Warwick UCU Recommendations for Online Teaching during the Covid-19 Crisis

Ensuring that Teaching is Safe, Accessible, Non-Discriminatory and Effective: Warwick UCU Recommendations for Online Teaching during the Covid-19 Crisis

Warwick UCU is fully supportive of the University’s commitment to maintain student learning by replacing planned contact time with alternative learning provision for the duration of the UK Government’s restrictions. We recognise too that henceforth online learning may become a more central part of our teaching provision as part of a ‘blended’ approach.

We want to ensure, however, that all online learning is developed in a way that gives priority to the learning/working goals and conditions of students and staff. This means that the University needs to consult with the union and departments to ensure that any alterations to our members’ ordinary working conditions are carried out in a sensible and responsible way.

With this in mind, UCU has requested that the University sign a Memorandum of Understanding providing assurances to our members with respect to six main areas of concern, outlined below. We include policy requirements and/or commitments in response to the extraordinary circumstances we face as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure that online teaching is accessible, safe, non-discriminatory, and effective.

1. Health and Safety

We ask that the University prioritises the health and safety of all its staff – which includes protecting staff workloads to avoid stress injuries – by ensuring the following:

  • That staff who are at risk, or who live with household members at risk, be given the option to teach fully online, with no requirement to do face-to-face teaching.
  • That staff are given proper training and support, and supplied with necessary hardware, software and infrastructure to do their work. Required support includes sufficient paid training for sessional tutors.
  • That risk assessments are undertaken for all online teaching.

2. Equality and Diversity

  • The University should recognise that equality and diversity issues are at the forefront of its online learning policies. This requires working closely with the Social Inclusion Committee to ensure that those with protected characteristics and caring responsibilities are not subject to adverse discrimination. We welcome the Provost’s acknowledgement that “overall, women tend to have more caring responsibilities, and these may be more time consuming at the present time with the added pressures of factors such as home-schooling and shielding.” In light of this adverse impact, we ask that changes to the length of the working day – which can be used to increase flexibility for all staff, including those with protected characteristics and caring responsibilities – must be carried out sensitively and with proper consultation to avoid both direct and indirect forms of discrimination.

 3. Provisional vs. Permanent Changes to Working Conditions 

  • The University agrees that all online teaching requirements brought into place as a result of the COVID-19 crisis are provisional and temporary, and that any moves to normalise online teaching should be properly negotiated with unions and departments.
  • The University pledges not to set up partnerships with private companies aimed at online teaching provision without proper consultation.
  • Any new policies will be communicated in a timely manner, giving departments not less than three months where possible, to allow tutors as much time as possible to prepare their teaching in advance.
     

    4. Departmental Autonomy and Academic Freedom

  • The University will respect the principles of departmental autonomy by avoiding overly prescriptive regulations concerning contact hours, teaching methodologies and platforms and strategies for delivering online content.
  • Timetabling of classes will be carried out by departments to allow maximum flexibility of delivery, particularly where in-person contact is not possible for health and safety reasons.
  • The University will not use any temporary moves to online teaching to transform or alter how modules are run within departments. A particular concern here is those departments whose teaching is organised around the provision of smaller modules, and those in which teaching is primarily research-led.

5. Performance and Intellectual Property Rights

The University will take concrete steps to respect the performance and intellectual property rights for new online materials, including the following provisions:

  • Extend the Lecture Capture Service Policy to both blended and online teaching.
  • Develop a new consent form to account for the activities and materials associated with blended/online teaching that reflects the permissions academics normally grant the university.
  • Amend Regulation 28 Paragraph 2(c)(ii)(E) as follows:
    – Replace ‘other materials for face to face student teaching’ with ‘other materials for face to face, blended or online student teaching’
  • Online instruction should not include requirements regarding the default recording of teaching. While some teachers may record their lectures, recordings can be detrimental to the ethos and goals of interactive classes/seminars. As with lecture capture, recording of teaching sessions should remain opt-in.
  • As with lecture capture, online teaching should be limited to “the University’s current students on the University’s access-controlled systems,” in which ‘current students’ refers to the student cohort of a particular module for which the tutor chooses to use lecture capture recordings.
  • Where teaching sessions are recorded, such material should not be used for educational provision during industrial action OR after the tutor’s employment at the university ends.
  • Where teaching sessions are recorded, such material should not be used for disciplinary or performance management purposes.
  • The university should provide a Guide of Conduct for students who receive online teaching that specifically prohibits the self-recording of online teaching sessions and their distribution. Provision for disciplinary action should be included in this agreement where it is violated by a student, unless specific arrangements have been agreed to beforehand by student and tutor.

6. Workloads and the STP/VAM Budget

  • Moving teaching online, particularly under conditions of blended learning, requires significant extra labour. This task will be unmanageable if the University attempts to move online while cutting the teaching of those on casualised contracts, including Teaching Fellows, STP and VAM. We thus ask that the University protect STP/VAM budget lines, both to uphold its commitment to protecting jobs, and in the interests of protecting staff workloads (and thereby meeting its health and safety obligations). We would particularly request that the research time of junior colleagues be ring-fenced.
  • All extra activity needed to produce online materials should be recognised as part of staff workloads. This activity includes additional work performed over the summer to prepare for online classes in the autumn. We note that the university’s projection of 2 hours per tutor per week as sufficient for preparing online instruction drastically underestimates the time required in most cases. We note as well that these hours are to be taken from academics’ contractual weekly research time, which must be subject to further negotiation.
  • Increased teaching loads must be acknowledged in probation and performance management targets and timelines.

 

Warwick UCU stands in solidarity with those experiencing racist police violence and those working to end it

Warwick UCU stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with Black communities involved in acts of resistance across the US in response to the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black and Indigenous men and women. We stand with and commit to supporting Black staff and students who may put themselves at risk of discrimination or exclusion as a result of protesting or mobilising against police brutality and white supremacy.

Racist police brutality and murder are not just endemic in the US, but are a problem inherent to policing worldwide. Police harassment and murder of BAME people in general, and Black people in particular, is rampant in the UK, too. Even though UK police do not have the ready access to guns that their US counterparts do, Black communities in the UK still bear the brunt of police harassment, violence and murder. Just this week the IOPC launched an enquiry into police brutality in Birmingham; it has emerged that Black people are twice as likely to be fined by the Met Police for breaches of the coronavirus lockdown.

In recognition of the impact of racist police violence on our local communities in the West Midlands, Warwick UCU resolves to make a donation of £100 (the most we as a committee are able to donate) to support Black Conscious Coventry. We also ask that our members, particularly non-Black members, take the following concrete actions:

If you have spare cash, please consider donating to these Black-led UK organisations working for racial justice.


Below is the motion we passed unanimously our committee meeting on 4 June 2020.

Warwick UCU stands in solidarity with those experiencing racist police violence and those working to end it

This committee notes:

1. The ongoing racist policing practices in the USA, the many deaths of black people at the hands of the police force including George Floyd, Ahmed Auberry, Breonna Taylor, Sean Reed, Tony McDade and far too many others, and the current violent policing of protesters demanding justice for these murders.

2. The ongoing racist policing practices in the UK and the many deaths of black people following contact with the police, including Darren Cumberbatch, Kingsley Burrell, Trevor Smith, Dalian Atkinson, Mark Duggan and far too many others.

3. That the West Midlands Police is currently under investigation for overuse of force against black men, including the use of weapons.

4. That discriminatory policing is now occurring in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is disproportionately affecting racially minoritised people in the UK, that the government has not taken seriously the evidence that this disproportionality is related to structural racism, and that pandemic-related policing has also disproportionately targeted the same groups.

5. The effects of structural racism, including policing practices on members of our union, on our students and on our communities.

6. That racist violence is structural, a product of and basis of our society, and that it is the responsibility of all trade unionists to oppose and work to unpick racism in all its forms.

7. The need to stand in solidarity with those who experience police violence and those working to end it, by taking ongoing and practical action.

This committee resolves:

1. To stand in solidarity with those who experience police violence and those working to end it.

2.  To support members speaking out or protesting about these issues should they face intimidation, exclusion from opportunities, or discrimination of any kind as a result.

3. To donate £100 to the work of Black Conscious Coventry.

4. To increase political education for our members on questions of structural racism, in HE and beyond.

5. To write to local representatives (MPs, WM Police and Crime Commissioner, and candidates for next WMPCC) to ask them to outline specific actions they will take to address racism within the police and criminal justice system.

Important Update Regarding the University’s Responses to Covid-19 (and Deductions)

Below are updates on our  discussions with the University about their response to Covid-19, as well as about strike deductions.

University Response to Covid-19

We are pleased that the University has offered greater assurances of flexibility for staff with caring responsibilities. But we are deeply disappointed that we have not been able to secure any reassurances in our other key areas.

The University has refused to guarantee hourly paid staff that they will be paid for their contracted hours if teaching or marking is cancelled.

The University of Warwick has publicly stated that “The health and wellbeing of our students and colleagues remain our top priority” (UoW 2020, 20th March 2020) and one of their four further stated priorities is “protecting jobs” (Croft 2020). HPTs are among the most precariously employed members of staff – they have no reasonable prospect of finding alternative work and many are not eligible for universal credit. We expect Warwick to join other leading institutions in the sector, including King’s College London, Sheffield, and Exeter, in honouring their commitments to casualised staff.

We are also very concerned that the University has refused to engage with us on questions of intellectual property for on-line learning. We simply don’t understand why Warwick wouldn’t provide basic assurances that the on-line teaching materials provided during this Covid-19 crisis will remain the intellectual property of our members, and will not be used to replace future teaching. Until the University is willing to give us some basic assurances, we recommend that staff be careful with what materials they put online and how they disseminate them.

The University have indicated that they are willing to keep a dialogue open on this issue and so we will continue to try to work with them. We know that our members are committed to ensuring we emerge from this crisis as a stronger and more unified community. Thus we remain hopeful that the University will honour their own commitments. We will keep you updated.

Strike Deductions

As noted in our previous email, we had written the Vice Chancellor to ask that strike deductions be either spread out or delayed, as they have been at numerous other universities, in recognition of both the huge effort our members are devoting to coping with the challenges posed by Covid-19 and the financial hardships many of our members will be facing. The University has let us know they are considering this request, but have not yet reported back.

On that note, just a reminder that we are still on ASOS and given the University’s unwillingness to work with us thus far, we want to encourage members to take care of yourselves, your physical and mental health, and to not work more than you are paid to do.

Finally, we want to hear from members. If you are affected by the University’s response to Covid-19 and need our help, or if you just want to share your story, our google form remains open and we guarantee your anonymity.

Warwick UCU’s Letter to Stuart Croft Regarding COVID-19

Warwick UCU has sent the following letter to the Vice Chancellor, Stuart Croft, demanding that he take action to ensure the health and safety of staff and students at Warwick.

Dear Stuart,

Warwick UCU are writing regarding the outbreak of COVID-19. In light of the government’s wholly inadequate response to this crisis, we ask that the University ensure the following to enable the safety of staff and students:

– that the University immediately stop all non-essential, campus-based work so that we prevent the unnecessary spreading of the virus;
– that the University ensure that there is no loss of pay to any member of staff as a result of virus-related closures or isolation, regardless of contract type or visa status;
– that the University engage closely with campus trade unions to ensure that decisions taken regarding the the virus have the support of staff.

We are also very concerned about the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is being used to victimise the Asian community in this country, and ask that the University join us in producing a statement showing solidarity with all those facing an escalation in racial discrimination.

Warwick UCU

Day 8: Throwing Down Science on the Picketline

Well, at 7 degrees and occasionally drizzling we were feeling the weather love today.

Our teach out, “Dealing with Climate Denial and Discombobulation (Climate Strike Warm Up)” opened with our fabulous Caseworker Coordinator and Vice-Chair, Alastair Smith, reminding us that it is indeed our University and that it is us – students and workers – whose campaigning and lobbying pressured the University to declare a climate emergency (as also discussed in his comment on the VC’s recent Green Week blog). So it’s fitting that student groups as well as our local Warwick & Leamington Labour MP pulled out of an official university-backed climate emergency panel that would have required participants to cross the picket line, forcing the university to postpone the event. If the university wants to be recognised for taking serious environmental action, it will also need to recognise the campus environment created by precarity, threatened pensions, frozen wages and the gender and BME pay gap. Managerialism will never solve a crisis created by managerialism!

This panel, co-run with GSD student Todd Olive, debunked the climate deniers and threw down some scary truths about climate change.

Image

And speaking of science, our picketers by the campus roundabout carried out some science of their own. In a highly rigorous study of driveby solidarity, they determined that in just 10 minutes over 20 solidarity honks were delivered!  Between that and our solidari-biscuits, we are feeling the love!

The day ended with a fabulous discussion of feminist traditions in the UK, US and Europe.

Image

In case the administration hasn’t yet got the message, this action remains fierce, determined and strong, taking inspiration from those feminist forebears.

Day 7: They say casualise….We say organise!!!

Today we had live protest songs on our Westwood picket (!!) and a good turnout for our early pickets despite the best efforts of the rain and traffic.

Image

Image

The theme of the day was precarity and precarious workers, and we had three teach-outs led by Warwick Anti-Casualisation. First up was a teachout on Governing Through Precarity, which used examples from Foucault’s philosophy to illustrate how precarious working conditions are a foundation of neoliberalism – not simply, as is often claimed, a money-saving exercise dictated by markets – and how our agency is constrained by the systems we must work within when choosing an academic career. Katja Laug talked about the main issues for precarious workers as identified by UCU, and gave examples from the lived experience of precarious workers at Warwick, including her own.

We then moved to The Graduate, where a panel of precarious workers shared their own experiences, covering a range of obstacles to pursuing an academic career: covering childcare costs as a PhD student, completing an unfunded PhD while working full time, the impact of casual, poorly-recorded labour on visas for international staff, being treated as a less visible or valuable member of one’s department, fixed-term contracts and the reliance on what amounts to academic patronage for success as an early career researcher. Thank you to all for sharing your stories and solidarity. We also heard some disappointing statistics on the numbers of staff on fixed-term contracts, as well as how UCEA first promised to offer most staff permanent contracts in 2002, and have now set essentially the same target in 2020 as part of their latest offer. WAC are looking for new members to join their activist group – solidarity from staff on permanent contracts is welcome.
Image
Finally, students from the Warwick Anti Racism Society led a discussion on prison abolition, touching on issues around alternatives to punishment and carceral “justice” and the intersections between race, gender, class and the prison industrial complex. We heard perspectives on how states use prisons to stifle dissent in Africa and the Middle East, as well as the role of prison abolition in achieving racial justice in the UK. We also discussed some strategies for moving past our current models of policing and dividing bodies into ‘deserving’ and ‘other.’ It was a great and inspiring discussion, and we look forward to hearing more from the students involved – working with young people like you makes it all worth it!

Day 6: Building the shadow university (in full sun)

Week 3 of our action began with cold temps but welcome sun. We were joined by comrades from Coventry TUC, bringing both moral and material support:


Continuing the tradition of teach-outs on the picket line, Rebecca Brown (outgoing SU Environment and Ethics Officer) chaired a panel titled “Decolonisation/Decarbonisation,” on the necessary links between social and climate justice action. Featuring speakers that included newly elected SU officers and Coventry MP Zarah Sultana, the session drove home the need to attend to climate breakdown in both global and local terms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naomi Waltham-Smith then gave a rousing talk on the role of listening in political education:


We might think of activities like these as aspects of the shadow university – not the university represented in official brochures and PR, but the university that comes into being through the expertise, dedication and commitment of those participating in this strike to improve working conditions for all of us.

Thanks, as ever, to student and staff stalwarts on the line:

 

 

 


As we continue with the week’s picket schedule, remember that with this action we are holding the line against immensely destructive practices imposed by HE officials across the country. Let’s continue to show them whose university this really is.

 

Day 5: All the Weather for International Solidarity Day

We had a great turnout for Day Five, which we marked as International Solidarity Day. There were some fabulous banners and placards, and we made the most of a few delightfully sunny moments to assemble for a round of invigorating chants:

We had an inspiring teachout – “Patients Not Passports” – on the history of migrant charges in the NHS and the ongoing battle against point-of-care charges (and indeed, “built-in” immigrant charges).

Many thanks to Laura Schwartz and Roberta Bivins (History) for providing some useful and interesting context as well as clear actions we can take to support a truly free and universal NHS.

We also benefited from an excellent teachout on multilingualism from Richard Smith and Carolin Debray, colleagues in Applied Linguistics, in which the impressive range of languages spoken by UCU members was on display.

Finally, many thanks to Film and Television Studies for adopting today’s picket, and for bringing along morale-boosting small comrades (with two legs and four):

We’re back at work Thursday and Friday, but don’t forget to keep those warm clothes ready for a four-day walkout next week, starting with a 10am-1pm picket on Monday.

Solidarity forever!

Day 4: Sunshine, Laughter, Anti-Racism

Today was another excellent day on the picket line! Fortunately, the weather gods smiled on us, and we finally got some sun and blue sky.

We were delighted to have the company of Aisghair, a beautiful, and very enthusiastic, dog.

First, we congregated at the bus interchange, picked up materials (and, crucially, donuts) and dispersed to picket at various campus entrances.

We returned to the interchange a couple of hours later, for a session of laughter yoga led by Nese Ceren. This involved imagining ourselves in a number of different scenarios, such as having a funny conversation on the phone; being in an argument; and dragging a heavy bag while attempting to catch a train.

We spent plenty of time laughing at each other, as well as at ourselves: a refreshing change from a regular day at a university!

After a bit more chanting (“They say casualise / We say organise!”), we closed the picket for the day.

Later we went to The Graduate for a timely teach out titled “Anti-Chinese racism at Warwick: contagious even when apparently asymptomatic?” This gave us the opportunity to have an important conversation about Sinophobia, and the ways in which it is intertwined with current anxieties to do with the coronavirus.

Looking forward to seeing you again tomorrow. It looks set to be a busy, but fun, day. We’re meeting at the bus loop at 10am, and picketing in various locations. There are two teach outs: one called “Patients not passports”, on the policing of the NHS, led by historians Laura Schwartz and Roberta Bivins; the second, “Let’s get multilingual!”, is led by Carolin Debray and Richard Smith from Applied Linguistics. Finally, there’s the International Solidarity March, which starts at 1.30 on the piazza.

Solidarity!