Solidarity towards UCU @ GCU

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Colleagues in Media and Journalism were copied in to this e-mail from UCU member @ Ulster University, Dr Anthea Irwin, who felt compelled to resign as external examiner for the Media and Communications degree following GCU Management’s actions over deductions.

The e-mail is self explanatory

Subject: Resigning my position as external examiner

Dear Professor Stephen Decent 

I am writing to resign my position as external examiner for the BA (Hons) Media and Communication at Glasgow Caledonian University in protest at GCU management’s decision to join with many other HE institutions represented by UCEA to take punitive pay deductions from UCU members participating in lawful action short of strike in the form of a marking and assessment boycott. I am not prepared to take part in assessment and quality assurance procedures in the context of such disregard for the rights of staff at GCU. 

I started to consider my position some time ago upon learning of the initial deduction plans, but I held off from tendering my resignation for as long as possible in acknowledgement of your ongoing negotiations with the UCU branch which reduced the deductions and the aim of which was to remove them completely. Unfortunately, upon having learned of your refusal to remove the deductions, I must now resign.  

I do this with a heavy heart because I know the institution and the department very well, and have the utmost respect and admiration for the exceptional work the colleagues do in facilitating the next generations of media and journalism professionals to enable us as a society to be informed about, analyse, and develop ourselves in the spirit of the ‘common good’ values of GCU.  

However, to deduct any proportion of pay for action short of strike fails utterly to acknowledge the efforts of the colleagues. It is in my opinion offensive in the context of a dispute about, amongst other things, unsustainable workloads that see colleagues across the sector consistently working well above and beyond 100% of their contract to support students, provide excellence, and uphold quality. In an institution with amongst the highest staff student ratios in the country, the workload crisis is all the more acute. In any case, I have not seen evidence that your chosen deduction figure is based on a reliable calculation of workload proportion that represents work lost, and I understand that the UCU branch actually offered to take on additional other duties in good faith.  

I share your concerns about the impact of the conditions the industrial action exists in on students across the UK. However, insufficient progress has been made in national negotiations and, in my opinion, efforts should be focused on encouraging UCEA to improve our members’ conditions sufficiently, rather than punishing your own colleagues in this way. Furthermore, appointing alternative markers outwith the areas of expertise of the colleagues taking part in the marking and assessment boycott undermines the quality of assessment and by extension the integrity of the degrees affected by it. 

I hope that there may be a small window in which you can reverse this punitive action, in which case I will be happy to rescind my resignation.  

Kind regards 

Dr Anthea Irwin, Lecturer in Communication, Ulster University

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