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Hallam industrial action: Students asked to report striking lecturers

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UCU members at Sheffield Hallam are striking from 25 November to 4 December.

Unions have reacted with outrage after students at Sheffield Hallam were asked to report striking lecturers to the university.

Hallam management emailed all students on Saturday with a form "to record teaching activity that is affected by the industrial action."

Strikes called by the University and College Union (UCU) will take place between 25 November and 4 December.

UCU members at 60 universities across the country will take action over issues including pay, pensions and the marketisation of higher education.

Hallam management have used a variety of increasingly underhand tactics to try and dissuade staff from taking action

Student group Hallam Students Support The Strike tweeted that the form was "another appalling example of the university trying to weaponise students for their benefit."

A spokesperson for the Hallam UCU Branch Committee said that the move was "deliberately divisive and unfortunately not that surprising."

"In the run up to the strike, Hallam management have used a variety of increasingly underhand tactics to try and dissuade staff from taking action while emphasising the negative impact on students," they said.

"For example, staff have been asked if they are going to be on strike, staff have been prevented from using university email and other systems to communicate with students about the reasons for and impact of the strike - in some areas managers have been asked to compile a list of staff who have done this and disciplinary action has been mentioned."

The university has told students that many of them "should see very little impact" on their studies, as not all academic staff are members of UCU.

"Perhaps the most insulting - and incoherent - part of this approach has been the assertion by management that teaching will not be adversely affected by the strike action," UCU Hallam told Now Then.

The original version of the form included "Name of staff member scheduled to teach" as a mandatory field.

This was removed within hours, but other requested details such as date, time, course and module make individual staff easily identifiable.

My lecturers have gone above and beyond to support me when I needed it

As well as wider national issues, Hallam staff are also striking over the introduction of a new Academic Workload Planning (AWP) system.

UCU Hallam say that workload intensification under the new system has pushed members "to the brink of a health and safety crisis."

"The introduction of the new AWP has resulted in an average 10% increase in workloads, according to a survey of members in May 2019," said the branch spokesperson, adding that the issue is the one that "matters most" to Hallam members.

Out of 200 members surveyed in May, 85% said that their workload had increased as a result.

Twitter users supporting the strike have begun to flood the reporting form, which is open to the public, with dozens of fake responses.

One told the university that the 'Scabbing and Grassing 101' module of their 'Neoliberal University Studies' course had been cancelled.

Another bemoaned the absence of Prof. D Vader on the Crushing Rebellions MSc, while a module in 'Queering the Scone: Fruits, Cheese and Jam' was postponed on the BA Biscuits course.

In September, the Good University Guide named Sheffield Hallam university of the year for teaching quality.

To help us ensure that students do not miss anything essential, we are monitoring what activities are impacted

"Throughout my time at Hallam my lecturers have gone above and beyond to support me when I needed it," creative writing student Lauren O'Donoghue told Now Then.

"Being asked to grass them up for exercising their right to withdraw labour is insulting. My loyalties are with the people who I know and trust - not with a profit-hungry management who I've never even met," she continued.

"To help us ensure that students do not miss anything essential, we are monitoring what activities are impacted," a spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University told Now Then. "Staff aren't obliged to tell the University of their decision to take industrial action until after the end of the strike period."

"The form available helps us capture sessions that have not taken place as soon as possible so we can proactively plan alternative learning opportunities and minimise disruption for students."

Sam Gregory

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