Solidarity with UoN students in view of eviction threat by management!

This is a version of an email sent to UCU members at the University of Nottingham on Thursday 16th May.

Dear UCU members,
Even though the student encampment on Jubilee campus in support of Palestine has been entirely peaceful, UoN management has moved towards their eviction. In response, I have written today to the VC on behalf of the UCU committee urging management to reconsider their approach to our students (see underneath this message).

The Court hearing will take place tomorrow morning [Friday 17th May] at 11.30 a.m. at Birmingham Civil Justice, Birmingham District Registry, King’s Bench Division, Priory Courts, 33 Bull Street, Birmingham, B4 6DS. If you happen to be close or can make the time, please go there in support of our students.

Finally, there is currently an online petition organised by staff [full text below]. The committee strongly encourages you to sign. [At time of posting, over 150 UoN staff have signed the original petition.]

Committee email to VC, 16 May

Dear Vice Chancellor,

It is with great dismay that we have learned that yesterday the University served the student encampment – which UoN itself pointed out as being peaceful (see https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/currentstudents/news/conflict-in-israel-and-gaza-accessing-support) – with papers as a first step towards their eviction. And this without even having attempted to engage constructively with the students and their demands. Considering that yesterday marked the anniversary of the Nakba, when 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes 76 years ago, management could not have chosen a more inopportune moment.

We would like to remind you that the encampment has neither occupied any buildings, nor has it obstructed the normal functioning of day-to-day University business. We therefore urge you to reflect carefully on management’s next steps and whether a constructive dialogue, similar to what has happened at other UK universities, may not be preferable over the application of brute force and the high financial costs this involves.

We also note that similar concerns have already been brought to your attention by staff in the Department of Philosophy with other parts of the university likely to follow.

We have to be clear that should management choose a course of confrontation with the encampment, we as UCU UoN would be left with no alternative but to speak up and condemn this course publicly.

Yours, Andreas (on behalf of the UCU Committee at UoN)

Statement regarding the peaceful protest encampment at the University of Nottingham

As members of staff at the University of Nottingham, we believe that the freedom to protest is essential to our democracy. The right to protest should be respected and protected, especially by institutions such as universities.

Currently, students are engaged in peaceful protest on university campuses across the UK, including an encampment at the University of Nottingham. We are concerned that some universities are not upholding these students’ democratic rights.

The University of Nottingham camp is positioned intentionally such that it does not interfere with the normal use of the university. Students, lecturers and other staff are able to go to work and class without interference. They are friendly, approachable and communal. They are conscientious about safety, tidiness, waste, and hygiene.

The students are a credit to the university. They display the very principles that a university education should be working to instil in students: conscientiousness, passion, the active pursuit of social justice, the advancement of the human condition and a commitment to improving health and wellbeing of all people, wherever they are in the world.

This is a protest that aims to ensure that the university is not contributing to the Israeli military bombardment and invasion of Gaza, which has killed many thousands of people. It is understandable that supporters of Israel’s actions may oppose the camp, but this is not evidence of discrimination or intimidation. It is a diverse and inclusive group. For example, during a vigil for the victims of the current invasion, Jewish students took part and led a prayer of remembrance. The students have created a friendly, welcoming space for all who visit.

We see no reason why the students should be removed from the camp.

Signed statement link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YYXQR9yr1b3N9v-bkiVm0bjPLVY5mfq3-Mx1fDtqFFw/edit

Statement of solidarity with UoN students

UCU at the University of Nottingham (UoNUCU) stands in solidarity with students, who began an encampment on Jubilee Campus outside the Advanced Manufacturing Building on Friday 10 May. We support their call for:

1) full transparency about University of Nottingham involvement in the arms trade,

2) an end to all partnerships with companies involved in arms manufacturing and a transition to sustainable and ethical alternative partnerships,

3) the provision of bursaries for Palestinian staff and students; and

4) a contribution to the reconstruction of the education system in Gaza.

We welcome students’ actions condemning Israel’s ‘plausibly genocidal acts’ in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We admire their resolve to speak up when so many people in the West stay silent.

We reiterate the words of UCU’s Black Members Standing Committee, ‘that calling attention to the systematic discrimination of Palestinians and/or criticising the Israeli government for its contravention of international law must not be conflated with antisemitism’. 

Further, we remind our members, and university management, that UCU stands in solidarity with Palestinian liberation. This includes a commitment to protect students and staff under attack for supporting the cause of the Palestinian people.

As UCU at the University of Nottingham we fully support the right to peaceful protest and urge the University to ensure students’ right to free speech, protest and assembly on campus. We, moreover, call on university management to engage in constructive negotiations with the students around their demands.

Solidarity!

UCU committee at UoN, 14 May 2024

More information:
Prof. Andreas Bieler, UCU President at UoN, 07955 143829 or Andreas.Bieler@nottingham.ac.uk

Motions passed at 1st May 2024 members meeting: 1. academic freedom and UKRI, 2. motion for SHESC, and 3. on Standing with Palestine.

These motions were each passed by a large majority of members attending a meeting on 1st May 2024 having been circulated in advance by email. They are posted here for subsequent reference.

1. UoN UCU Branch Follow-up Motion on Academic Freedom and
UKRI

For consideration at the next General Members Meeting

This branch notes:

  1. The motion UoN UCU Branch Motion on Academic Freedom and UKRI which passed
    at Extraordinary General Meeting on Monday November 6, 2023.
  2. The outcome of the UKRI’s investigation into allegations against members of its EDI
    Advisory Group made by Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation
    and Technology being a full exoneration.
  3. That the Secretary of State has publicly retracted her accusations and compensation
    has been paid by the Government.
  4. That the basis for the allegations made by the Secretary of State was a policy
    document by a right-wing think tank.

This branch believes:

  1. That the outcome of UKRI’s investigation and eventual exoneration of the individuals
    concerned are a positive development.
  2. That this investigation, and the damage to the reputation of the individuals
    concerned, could have been prevented by a more robust UKRI response to alarmist
    ministerial intervention.
  3. That the UKRI’s announcement of the outcome of its investigation, while inviting the
    members of the EDI Advisory Group to reengage, should have gone further in
    defending the necessity and value of its EDI work and academic freedom.
  4. That the use of public funds to settle claims related to the Secretary of State is
    concerning.
  5. That these events show a worrisome trend of anti-intellectualism, anti-‘wokeness’,
    and faux concerns about freedom of speech driven by right wing think tanks who
    provide little transparency on their funding.

This branch resolves:

  1. To advise that UoN UCU members reengage with UKRI activities, events, peer
    review, and other voluntary roles they had been called to boycott per the prior
    motion.
  2. To encourage UoN UCU members in professional associations to continue to express their concerns collectively to UKRI.
  3. To support UCU campaigns to pressure UKRI, and other funders, on matters of EDI and academic freedom.

2. Motion for SHESC on 17 May 2024: Increase branches’ financial and budgetary awareness and skills

SHESC notes:

  • The growing number of HE institutions (HEIs) attacks on jobs, terms and conditions.
  • HEIs claim that the financial challenges are sector-wide.
  • UCU branches have successfully challenged compulsory redundancies.
  • Congress 2024 motions ROC4, ED1, HE22 among others.

SHESC believes:

  • Branch officers and activists require financial literacy to challenge job cuts and other savings plans.
  • Respective expertise in this area is available amongst members, UCU staff and external consultants.
  • While HE funding needs reform urgently, financial management in many HEIs is poor.

SHESC resolves:

  • To instruct HEC to establish an HE finances working group, drawing on expertise from members and UCU staff to support branches with analysis of financial statements and budgets.
  • To engage external consultants for specialist financial expertise upon request by a Branch.
  • To develop training on analysis of financial statements and budgets for branch officers and activists.

3. Motion on Standing with Palestine

This branch notes:

  • Our General Secretary Jo Grady’s email to members that Wednesday 1 May, UCU is
    supporting the workplace Day of Action for Palestine;
  • The ongoing ‘educide’ in Gaza, where Israel’s current military offensive has resulted in the destruction of many universities and schools and the killing of thousands of students, hundreds of teachers and support staff, and nearly 100 professors.

This branch believes: 

  • That as an education union we have to speak up and mobilise against Israel’s
    ‘plausibly genocidal acts’; 
  • That we have to stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

This branch resolves: 

  • To donate £500 to Friends of Birzeit University (Fobzu; https://fobzu.org/), which
    provides scholarships to young Palestinians;
  • To donate £500 to Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP; https://www.map.org.uk/).
  • To instruct the committee to explore affiliation with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in line with the affiliation of the national UCU and report back to next members meeting in this respect; 
  • To demand from UoN management to provide institutional scholarships for Palestinian students and academic fellowships for staff similar to the support provided to students and staff from the Ukraine.

Branch meeting 28th February 1-2pm and motion

The below email was sent to members on 22nd Feb, with initial notice for members of branch meeting circulated on 7th Feb.

Dear members

In anticipation of the Branch Meeting on Wednesday 28 February, 1-2pm, the message below promised that Branch Committee would circulate today any draft Branch motions proposed for this year’s UCU Congress. One motion has been proposed:

Reporting back of NEC members to constituencies

Congress instructs the NEC to formulate rule change motions to ensure the following:

  1. NEC members canvass opinions from branches and regions in their constituencies prior to NEC and NEC subcommittee meetings.
  2. NEC members produce a written report within two working weeks of NEC and NEC subcommittees to be circulated in the appropriate constituency.
  3. Appropriate mechanisms to be established by UCU to support circulation of reports from NEC members to constituencies.

If you wish to propose an amendment to this text, please email uonucubranch@gmail.com by Monday 26 February at 12 noon.

The motion will be voted upon, and Delegates to Congress will be elected, at the upcoming Branch Meeting. If you are interested to put yourself forward to attend as a Delegate, there is still time – the message below explains the how to nominate.

Zoom details for the Branch Meeting will follow.

In solidarity,

Tony

Tony Simmonds (UoNUCU Secretary)

Members email: Full review of HR policy provision

Version of email below sent to UoN UCU members on 19th February 2024.

Dear UCU members,

The University is starting a full review of HR policy provision with policies revised and developed to promote best practice and support a culture of inclusion aligned with university values. This was initiated as part of the People and Culture Strategic Delivery Plan (SDP) 2023-2026.

Some of the concerns the University wants to address include inconsistent format and content (including supporting standards and procedures); related accountabilities and responsibilities not consistently identified or articulated; lack of regular review and update.

Many of these policies, including those for disciplinary and grievance issues, are conditions of employment, and therefore must be negotiated with the recognised unions (UCU, Unite, Unison). UCU is starting the negotiation process with the University next month. To assist us with this we need information as to how well (or not) UoN policies are working in practice for our members.

If you have had experiences with an HR policy and in the course of this identified weaknesses in the policy or how it is implemented in practice, please use the following google form to provide them to us. We will collate this information (anonymously) and use it in to focus our negotiations.

Many thanks!

Best,

Andreas (UoN UCU Branch President)