UCU response to the warden’s email to students on picket line behaviour

This is a response from UCU picket supervisors to an email sent to all students on 7 March by the Warden.

Dear Pat and SMT colleagues,

In our capacity as Picket Supervisors we were concerned – and a little baffled – by your communication to the students about picket line behaviour. There have been at least two of us on site at all times during this period of industrial action. Every morning we hold a briefing session where we discuss appropriate picket line behaviour. Throughout the day we move between the different picket lines checking how things are going and asking about whether there have been any incidents. We simply do not recognise the picture of picket line aggression that you convey in your message to the students. In particular, we strongly object to the insinuation that criminal offences may be taking place on the picket line.

The picket line is made up of staff who are dedicated teachers, researchers and administrators and who care deeply about the students at Goldsmiths. In our experience, the picket line has been overwhelmingly a place of dialogue and creativity. However, we would like you to be aware that there have been examples of intimidating behaviour including instances of vehicles being driven at high speed towards the picket line, student supporters being physically shoved and spat at, and union members being sworn at by people crossing the picket line. Despite this, we did not feel the need to write to our members pointing out what constitutes a ‘criminal offence’. In addition, students going onto campus have told us that that they feel pressurised by lecturers, who are not striking, to cross the picket line and feel uncomfortable doing so. Perhaps before issuing any further statements on picket line behaviour, you might consider talking to us about our experience on the ground? This would give you a more rounded perspective.

The instances outlined above are exceptions. The atmosphere is usually one of collegiality and cheer in the face of the freezing cold weather and the prospect of seriously reduced pay packets. Many staff have commented to us that they have never met so many people from across the college as they have over the last few weeks. In fact, the picket line is fostering those connections across departments that senior management are always keen for us to forge. A colleague today described the picket line as ‘Goldsmiths at its best’. Here are a few things that have happened on the picket line that might interest senior management:

  • A workshop on ‘Designing Dissent’ by colleagues in Art, Design and Sociology
  • A brilliant student-led performance/music/art happening ‘Exorcising greed from the university’
  • Free tea and coffee (‘Solidari-tea’) provided everyday from 8am by Fine Art third year students
  • Leading journalists and political figures including Gary Younge, Faiza Shaheen, John McDonnell and Paul Mason have given talks to huge crowds outside of RHB.

In order for you to get a sense of the atmosphere and the behaviour on the picket lines we cordially invite you to come down, to have a cup of tea with us and experience this for yourselves. All three picket supervisors will be on site on Tuesday and we would love to see you then at any of the picket lines, or indeed on any other day of your choosing.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Emma Jackson, Roger Green, Paul Halliday

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