Motion on online teaching as default during pandemic

The following motion was passed at the Wednesday 14th October branch meeting.

Over the past few months, University of Nottingham staff have been consistently reassured by senior management that the question of “face to face” (f2f) teaching would be handled in a flexible and safe manner. However, facts on the ground have contradicted this. ​Many schools across the University report that they are still being forced by senior management to push staff into f2fteaching against their wishes​. The Motion passed by the Sept general meeting sought to address this by recognizing management’s assurance that no member of staff would be “compelled” to teach f2f.It has since become apparent this assurance has not been kept by management, who have refused to clarify what this phrasing actually means. This ambiguity has resulted in individual members of staff having to negotiate their way out of f2f with their line managers. Consequently, many staff continue to feel they are being compelled to deliver f2f teaching.

Nottingham’s student community, at the time of writing, has the ​second highest rates​ of Covid in the country, only behind Manchester. As of Oct. 6​th​, Manchester University, Manchester Metropolitan University, and University of Sheffield have suspended all non-necessary f2f teaching. To carry out discretionary (non-lab/performance based) f2f teaching when community infections rates are so high, and even higher amongst the student population, is to knowingly and willfully expose students and staff to a life-threatening and potentially long-term health hazard. That is unacceptable.

The current situation not only poses a direct threat to staff health but also imposes immense stress on them and their households and families. The requirements to shuffle students between online and f2f as they move in and out of isolation is degrading the capacity to teach effectively across the board, as well as generating huge additional workloads for staff from all job families.

This motion reaffirms the local branch’s support for the national UCU position, and that of Independent SAGE, in line with widely accepted scientific evidence, namely that online working – for both teaching and support activities – should be the default mode of delivery, other than in those cases where this is practically impossible (such as labs, performing arts, etc).

We demand that senior management urgently enter into negotiations with the union on the following points:

  1. Recognize the expertise of staff in digital learning by assuming online teaching as the default method of delivery (with exceptions as above).
  2. Only continue discretionary f2f teaching ​on the basis of staff opt in,​ free from compulsion in any form. This applies equally to fixed term and hourly-paid workers, as it does to permanent staff.
  3. These arrangements should continue until it can be agreed with the local branch that it is safe to resume f2f.