Published: 22nd February, 2021
The scope of the injustices taking place at the University of Leicester right now are staggering. For 145 colleagues, the threat of losing their livelihoods in what is still very much the middle of a global crisis, with no end in sight, is unconscionable as a starting point, but when faced with incompetently written and ill-conceived business cases the entire process feels like an institution-wide exercise in gaslighting.
I am not one of those at risk for redundancy but I am very much affected by what is happening across this institution.
I want to say at the outset that I love what I do – supporting students to develop as active and critical global citizens, working creatively with colleagues across the university to develop and deliver exciting teaching and learning, and approaching the world and my area of expertise with curiosity.
However, I do not see my values, nor the values of most of my colleagues reflected in the decisions the Executive Board is making for the university. Where are the values of transparency, collegiality, empathy, nurture, active citizenship or democracy – values any seat of higher learning should strive to embody?
As highlighted throughout the redundancy process, these values are not present. Colleagues at risk of redundancy have been invited to ‘consultations’ at which poorly designed and delivered presentations were read at them. The business cases involve factual errors and refer to strategies to which no one but the Executive Board has access. In individual consultations, impacted staff are asked to share what it is they do – surely you can’t decide someone is redundant if you don’t know what their job is? Academic freedom is being threatened and the very people who were most responsible for pulling the university through the pandemic are now being told their services will no longer be required even though they are central to fostering better experiences for staff and students.
I am not at risk of redundancy, but watching valued colleagues forced to undergo this process during the worst global crisis in a century has shown me that the University of Leicester, under its current leadership, is not a place I would feel comfortable recommending to future colleagues nor to potential students.
A university should not conduct its business in the shadows, free from scrutiny. It should not be possible for a leadership team to implement sweeping changes which tear into the fabric of the institution without genuine, free collaboration between all those within the institution – students and staff. A university should not hide institutional strategies and it should not imply that Q&As are a replacement for the development of institutional strategy documents.
A university should embody the spirit of democracy, underpin decisions with the expertise of those it employs, it should work in partnership with staff and students to imagine new ways forward. A university should be led by those with the vision to dream beyond the marketised hellscape in which we currently live and operate. It should be led by those with courage to share power and to reject the status quo in favour of boldly empathetic aims and values.
I am not at risk of redundancy, but I am affected – we all are who recognise this kind of callous, shallow, and visionless leadership at the University of Leicester. I urge colleagues both within the University of Leicester and across the sector to join your union. I urge members at the University of Leicester to vote to take industrial action to oppose these redundancies, and I send solidarity and comradeship to all of us fighting against the endemic mediocrity of Executive Boards and VCs across our sector.