14th July 2020
Poppy September-Peters and Rosette Jaminki In Conversation with Kiran Grewal and Svenja Bromberg about the 2019 and 2020 University and College Union (UCU) strikes, pandemic and online teaching. Organised by Yasmin Gunaratnam.
In March 2020, after the strikes held by the academic staff concluded, the sociology department of Goldsmiths University was ready to return back to teaching. But after resuming for only a fleeting moment, the countrywide lockdown was announced and teaching was yet again disrupted. The energy and drive the strikes had whipped up was depleted by the university’s increasing concern for the safety of staff and students. Members of the student body expressed a deep frustration at the strikes due to their longevity and unfortunate timing.
There was a lot that had been left unsaid between staff and students. As students ourselves, we believed there was a valuable conversation to be had about the strikes. And so, with the support of Yasmin Gunaratnam, we entered into a dialogue with two staff members from the sociology department, Kiran Grewall and Svenja Bromberg, in order to better understand the atmosphere on the digital ‘campus’. We wanted to find further clarity for the reasons behind the staff strikes and hear the personal accounts of academic staff at Goldsmiths. The conversation that entailed was one of trust and openness, where thoughts and ideas were exchanged about the direction of higher education following the pandemic and the precarity of this situation for staff. The conversation revealed to us the value of having a safe space for staff and students to communicate directly, and we hope it will not be the last.
Rosette Jäminki and Poppy September-Peters