Thank you for your email of DATE.
Below is the union reply to all students awaiting marks explaining why we are taking this action and what you too can do about this.
Union Communication to Students:
We know that you are distressed and frustrated by the assessment boycott. We apologise sincerely for the distress and for not communicating with you earlier (unlike management, we do not have access to all-student emails and have been told that we would face disciplinary action if we attempted to contact students about the boycott via other means such as BlackBoard). We have not undertaken the boycott lightly. We came into academia to teach and do research, not to withhold marks from students whom we’ve been teaching with dedication.
We’re participating in the boycott because we have no alternative: the senior management of the university – some of whom have been employed at Westminster a fraction of the time that many of us have been here – want to make many staff members redundant. Management have already announced that a further round of staff redundancies is scheduled for later this year.
We, the University and College Union (UCU), have been trying to conduct serious negotiations with management since January, when they first announced that they wanted to cut over 200 posts at the university. Management claim the cuts have to be made, and made now: through redundancies that are ‘voluntary’ (but in name only) or compulsory. People who have dedicated their adult lives to university teaching will suddenly have no job and no career. Support staff face the same prospect. Many of these men and women have families who they will be unable to support should their jobs be cut.
If these staff members are sacked, and more follow, the quality of education at Westminster will be impaired, perhaps severely. We are taking action also for the future of education at Westminster.
We in UCU know that any savings can be made without sacking staff. The university has several million in their cash accounts that have been ringfaced for real estate development at Harrow. We have tried to negotiate seriously with management for six months about how to make savings; but they have not – yet – responded in kind. Repeatedly we have asked management to take part in talks with UCU mediated by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS); we asked this again this week; yet still management will not take part in these talks.
Meanwhile, UCU members participating in the boycott are being severely penalised: 50 per cent of our pay is being withheld while we boycott assessment.
We know that a marking boycott affects final-year students the most. But we’re sure you understand that we can’t stand by and let management sack staff, destroy careers, and imperil the quality of education at Westminster.
Could you please also write to the vice-chancellor, Geoffrey Petts, and to the deputy vice-chancellor, Rikki Morgan-Tamosunas, and ask them to negotiate seriously with UCU so that the dispute can be ended now? (Don’t forget to copy us into the letter.)
Finally, UCU staff members will be happy to send letters (for example, to prospective employers, postgraduate admissions offices, and benefit offices) explaining why you have not yet received a formal transcript of your marks and indicating what your likely degree classification will be. Write to your personal tutor first about this; or if they are not available, write to the module leader of one of your modules where marks have been withheld.
The Coordinating Committee, UCU at Westminster