Last Thursday saw a collaboration between University and College Union (UCU), Unison and Unite, calling us all to Strike for Education! Surely, at the LSE, this is the very least we could do? After all, are we not in the hotbed of political discussion, tension and action?
Of course I walked across the picket line, only mildly curious at the statement that I was doing so. I politely took a flyer and gave it a cursory glance before putting it in the recycling (to throw it in the non-recycling would have shown a much wider disregard for humanity.) It wasn’t until I got to my lecture and one of my follow students was having a hard time about crossing the line, that I started to even think about it. But the lecture was taking place, right?
It turns out that our lecturer had been in the corporate world too long to bring herself to become a union member – I empathized with that – so our lecture was to go ahead as planned. However, she went onto explain that the tenure-track lecturers at LSE had recently received a very significant pay rise. This was not universal across all Universities in the UK, and the junior academic staff at LSE had not received a commensurate bump up. So do we sit in our lecture content with the fact that the lecturer in front of us was feeling more comfortable? Or do we march out – having paid significant tuition fees – in support of the LSE’s newer academics and their peers across the UK.
The lecture started before I could reach any conclusion.
The problem is that there are too many valid arguments on both sides. The LSE is a service industry isn’t it? High end prices for the best academic instruction and promises of a world class career. A streamlined service-providing machine with no excuse for interruption. But its education, undervalued by the financial focused world that determines how much something is worth (which they are able to describe beautifully thanks to their LSE education). Competing arguments of what is good for the self and what is good for society.
So, what to do if we are faced with this again? It strikes me that, like life, its all rather complicated. I will have to think about it a little more.