As a sabbatical officer team opposed to the marketisation of higher education, we stand with the occupiers’ demands. While we have had no involvement in the occupation, we will try our best to ensure that the welfare and safety needs of the students are met within the occupation by monitoring the situation and intervening where we can.
On Tuesday 22nd February a lecture block on the Sidgwick Site was occupied by a group of students from the student-led campaign group Cambridge Defend Education. Their occupation is an act of solidarity with the ongoing industrial action undertaken by the UCU, both locally and nationally. The students in the occupation are demanding that the University commits to negotiating a comprehensive recognition agreement with Cambridge UCU, makes a formal statement calling for the UCU’s demands regarding pensions and the four fights to be met, and agrees that students and workers face no disciplinary measures as a result of the occupation and other direct actions.
As a sabbatical officer team opposed to the marketisation of higher education, we stand with the occupiers’ demands and view these demands as noble and substantive. We also recognise that there is a large cohort of students that we represent who may be disappointed that this occupation is interfering with their scheduled in-person teaching.
We unequivocally believe that student anger should not be directed at the student occupiers or at striking staff; it has been within the University’s power to end the strikes by supporting the UCU’s proposals, and it is the University that has consistently failed its staff and students by dragging out the pensions dispute. University staff are facing a potential 35% decrease to their retirement benefits, increasing the financial precarity of current academic staff and de-incentivising talented researchers from pursuing academic careers. We’d also like to use this as an opportunity to thank staff members, both academic and administrative, who are working tirelessly to ensure that some of this teaching that was scheduled for non-strike days can take place in alternative venues or be rescheduled.
While we have had no involvement in the occupation, we will try our best to ensure that the welfare and safety needs of the students are met within the occupation by monitoring the situation and intervening where we can. We will always support the right of students to protest. We’ll be continuing with our regular strike-related activities, mainly providing breakfast to striking staff, during the final few days of this round of industrial action. We also remain committed to liaising with the University on the issue of exam mitigations and adjustments. Any member of the Sabbatical Officer team is happy to answer questions that might arise in relation to this statement; our email inboxes are always open.