Unsurprisingly, the UCU strikes have garrisoned a great deal of support, controversy, and interest on a university-wide as well as national level. Keeping in mind how much we’ve heard about these strikes for the last few weeks (since the beginning of this semester, really), it likely comes as a surprise to the student body that today marked the first official day of the strikes.
Departmental pickets lined up outside each School’s official building from 8:30-10:30 this morning, with a maximum of five staff members allowed to picket in each spot at a time. Far from what stereotype might pinhole as violent, angry, or truly disruptive, the lecturers picketing today seemed in hopeful spirits, often taking to social media to document their industrial action, in the hopes of spreading the word. They were thoroughly appreciative of any support the student body seemed to give and equally, when asked, understanding of the disruption their action undoubtedly caused to the student experience. Despite the obviously cold temperatures, morale was high, aided, hopefully, by the slew of support shown by a portion of the student body. Facilitated by the Socialist Society, several students coordinated thermoses of coffee and hot water to pass around to their picketing lecturers. Two further students had brought home baked cookies to be distributed to the picketers. With a portable speaker in someone’s rucksack providing a playlist of Johnny Cash and Glass Animals, the juvenile charm of this clearly left-wing dominant support could not be denied.
One lecturer in the School of English complimented the placards and again expressed his gratitude for the recent support of the SRC, emphasising that no amount of support for UCU industrial action was too small, referring to the petition that had obtained over 400 signatures, and was passed around throughout the morning, undoubtedly gaining a few more.
This morning culminated in a town-wide march complete with flags, placards, and chanting. Perhaps a more traditional approach, the line of students snaked its way through all three streets of St Andrews, often garnering waves, occasional nods, and perhaps most importantly to the marchers, further conversation.