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The marking boycott is biting

Published: 28th July, 2021

Email sent to all members of Leicester UCU, 26 July 2021

If YOU were targeted for compulsory redundancy due to executives’ financial mismanagement of our University, would you want colleagues to fight  for your jobs – even at great  personal, emotional and financial cost?  

We would like to pay tribute to those Leicester UCU members whose refusal to mark and assess student work is proving so powerful. (The  marking and assessment boycott is one of our actions short of a strike, which members voted for overwhelming in April.) Of course only a minority of members have had assigned marking activities over the past few months. Some members with marking duties have chosen, for one reason or another, not to observe the boycott. Thus the fraction of members who are refusing to mark or assess is relatively small – many of you understandably feel somewhat isolated. But your courageous actions continue to be extremely powerful and all members should thank you. 

Although University executives have managed to graduate most final-year students, many of these students were missing marks and questions remain over the fairness and ethics of the methods used to fill in gaps in transcripts. The situation with first- and second-year students is even more problematic for University managers: we believe many hundreds of these students have missing marks. With the summer resit and resubmission period almost upon us (and, because of COVID, a far higher number of students are scheduled to sit exams or submit assignments in this period), the marking boycott continues to bite. 

If you are a member of staff who is boycotting marking and assessment activities, we are immensely grateful to you! We understand that the University executive is seeking to scare you with its draconian threatened pay deductions. We understand your fears and anxieties. But we urge you to continue – remember the executives are seeking to intimate you in this way only because of their fear of the power of your actions. Please also remember that we have a Fighting Fund – which is currently in excellent shape, due to generous donations from so many other UCU branches. You can apply to this Fighting Fund, if necessary, to help manage the impact of pay deductions. 

If you are a member of staff who has been assigned marking and assessment activities and is undertaking these, please stop and reconsider! By joining your colleagues who are observing the boycott you too can play a role in materially contesting these executives’ disastrous Shaping for Excellence plans. 

If you are a member of staff who has no marking and assessment activities (perhaps because you’re a researcher, part of a professional services team or for some other reason), please think about your colleagues who are dealing with the considerable pressures – financial, managerial and emotional – of sustaining the marking boycott. Please donate whatever you can to our Fighting Fund. Your colleagues’ livelihoods and the success of our collective dispute may depend upon on your contribution. 

We – the committee of Leicester UCU and, in particular, the principal officers who have been meeting increasingly regularly with representatives of the executive board – are convinced of two things.  

First, the marking and assessment boycott is having a powerful impact and it’s vital we continue it, especially as we move into the reassessment period. In the past few weeks the executive board has signalled that it might finally be ready to negotiate seriously with Leicester UCU, something that has been lacking throughout the dispute. We believe this new willingness is a result of the disruptive impact of UCU members’ marking boycott. 

Second, we are currently at a critical stage of this dispute: there are just two weeks before the dismissal date (August 11) of the 25 colleagues who’ve been made redundant; and the executive board is eager to move ahead with ‘phase 2’ of ‘Shaping for Excellence’, in which it plans further compulsory redundancies. 

We have stressed on many occasions how destructive to the fabric of our University ‘Shaping for Excellence’ has been – at least 115 colleagues already pushed out since January, a further 25 about to be dismissed,  rock-bottom staff morale, the institution subject to a global academic boycott, its reputation in tatters. 

We’d also like to remind you how destructive Nishan Canagarajah’s plans are to your union branch: if you have any doubts, please watch this short video. As the video sums up, the impact of ‘Shaping for Excellence’ on Leicester UCU will be the loss of several officers and departmental representatives, half the negotiating team, and all bar one of the branch’s main caseworkers. Please consider using your expertise to strengthen your union and volunteer to act as a departmental rep or officer role on the committee. Current office holders will be glad to explain what’s involved, and roles are commonly shared, so please just get in touch.