An open letter addressed to Vice Chancellor Charlie Jeffery and the management of the University of York has been circulating in the last month.
Across departments at the University, staff are outraged by the increase in redundancies. The main focus of the letter is on casual staff positions.
Speaking in direct conversation with the University’s promises the letter states “It seems their method to end casualisation is to make casual staff across the University redundant.”
The letter goes on to highlight the impact casual roles have, particularly, on younger members of staff and those trying to break into academia.
Vision spoke to a member of the academic staff on their views regarding redundancies. The member of staff wished to stay anonymous.
They explained that redundancies are hitting Associate Lecturers (ALs) the most. This is an entry-level academic role. “ALs tend to have time-limited contracts while also tending to take the bulk of foundational year teaching and supervision roles.” When focusing on what this may mean for students, they said “teaching quality and marking feedback would be sacrificed for the University saving a few quid.”
The open letter states that “members of staff are not rewarded for their work or positive impact on their department’s teaching culture, and are subject to the volatility and precarity of the academic job market.”
Asking about the emotional impact of these redundancies, Vision was told that “personally, it’s degrading, frustrating, angering and disappointing. I feel the University management should be ashamed for how they’ve paraded their fiscal troubles.”
The member of staff was very clear in their view that “if the University wants to rectify the situation, it has to reconfigure its outlook on its mission and goals and allocate money to the areas that matter most.”
They go on further to critique the University’s spending choices. “Creating new Associate Dean positions, whose pay likely constitutes between 2 and 4 times that of the average member of teaching and research staff, shows the priority of the University is not to teaching or the students but to their public relations.”
The open letter finishes with a call to arms. “We, the undersigned, call upon Vice Chancellor Charlie Jeffery and the University faculty to end their shameful and harmful practices in concordance with the desires and stated needs of the numerous departments these decisions affect.”
The letter has been signed by over 175 staff and students as of the 21st of July.
Speaking to Vision, the academic staff member urged students to “voice your disappointment. Tell them [the University faculties] what ALs mean to you, how they’ve helped you either academically or personally, and your experiences with what you have learned from them. Tell them why we matter”.
“You’re the ones bankrolling the University, after all, so you have more influence than you might realise”
The University offered a comment:
“We are aware of the letter and although we have not yet formally received it, we can say that we’re making real advances on conditions of employment, especially our commitment to enabling staff to be on the most appropriate employment contract type, using more open contracts where possible.
“Academic departments may have a small number of Associate Lecturers on contracts of varying duration, although we have reduced the period of time individuals are on fixed-term contracts so that they can be moved, where possible, to open (permanent) contracts.
“We are continuing to work together with campus trade unions to make local improvements to address concerns over contracts, pay, workload and wellbeing.”