By Mohammad Tahboub, BA Poltics and Law
The aims of both the Justice for Cleaners and lecturers campaigns are legitimate and it is their right to fight for equality and a higher standard of life and in no doubt the majority of students support this. However, it’s time that student welfare is taken in perspective especially as exams are soon approaching and therefore the campaigns should aim to look to create some kind of channel of communication with the management and come to a common understanding where a compromise could be reached. The greatest danger in the continuation of constant strikes is a student backlash against the campaigns; this should be avoided if the campaigns are to succeed. While students can rally in support of the campaigns and can email and pressure the director of the university, Paul Webley, asking for the campaigns aims to be met, it is the staff’s responsibility to find a way to end this conflict.
The SOAS management bears the highest amount of responsibility for prolonging the conflict with its teaching staff and cleaners. SOAS cannot ignore the demands of the campaigns, it will not weather the storm nor will it emerge afterwards any stronger. A university that maintains such a terrible relationship with its staff is bound to fail in teaching standards and at the same time fail to attract the best lecturers to SOAS as potential staff will assume that they will never get a pay rise and that their living standards will fall in a matter of years. Is this the message SOAS wants to send to the academics of the world?
The world sees SOAS as a mess where the management fail to satisfy their teachers. The strikes will lead to low student satisfaction with the way SOAS is running and therefore with no doubt will bring down SOAS’s standing in world university rankings which may lead to less students considering to apply to SOAS as our university will be seen as unstable and chaotic. It is not in the interest of the management to ignore compromise and let students suffer especially at times when the fees are at record rates that could allow SOAS to provide more benefits to its staff.
The only solution is compromise. If the marking Boycott goes ahead, not one student will be happy with either the SOAS management or the campaigns. The breaking point must be avoided and a deal must be reached. Both the management and the campaigns can come out winners from friendly negotiations. If management concedes and compromises it would secure its teachers’ commitment–the same commitment that SOAS’s dear anthropology teacher Dr Audrey Cantilie, who passed away three months ago at age 92, still a teacher at SOAS. Let’s honour her memory by bringing back the peace to our SOAS family. Let’s negotiate and compromise.