Not just a content delivery mechanism: why I support the UCU strike

Because of how my part-time working days fall, I am now on strike for the better part of a month. Financially, I have mixed feelings about this the length of the strike as it puts me in a very difficult position, but I will not be crossing a picket line and I will for the most part be on strike proper. I am not striking about money. When I do get my full salary, I can manage, there are people worse off than me in the world, and I am lucky enough to do a job I love. But the working conditions we currently face are increasingly bad. I love my job but I have been really suffering from stress this semester especially. There have even been days I’ve been depressed, in tears and not wanted to go to work, simply because I have too much to do and not enough time to spend with my students. I have been running from one class to the next, from one subject to another with literally no thinking time between them, never mind toilet breaks or chance to grab a coffee. The mental strain of always being ‘on’, at the front of the class teaching complex issues without time to properly prepare or even get your mind in the right zone is extremely draining. My students are not getting the best experience that they could, I am very conscious every day that I could be doing a better job if I was run less ragged. I am increasingly feeling like a ‘content delivery mechanism’ rather than a knowledgeable critical thinker, like a lecturer should be. But when do we get time to build that knowledge, keep up to date with new books and articles?! The couple of working hours a week I do get outside of class time lately are spent in intense meetings with my dissertation students trying to help them formulate a focus, or standing over a printer/photocopier preparing materials to rush to the next class. Oh yeah, they recently took away the printers in our offices so we have to walk to the other end of the building now to print anything out, where queues now build as we are all using the same machines. So printing might take half an hour now where it took a minute or two a few weeks ago. Lunch breaks have not existed for me or many of my colleagues for a number of years now. Recently some of my colleagues and I have been arranging work meetings on our “days off” – unpaid time – as there is simply no time we can manage on our working days. I will be using the strike time as a precious space to work on my own PhD research, time I do not usuallly get, as academics dream of having a few clear days of decent thinking space to write and, believe it or not, we tend to ENJOY doing research. I am paid to work 3 days a week, and doing my PhD is supposed to be part of my job. I always do it on my 2 days off, you cannot fit in doing a PhD for an hour here or there between teaching, marking, piles of admin, staff meetings etc. I can only imagine what it is like for my full-time colleagues. This is NOT SUSTAINABLE. This is why I am personally supporting the strike.