Workers at the University of Leeds are balloting for strikes against a programme of cuts that would slash 10 percent of the university budget and impose compulsory redundancies.
But in a bizarre twist, the university student union executive has emailed students with text condemning the ballot that they can send on to their lecturers.
“Dear lecturer,” it reads. “I am a student in your department concerned about the prospect of industrial action by lecturers. Now, more than ever, I need a high quality university experience free from the disruption of industrial action.”
It ends by pleading, “Please do not make me the innocent victim in your dispute. Please think about my education and vote no to strike action or any action that will harm my education.
“Please put my education first.”
Lecturers and students are shocked at the email. “Reactions from our members show that it looks like this is backfiring on the student union executive,” Malcolm Povey, president of the UCU branch at Leeds university, told Socialist Worker.
“Students have been apologising to lecturers about the email. They feel that they are being patronised by the student union.”
Many students have taken part in big protests against the cuts. A motion condemning the email has been tabled for the student union’s council, which meets on Monday of next week.
Universities face cuts of over £900 million over the next three years and some reports predict that up to 30 universities could close.
The battle at Leeds could be decisive in turning the tide against education cuts. The UCU and university bosses are due to continue talks at Acas this week.
The union must stand firm against the cuts and go all out to win the ballot. The ballot ends on 3 February.