Welcome back to Commons Mail. What a ride it has been since last we wrote! On Monday, 08 March 2021, the UCU Officer and National Executive Committee election results were announced. You can find a complete breakdown of everything on UCU’s website here. In our first showing in union elections, standing candidates in HE positions both nationally and regionally, UCU Commons put five new people on the NEC and HEC.
In the Midlands HE, Emma Battell Lowman and Chris Grocott were elected. UK members returned Bijan Parsia and Chris O’Donnell as two of four total new representatives. And Ben Pope secured election as the national representative of casually employed members in HE. In sobering news two of UCU Commons’ most active members of the NEC did not get re-elected, both Mark Pendleton and David Harvie will be continuing their activism as members of Equality committees and as branch leaders, but their presence at NEC will be sorely missed.
Across the elections where they stood, UCU Commons candidates secured approximately 38% of the entire vote share, and many of our candidates ‘went late’ in the process of transferrable votes even though they were not elected in the end, which tells us that many union members put them as second, third, and fourth preferences. This seems like decent evidence that the shared priorities and approach of Commons candidates struck a generally positive note among members. It is also evidence that UCU Commons is rather focused at the moment on Higher Education, and though we’ve only really ‘existed’ as a collective for a few months, a priority for us now is to connect with comrades in Further Education and Prison Education who share our values and our approach. We invite anyone from both FE and PE to get in touch with us just to sound us out, if nothing else.
Beyond elections, UCU Commoners been busy challenging the ‘collective slander’ of current culture wars over ‘wokeism’ (???) in Higher Education, and Eric Lybeck has issued a standing challenge to any self-ordained ‘free speech warrior’ to debate him on the substance of this alleged crisis of cancel culture. We’ll tell you if anyone actually turns up, so far respondents have chickened out pretty quickly.
We have also started a running discussion forum called ‘Commons Coffee’ which we’re imagining as a friendly place to discuss all things education related. The first episode streamed out live yesterday (Thursday, 11 March) and featured Dave Hitchcock and David Harvie in conversation about ‘commoning’ and the knowledge commons in UK universities. You can find a captioned version of the video on YouTube as well. We are looking forward to putting many voices into productive and positive conversation using these Commons Coffees, perhaps it can help replace some of the staff common room discussions many of us will be sorely missing.
What’s next for UCU Commons? Well, we are already developing some motions for the NEC/HEC, we are looking at the real fight over academic freedom (key modules being cancelled, and widespread redundancies), we are looking closely at the situation in Leicester and thinking about how to resist similar brutalising processes when they inevitably appear elsewhere, and we are thinking about branches, and how best to support those in dispute beyond the solidarity we all express. So we’re keeping busy, but we will always want to hear from you if there’s something else you think we need to be doing.