University lecturers’ union to start further six days of strike action

By Juniper Rose

University lecturers are to resume their strike action from tomorrow (WEDSMarch15) to run every day until Wednesday next week.

The dates for the continued strike action by lecturers’ union the UCU were announced on February 28 while talks continued over pay, working conditions and other elements.

Standing together: UCU strikers and students supporting them at Leeds University

Various strike days had been held in November and February but were then paused while talks took place, although action short of a strike continued.

UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said the reason for these further strike dates was to “focus the employers mind as talks come to a conclusion.”

Talks and negotiations are set to come to a close at the end of this week and the start of next week, but Ms Grady said employers need to have “on them the maximum amount of pressure” in order to push for a better outcome for staff following negotiations. 

A researcher at De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester, who did not want to be named, said, until the workload on staff is addressed, they felt no real progress could be made in the dispute.

They said a workload survey provided to DMU by the UCU branch provided “shocking results” from teaching staff.

“The survey shows shocking results in particular about health damages to staff due to the current workload system,” they said, giving the example of block teaching as a method of teaching which is “very problematic” in relation to workloads.

They added: “I hope that by seeing their teachers on strike, the students can reflect about their teacher’s determination to fight for a better university.

“I am sure no students likes to see their teachers stressed, tired, and unable to spend five extra minuets to talk about an assessment, their worries, or to explore career options.”

The union says many lecturers are in support of the strikes as the workload, pay, working conditions and casualisation of contracts are having a massively negative impact on staff as well as the quality of education they are able to offer to their students. There has also been an overwhelming amount of support for the strikes from university students. 

Matt Reay, a Politics and International Relations student from the University of Leicester, said: “I feel the progress was somewhat getting better despite the fact that unions have felt the need to go for more strikes.”

He added that the union’s actions display that “clearly the demands need to be met to ensure a greater education for those who pay for it and those who are providing it.”

He feels the strikes have had a “somewhat interesting effect on students,” with most seeming to support the strikes, but others wanting a full and fair education because they are paying money for it.

Matt believes the inadequate pay being given to university staff is something that universities need to work on to “ensure their lecturers are fairly paid for their work.” 

Alex Burt, a Politics and Sociology student from the University of Leicester, said they do not feel they are in a place to comment on the progress made before the announcement of upcoming strikes.

They added: “However, I do hope they are closer to a resolution so that the disruption and instability can end.

“The strikes will have an obvious impact on studies, but so does unsupported and overworked staff.”

They also complained that the support offered to students by universities was poor and it was unclear what students are actually being offered.

“In a marketised system, students become cash cows while staff become a drain on the profit margin rather than being treated as the lifeblood of the university that they are,” they said. 

Roald Dahl sanitised for 21st century audiences

By Sophie Mundy, Jessica Martin, and Juniper Rose

Over the weekend, it has come to light that Puffin Books will be editing some Roald Dahl books in favour of more sanitised language and removing outdated racist, fatphobic and mental health comments in many of these childhood classics. 

Dahl is heralded by The Independent as “one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century”, selling over 250 million copies worldwide. He was born in 1916, and died in 1990 at the age of 74.


(picture wikimedia commons)

The books that will be changed include Matilda, and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, among many others. 

These changes include switching the word ‘fat’ into ‘enormous,’ as well as amending the use of ‘black’ describing a tractor. 

Further changes to novels include Miss Spider from James and The Giant Peach no longer having her head described as ‘black’, the ‘Cloud-Men’ now being referred to as ‘Cloud-People’. Further novels have faced editing such as The Witches, in which a reference made towards women “working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessmen’ has been changed to “working as a top scientist or running a business.’ 

These changes are seemingly being made to abolish older stereotypes towards women’s employment and the current push to see more women within STEM careers.

The publisher, Puffin Books, said content deemed offensive, such as references to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race has been removed or rewritten to ensure Dahl’s classics can be enjoyed by all children.

However, these changes have been criticised by many academics and fans alike.

Joe Phelan, DMU lecturer and editor of 19th century poetry, said: “It would still, in my view, be wrong to rewrite texts from the past, because these texts are evidence of the way things used to be.

“A much better approach would be to present the texts of Roald Dahl’s novels with contextual discussion explaining the attitudes and beliefs of the times they were written in.” 

This censorship could question freedom of speech, and the fact that Roald Dahl, having died in 1990, cannot consent to these changes could be deemed as unethical censorship. 

“Freedom of speech, as long as it doesn’t constitute hate speech, and as long as it doesn’t impinge upon the rights of others, is something that in my opinion, needs to be protected,” Hila Shachar, Senior Lecturer in English Literature at DMU, said.