On April 1st, the “9kforwhatStirling” group organised a protest which began on campus and later travelled to the city centre. Students and members of the 9kforwhat group gathered raising several points and questions for the university which include:
- “Why would you send students back to a campus under false pretences? 9kforwhat survey shows that 91% of students have received no face-to-face teaching despite promises.
- Why was the no detriment policy removed? This was not continued into the 2020/21 academic year despite the pandemic continuing and other universities continuing to implement it. The protesters called upon the university to reinstate the policy.
- Other points raised by those in attendance include those of being against a “for profit university” and particularly prioritising profit over the mental health and wellbeing of students.
- A key point made at the protest yesterday was that this was not just about students but also “staff and anyone who had been mistreated who was suffering mentally or physically” due to the university’s treatment of them during the ongoing pandemic.
Among the protesters on campus, concerns were raised about the university’s behaviour during the Christmas break period, a press officer of the 9kforwhat group recounted stories of students who claimed had had accommodation services conduct searches whilst they were home for the holiday period. Many students reported having their belonging rifled through and even taken from their room. This left them feeling violated. One student recalled returning to her accommodation in such a state that it looked as though she had been robbed.
Although taken possessions were returned, it was after persistent emails to the university with no explanation as to why their privacy had been breached.
Before proceeding to the city centre the protesters decided to make a statement where “anyone and everyone could see it”, at the front of campus.
This statement was placed on signs at the entrance as well as using chalk to draw the outlines of feet.
When asked this was done the response given was to “show that we’re here” as well as to “represent those who could’ve been here (but due to COVID-19 measures) couldn’t be”.
The protest continued in the city centre of Stirling with many protesters speaking, one was Alex Shukri who made the points that “it’s genuinely not fair that we have to protest for our human rights” as “education is a right for every single person”.
Further points that Shukri made were that “there is never a right time to protest”, it is important to note that protesters in attendance did wear masks and social distance where possible. Another key point that Shukri further emphasised is that “we are not cash cows” as “this is not an education”.
In alliance with Shukri’s point another protester in attendance said, “I pay 9k a year and I really wonder what for” and said that “we must stand together if we are to truly defend education”.
Other protesters outlined how the university’s treatment made them feel like the university was “forgetting we’re experiencing the same pandemic”.
Overall, the protests that took place on April 1st were peaceful and fuelled a sense of unity in the midst of the pandemic.
In response the allegations and points brought up by the protesters the University has responded with the following:
A University of Stirling spokesperson said: “We remain fully committed to mitigating the impact of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic on all our students’ studies– regardless of their circumstances.
“In considering the issue of “no detriment” the University has set out clearly to students the measures we are taking to support them, including redesigning and enhancing flexibility around our modules, assessments, policies (including extensions and extenuating circumstances) and support services. Our board of examiners will consider the exceptional circumstances that our students have been learning under for the past year and will offer understanding and flexibility.
“Through this approach, we will continue to ensure fairness at all times, protect the value and integrity of University of Stirling degrees, and enable students’ to achieve their full potential. “
In relation to the lack of face-to-face teaching, the University’s response is:
“Our number one priority continues to be ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our students, our staff and the wider community. Throughout the pandemic we have worked closely with the Scottish Government, the NHS and other organisations, to follow the latest guidance and to adapt as the guidance and fluid situation requires. Every decision we take is informed by the Government’s latest announcements, safety measures and public health guidance. We are ready to offer more opportunities for in-person teaching as soon as we are permitted to do so and have made significant investment, at pace, to provide the best possible environment to support learning throughout the pandemic.”
In response to accommodation going through people’s rooms over Christmas the university responded:
A University of Stirling spokesperson said: “As highlighted in our accommodation contracts, University staff are permitted to enter residences for a number of reasons – for example, to carry out essential maintenance and repairs, or to ensure the health and safety of those living within the residence.
“We have not received any reports regarding items missing from University-managed accommodation in the time period specified. All reports of this nature would be fully investigated by the University – and anyone with concerns should get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org”
Image Credit:Finola Clarke