Lecturers refusing to mark our work is a step too far

Lecturers refusing to mark our work is a step too far

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Liam Taylor argues that strikes like these are always inherently selfish actions, whether it is lecturers stopping students from graduating or tube drivers preventing people from getting to work.

What do we expect from our lecturers? Engaging and interesting lectures perhaps? Maybe it’s challenging and intellectually stimulating modules. Or possibly it’s support and feedback with essays and assignments? At the very least we expect them to mark the exams we spent the last couple days cramming for, I mean the last couple weeks responsibly revising for, especially given the £9000 price tag.

Photo Credits: Niklas Rahmel
Photo Credits: Niklas Rahmel

Yet apparently that is too much to ask for. After a few lecturer strikes that barely anyone noticed, apart from the few students grateful for an extra lie-in, lecturers have threatened to refuse to mark exams, dissertations or coursework if they don’t get a pay rise. This could potentially prevent many 3rd years like myself from graduating, leaving us stranded in some kind of strange limbo.

The University and College Union, unhappy with being offered only a 1% pay rise, has decided that a quibble over a few percentage points in pay negotiations is more important than the thousands of students who’s graduations they are threatening. We are now innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire between the University and the Unions and are in danger of becoming serious casualties if they do not see sense before April 28th.

Now the purpose of this article is not to make any judgements about whether lecturers deserve a larger pay rise or not. Although for what it’s worth, whilst I’m sure we have all had some fantastic lecturer’s at this university that probably do; I am also sure many of us have had lecturers who could just as easily be replaced by an intern uploading some lecture slides onto ELE each week.

Escalation of this kind is definitely wrong. It almost seems needless to say that by targeting students directly like this, by threatening to jeopardise our futures; the Unions have gone too far. The only people that will suffer as a result of this are us students. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the dispute, it is hard to view their decision to crudely hold our graduations hostage as anything but selfish. They are placing more importance on a pay cheque than their students.

Lecturers have dragged students into the middle of a dispute that was never our fight by holding a figurative gun to our heads and using us as pawns.

Strikes like these are always inherently selfish actions, whether it’s lecturers stopping students from graduating or tube drivers preventing people from getting to work. It’s the decision to not resolve disputes like reasonable adults but rather to throw tantrums like a petulant child throwing its toys out of a pram, not caring about the effect on anyone else.

Deciding that your problems are more important than everyone else and determined to make even innocent parties suffer until you get your way. That is not to say they shouldn’t be allowed to strike, of course they should in a democracy, but you would hope they would be to mature enough to find a more reasonable and less selfish way to solve disputes that doesn’t turn everyone around them into collateral damage.

Many students have already had to shoulder a tuition fees increase of £6000 and this would be rubbing salt into the wound. Lecturers and academics are hardly an underprivileged and oppressed minority, earning a starting salary that many of us could only hope for. But because I like to end to happier note, maybe at least in Exeter the lecturers will see sense before the April 28th deadline hits.

Perhaps the low turnouts to previous strikes here at Exeter could mean that most lecturers at this University ignore the marking boycott and choose to do their job instead. Is that really too much to ask?

Liam Taylor

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