I am running for election to the National Executive Committee (Higher Education) of the University and College Union. This is a slightly-edited version of my election address, sent out to all voters in the election.
I am a Senior Lecturer at the University of Bath, where we recently toppled the highest-paid Vice-Chancellor in the land after nearly a decade of campaigning on transparency in pay and governance. In November of last year, Bath was criticized by HEFCE who acknowledged that our campaign had been ignored by management who would have done better to pay attention. Since our success at Bath, campaigns have been established at other universities, and the questions of governance and executive pay have become central.
Before this campaign, Bath had a reputation as a docile campus; by the end, hundreds of staff were meeting to demand the resignation of the Vice-Chancellor and the Chair of the governing body. The campaign was a trade-union campaign on union principles, demanding transparency, equity, and democracy.
We can now build alliances to save higher education and restore decent conditions to university staff. Our immediate aim must remain defence of pay and pensions; we must also reform university governance, currently held hostage by a self-serving and mediocre caste.
Our universities are `led’ by people who are “greedy without audacity, cruel without courage”, who will cheerfully pauperize us for a penny on their pay. As long as they are appointed and paid by secretive cabals, they will behave no better. An immediate priority is reform and democratization of governance, making heads accountable to us through election and salaries limited to a reasonable multiple of staff pay. At Bath, we have led the way on forcing management and governors to respond to the staff and student voice. Staff conditions are student conditions: we must continue to build links with local and national student groups to support each other for the ending of fees, for the funding of higher education, and for the establishment of secure, properly-paid posts for those who do the work of our universities.
In the present climate of increasingly open racism, and the near-complete abdication of responsibility by university `leaders’, the labour movement principle of solidarity is essential: we must unconditionally defend those colleagues under attack from racists and the state, whether through immigration rules, freelance fascism, or politicians’ demands for lists of names.
I have been a trade unionist for as long as I have had a proper job in a university, and have been active in UCU and the AUT for as long as I have lived in the UK.
Professionally, I am a mid-career middle-ranking academic old enough to worry about his pension but young enough to be stuck in the job for a couple of decades yet.
I am the only candidate in this election who is not backed by a faction in UCU. I am an immigrant.