained to the Dean that a group of the students themselves had invited their lecturers’ representative to the talk, which was about the impact of the proposed 70 job cuts in their faculty, but the Dean said that he must “absolutely not” talk.
UCU state that this management behaviour is in contempt of the University’s Protocol on Freedom of Expression, which expressly states that the University “values academic freedom (including in particular critical independence and creativity), [and] is committed to promoting and positively encouraging free debate, enquiry and, indeed, protest“. The protocol lists the behaviours that might legitimately result in an intervention on the part of management of the University, and these are: infringing the rights of others, discrimination, criminal activity, any threat to public order or health, any incitement to criminal activity or any behaviour contrary to civil or human rights. As the lecturers’ representative could not legitimately be accused of any of these, the Dean was clearly in breach of this University protocol.
We later understood why the management did not want any staff representative to talk to students. Students later told the UCU that they believed the Dean had told them not to believe their lecturers and that the UCU was misrepresenting student:staff ratios. UCU student:staff ratios in the Faculty of Biological Sciences, as published in the briefing document to students, are taken directly – lifted verbatim – from the ‘phase 2’ review document that the Dean himself had circulated to staff in FBS. Anyone is welcome to compare the statistics in the two documents to verify them as identical.
The Faculty of Biological Sciences have been planning the 60 or 70 job cuts since May, but only last week, on 10 November, did they contact students to explain that restructuring was underway. This is in keeping with the University’s regard for students as outlined in the VC’s statement to staff on the ‘economies exercise’, which lists the stakeholders that might be receive ‘communiqués’ in paragraph 28, and this does not include students. In paragraph 30, instead, it is stated that “Heads of schools are encouraged also to keep their students in the picture”. So there is to be no formal consultation with students, and heads of schools are only ‘encouraged’ to keep students ‘in the picture’.
When invited, representatives of academic and academic-related staff, are very happy to come and explain their briefing document to students, in the hope that they will not be barred from talking to those who invite them by the University management who are implementing the job cuts.