Return to on-site teaching
I feel compelled to write to you personally to share my experience of the first wave of COVID, working for a HE institution. I am a UCU member and Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University. I am writing in response to the current clamour to return to on-site teaching, in the hope that sharing this experience might help to bring home the gravity of what a second wave might cause and aggravate. The minimal discussions that my subject-group have been able to have over the summer period, have demonstrated to me that many of my colleagues have not had first-hand experience of the reality of what a serious contraction of this illness can cause. Because I, unfortunately, have had that experience, I thought that my experiences might be of some interest to other HE professionals weighing up the risks of their face-to-face teaching responsibilities.
UCU Maternity Group blog post
I'm writing this to the sound of thumps and jumps (and shouts to "move over!") as my younger two children start their day with Joe Wicks. I've long given up trying to join in having realised that pandemics are probably NOT the time to 'get fit', 'learn to play the guitar properly', FINALLY clear out the attic etc. Basic survival; that's ok. This also means that I don't even sit in the same room as I've found that saying 'keep your body upright, don't lean too far" etc. is not conducive, and young bodies are super supple/unlikely to strain, aren't they? (I refuse to google how true this is for my own state of mind but let's just agree that they are fine, and they have been warned not to break anything – bones and/or the TV, at least!).
My Privilege, Your Stories, Our Fight
Since becoming Northumbria UCU Branch Chair, I have spent a lot of time saying to people, honestly and humbly, what a privilege it is to have been elected. I'm fired up about helping in the fight for fairness, decency, and dignity at work and in the wider world. It is a fight that many, many others, past and present, have made their own, and it is at the core of the trade union movement. But what a fight it is.
Who needs a union anyway?
What was UCU ever going to do for me? As an employment lawyer I had a good handle on my workplace rights. Heck, I'd even represented clients at the Employment Tribunal on employment disputes and won. What's more, I was what some people might call 'gobby.' I didn't need any help standing up for myself, thanks very much. How naïve!
From 2012 workplace changes and "efficiencies" were becoming more regular. Experienced colleagues disappearing through voluntary severance was commonplace. Valued professional support staff who I had worked with for many years were informed they were suddenly "not appointable" in the latest restructure.