As we are halfway through the current strike action I think it’s important to explain the Sabbatical Officer stance during this time in an attempt to eliminate any confusion. Your Sabbatical Officer Team is voted for, annually, by the student body, and we represent students in all we do, especially during difficult times. During the last round of strike action in 2018 it was decided upon by the then Sabbatical Officer team to take a neutral stance. After serious discussion we decided, as a team, to take the same stance. We felt then and still do, that it is the only way we can represent the opinions of all the students’ we represent, including those for or against industrial action and those who have a neutral view.
However as a Students’ Union this stance can be changed if the Sabbatical Officer Team are mandated by our Student Council to do so. In our December Council the motion ‘Support Lecturers on Strike’ failed to reach the simple majority it needed to pass. As we are led by the student body, we remained neutral.
To this year’s team neutrality means providing all information to our students, which includes directing them to University communications relating to PEC forms, Industrial Action Impact forms and extra counselling sessions. We also direct students to our internal Student Advice Centre for extra support and ourselves as their student representatives. We attend meetings to discuss the impact this is having and have an ‘open door’ policy for students to come and speak to us. Being neutral does not mean we don’t care, we don’t want to see lecturers on strike and students under pressure and we genuinely hope for a positive outcome for all.
In relation to the Strike Action Q&A that sparked particular controversy, the decision to participate was decided upon by the whole Sabbatical Officer team due to the success of it during the last round of industrial action. This was an opportunity for students to directly ask their institution procedural and administrative questions on process, largely around PEC forms, compensation and Industrial Action impact forms. As NUSU President the majority of strike related emails I receive from students fits within this procedural context and therefore we genuinely wanted to offer a platform to get the answers. This was a fact giving session, and we believe that the correct Union was there to represent the student body, the Students’ Union. I completely agree that had this been a wider discussion on the industrial action it would have been appropriate for a representative to attend, and I’m sorry for the evident confusion this has caused. However, we stand by our decision to be present at the session and to fulfil our role of representing students.
My twitter feed will remain to be used as a public space for information only, and not as a platform for back and forth with members of the University community. Please be mindful of the way social media is used and let us all remain respectful of each other and our different approach to a difficult situation. I sincerely hope all students feel that they can come in and talk to me (or any of the team) at any point or contact us on any of our email- everyone’s welcome.