UCU Commons candidates are currently standing in the National Executive Committee elections, across the UK.
Here you can read their collected election statements (ordered by position they are standing for, and how they appear on the UCU website):
Below you will find all 11 UCU Commons candidate election statements for the present 2022 NEC elections.
The Number of UCUC candidates standing for various positions, is:
Trustee Candidates (2 Standing)
HE Positions: North, London and East, National (7 Standing)
Representatives of Women Members (3 Standing)
Some candidates will appear on your ballots twice as they are standing in multiple elections. If elected first to one position they will not be elected to a second. You will only find their statement below once.
Anna Marie Roos (University of Lincoln)
American President Harry Truman said, ‘The buck stops here’. There were some decisions that only he could make in the executive office. Although the trustees do not govern countries, we do have the responsibility to make sure that our Union is financially able to work effectively now, and in future. The role of the trustee is partially explained in the name—to hold in trust and safeguard the property and finances of the UCU. Although the trustee does not vote in the National Executive Committee, and financial professionals deal with daily business, the Trustees have the ultimate responsibility for the union’s financial future.
My previous service as trustee for charitable organisations, an academic programme administrator, and as a principal investigator in charge of large grants gives me the experience to be an effective custodian of UCU’s finances. At the same time, my experience of being a UCU rep for my local branch gives me the perspective to work effectively for the benefit of all union members.
I am a Professor of the History of Science and Medicine at the University of Lincoln, now part-time as retirement approaches. In my thirty years in American and British higher education, I have had the privilege and honour to serve as a trustee and member of the Large Grants Committee for the Lincoln Record Society and as the trustee of the British Society for the History of Science. I have been a director of the Study in England Programme at the University of Minnesota, an interim director of the University of Minnesota Duluth’s ‘Honors Programme’, and an assistant director of the ‘Bellavance Honors Programme’ at Salisbury University (Maryland) where I had overall budgetary responsibilities. I have been PI of American Federal Grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as grants from the AHRC, The Royal Society, and The British Academy in the UK in which my responsibilities included financial oversight. My administrative roles include my service as Editor-in-Chief for The Royal Society’s journal in the history of science, and membership on its digitisation, publishing boards, and library boards where financial decisions are usual business.
Most importantly, I am a rep at my post-92 institution, witnessing first-hand the issues our members face regarding fair pay, equality, pensions and working conditions. Looking fellow members in the eye, empathising with their challenges, and helping them means I recall every day what UCU is about. It is imperative that UCU have a robust and resilient financial future to support our members in the struggles that they face by the most effective means. As your trustee, the buck (or the pound) stops here. I’m standing for election as a member of the UCU Commons slate of candidates.
Steve Brown (Nottingham Trent University)
The trustees hold and invest the property and funds of UCU under the direction of the National Executive Committee. In our active, campaigning union, I will ensure that the finances of the union are held as safely and securely as possible. We need our union to be financially empowered to do a full range of work for the benefit of our whole membership.
I am experienced and familiar with the responsibilities and judgement that trustees need to exercise. I am a Director and Trustee of the Design in Mental Health charity, which promotes service-user and trauma informed approaches to mental health care. I have also gained experience as a former Chair of Governors of a large primary school in Nottingham, a role I took on when the school was placed under OFSTED special measures. I came to recognise how important finance, governance and equality, diversity and inclusion were in supporting the whole school on its journey over the subsequent years to being rated outstanding.
As a Professor who has worked for over twenty-five years in Higher Education and who has held grant funding from most of the major funding bodies in social science, I am used to managing large budgets and projects. But as a UCU member since the union’s foundation, I have also seen the fabric of HE change beyond recognition during this time. I want to help support UCU in the critical fights for the future of education around precarity, inequalities, workload, pay and pensions.
UCU members have a clear financial stake in the union and quite rightly expect that the contributions they make will be used for the greatest benefit of all. I will work to make the finances of UCU as accessible and transparent as possible, so that members know that their interests are being served best.
North East HE:
Laura Chuhan Campbell (Durham University)
When I began my PhD in 2007, I had no idea that the university job market would have radically changed by the time I had finished. Upon its completion, I was employed on a temporary teaching contract at Durham for the following 8 years. I worked long hours, evenings, and weekends in order to both keep on top of my teaching load and develop the research profile that knew would be vital to secure a permanent post. I attended staffing meetings every year and listened silently as my own teaching hours were carved up and re-distributed as it was known my contract was coming to an end. It felt like being at my own funeral. I was demoralised, exhausted, and felt utterly helpless as my head of department had to go and beg the faculty each year to extend my contract. I watched as the post-PhD job market divided people into sheep and goats: those lucky few who obtained research grants that would allow them to focus on their own research, and the rest who worked only to support the careers of others at the expense of their own. I saw brilliant female academics being forced to quit precarious work if they wanted any chance of starting a family
Though I had been a long time UCU member, it was during the strikes of 2018 that I first headed up the Durham Casuals campaign, which was born out of the frustration of Durham’s academic precariat. Through this, I discovered the value of collective action, solidarity, and collaborative leadership. In response to our social media campaign, Durham University scrapped 9 month contracts, and some other universities followed suit. Similar groups sprang up around the sector. Though we each felt powerless as individuals, the union gave us the support we needed to mobilise as a collective. Together, we forced the University to take stock of its exploitative employment practices.
Now in stable employment as a lecturer in French and Translation Studies at the same institution, I continue my advocacy work with casual staff as a personal caseworker, departmental rep, and committee member. Every week, I confront the inequalities resulting from casualisation, workload, and university culture that disproportionately affects those with protected characteristics. I believe that my experience of casework, campaigning, grassroots activism, and branch-level organising provides me with insights as to how NEC can tackle these inequalities at the national level, and that is why I am standing. I do this as a member of UCU Commons because I wholeheartedly believe in their values of making university education a space that is welcoming and accessible to everyone, as well as their active commitment to anti-racism and trans rights.
David Harvie (University of Leeds)
Until August 2021 I was employed by University of Leicester, as associate professor of finance and political economy. I was also Leicester UCU’s Communications officer, one of its negotiators and, for 11 days, vice-chair. Since being made redundant, I have been casually employed by University of Leeds as a teaching fellow.
National Executive Committee is horrible. So is Higher Education Committee (HEC), which all NEC members working in universities automatically sit on. I know. I was a member of NEC (and HEC) between March 2020 and May 2021. Meetings are frequently ill-tempered. Time-wasting is common. The space is neither welcoming nor conducive to the comradely debate that we so urgently need in our union. There is too much aggression and not enough care. Moreover, NEC and its workings are opaque.
Along with other relatively new members of NEC and with NEC candidates, I am determined to change this culture. We – elected representatives – must be more careful and more caring. NEC decision-making must be more open and transparent: the UCU members who elect us must be able to see how we spend our time. Some of our proposals for UCU accountability and transparency have been accepted (search “proposals for UCU accountability and transparency”) – but we have more work to do.
The sector we work in is broken: it’s breaking us and our students. University leaders are incapable of responding adequately to the myriad crises we face, both as educators and as citizens. The task falls on us – on UCU and other unions – to rethink universities and colleges for the 21st century, and to make that vision a reality. NEC and its subcommittees could and should play an essential part in this process of reimagining and remaking post-16 education. These committees have a key role in shaping our union’s policy (within parameters determined by annual Congress), in making our union more responsive, more creative, more effective – in making it a force to be reckoned with. Of course, NEC is responsible for holding to account the general secretary and UCU’s other elected officers. But NEC should aim to work with Jo Grady, the general secretary, not always against her.
I believe that we can transform UCU such that it becomes an organisation capable of transforming our sector – and even our society. As part of that project, I am part of a new constellation or faction within our union, UCU Commons. As well as voting for me, please consider voting for the other great UCU Commons candidates who are also standing for election as part of this slate.
London and the East HE:
Dave Ashby (London School of Economics and Political Science)
How HE responded to the pandemic should have shattered any remaining illusions anyone had about there being a functioning, caring and democratic HE sector. It has become painfully obvious that we will continue to be at the will of reckless, unaccountable and overpaid leadership teams who we did not elect and who all too often work against the interests of students, staff and local communities. We must reimagine and rebuild our universities as we want, need and deserve them to be. As an elected representative to NEC, I will fight for and defend democracy, transparency, inclusion and security for all UCU members, and I will be open to new approaches, relationship building and critique.
I have been a member of UCU for several years, one year holding a branch role as Student Union Liaison Officer. During my PhD, I was active in the strikes at the boycotted University of Leicester, on the picket line almost every day, distributing ephemera and loudly learning how to play the drums. Despite becoming an excellent drummer, I remain, professionally, a social, cultural and political geographer, interested in how political collectives emerge in particular political/material conditions.
After completing my PhD, I held part-time research and teaching roles on fixed-term contracts of three, six and nine months – precariously stitching together some semblance of a career. I am currently working as a Fellow at LSE. Though this is also a fixed term contract, it being two years and full time means that (for the first time!) I am able to have a job whilst not desperately searching for my next job. This relative stability has benefitted my attempts to build my research profile, the learning experiences of my students, as well as my mental health. We are at our best, and can inspire our students to be their best, when we are not burned-out and concerned about our very survival.
Alongside precarity, I am also concerned about our universities increasingly becoming a border space, coercing us into supporting brutal hostile environment policies many of us oppose. I am also disturbed by the rising transphobia in our sector. As a proudly queer person, I stand with strength and in solidarity with my trans and non-binary siblings and will not rest until the full fabulosity of the entire LGBT+ spectrum is recognised. I know the other members of UCU Commons share these values, and I wholeheartedly recommend voting for them too.
Esther Murray (Queen Mary University of London)
I have been working in the field of moral injury and the psychological wellbeing of healthcare practitioners since 2015. Increasingly, and overwhelmingly during the pandemic, I have felt that I ought to be turning my attention to the psychological wellbeing of my fellow academic and professional services colleagues. At least in the NHS, leaders know that their staff are in trouble and know enough to ask for help. There’s little to none of that in HE. The clearest examples of the failure to recognise staff wellbeing have been during the pandemic, and some of the decisions not to protect and champion staff as human beings have irrevocably changed my perception of my workplace.
I am a senior lecturer in Health Psychology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, QMUL. I’ve been a UCU member since around 2008, when I was at London Metropolitan University watching union reps get hounded from their jobs. We are seeing a rise in this again across the country, with some very inflammatory statements being made in the press. I am under no illusions about the relationships between unions and management in the neoliberal university, but I am more worried by the fractious relationships within UCU. I joined http://www.ucucommons.org/ and am proud to run in these elections with them because I believe we can create a more inclusive and more effective union together.
Not everyone raises their political voice in the same way, not everyone wants to shout to be heard. Just as we see with our students, there are many ways in which we can and should engage the people in the room. I am keen to help create a union which is diverse from a disciplinary perspective, to increase the membership among my medical education and STEM colleagues. In a further effort to include all those whose voices should be heard, I would like to work towards better inclusion and opportunities for participation for neurodivergent members and would use my position to work towards this. ‘If we do what we always did, we get what we always got’ to paraphrase Einstein. A vote for me and for any of my colleagues on the UCU Commons slate, is a vote for change.
Emma Kennedy (University of Greenwich)
What’s UCU? That’s the academics’ union, right? WRONG! On the picket line for the 2018 USS pension strikes, I spent days handing out badges urging students to “support your lecturers” – working in professional services, this made me feel alienated from the very place I should have found solidarity. I now work as a Senior Lecturer in HE Learning and Teaching at the University of Greenwich. My contract has moved from professional services to academic, giving me insight into both sides of what is too often a divide. I have stood on picket lines as an academic and as professional services staff, with colleagues from the ‘other’ side: we sang, danced, shouted and laughed together, and that solidarity made us stronger. On NEC, I would fight for recognition that professional services colleagues often suffer the same problems as those on academic contracts – precarity, overwork, inequality – with added lack of career progression.
As a pedagogy specialist, I believe educational policies must acknowledge staff as well as student needs. Marking loads that leave staff exhausted will not enhance assessment. Student evaluations of teaching must take into account the lower ratings received by minoritised staff, as well as the emotional impact of such ratings on all staff. Lecture capture policies must balance the needs of disabled students with staff’s right to control the use of their image and voice. The union nationally can learn from branches who have successfully negotiated local policies on this. My strike teach-outs on critical pedagogy showed me what is possible when we centre solidarity, equality and compassion: let’s bring this into our policy.
Working at a London post-92 university I am acutely aware of the need to fight for our region, opposing the recent move to remove London weighting from HE funding and supporting institutions such as Goldsmiths and UEL in their fights against redundancies. I am also committed to trans inclusion and freedom to protest transphobia. Finally, I will advocate for disabled staff’ rights. Fighting precarity is key here, as many precarious staff are denied sick pay and job insecurity can be even more harmful for those who are disabled or chronically ill. I also want to centre disabled members in conversations about staff wellbeing. We don’t need yoga, we need universities to follow through on reasonable adjustments, ensure adequate sick pay and acknowledge staff access needs.
I am running on the slate of UCU Commons, a new ‘faction’ within the union. Our key values are transparency (including within NEC), inclusivity and expansive solidarity: find out more at ucucommons.org. I would urge you to vote for my fellow UCU Commons candidates. I am also running for a UK-elected position on NEC. Tweet me @EmmaKEdDev.
Carl Fraser (Oxford Brookes University)
Today, I’m fortunate to work as an associate lecturer in architecture at Oxford Brookes University, a position which has emerged after a decade working in various parttime teaching roles in universities and practices across the UK. At Brookes my daily working conditions are sustainable, but this has rarely been the case throughout my academic career, as such, I believe that as a body, we need to sustainably cultivate methods to facilitate collective citizen actions, actions that culminates in real change in work and essentially life conditions.
Whilst carrying out my PhD, I explored the multitude of ways that we, as citizens, utilise public space to instigate societal change. I explored prevalent spatial forms of dissent (marches, occupations, pickets, and riots), as well as strategic operational practices (such as the withdrawal of labour, boycotts and deploying, maintaining and sustaining a consistency of disruptive action in proximity to decision makers and their places of operation). Acts of transformative dissent require a strategy that draws upon both spatial and the strategic methods, part of my research work on counter-mapping aims to facilitate action as mechanisms of change by making them visible and or public. I believe that my knowledge of this sphere could help with UCU strategies in remaining relevant and progressive.
Today, 10 years after the protest bubble which began in earnest with the Student Tuition Fee protests, we can reflect on a reality where the failed attempt to cap the process of ever-expanding fees has added to the distortions that is the ranking system, maintaining a schism in the national distribution of resources for students, a system that is insufficient for serving the needs of both students and staff.
The normalisation of casual and essentially precarious working conditions in the higher educational system is widespread. We have made manifest a system where fault lines are endemic. Standard work conditions imbed the expectation that adequate paid time is not allocated for preparatory work, leading to the accumulation of unpaid work. This lack of institutional support acts against the interests of staff “wellbeing”.
We expect a greater recognition of the needs of all those who make up the academic support network. As part of the new slate of UCU commons members within the union, I believe that our ideals embody key changes. Democracy within practices, transparency of processes, inclusivity recognising LGBTQ rights amongst others and challenging systematic racial prejudice and the general “othering” of minority interests within Higher education.
Nicky Priaulx (Cardiff University)
I am a legal academic at Cardiff University and am also on the Cardiff UCU Executive and Cardiff UCU negotiation team. Since 2016, I have been very active in collaboratively working on numerous initiatives (union and non-union) at Cardiff, and across the HE Sector as a whole, with the aim of improving labour conditions for HE workers. I am a co-researcher with Dr Liz Morrish on the Pressure Vesselsreports (2019/2020) which highlighted an epidemic of poor mental health amongst academic and professional service staff. I am one of the co-founders of Academics for Pensions Justice (APJ), which crowdfunded over £50,000 in early 2018 to secure a legal opinion from a top pensions law QC. APJ has been case-building on a pro bono basis and working with a large network of experts in order to hold USS to account. We are also working directly with UCU which is committed to using the law strategically in respect of USS.
I’m standing for a seat on the National Executive Committee because I want to see UCU emerge as a highly strategic force in the fight against a sharp decline in working conditions in HE. Collaborative, good-humoured, but with a dislike of time-wasting, I believe I can help the process of devising a strategy more capable of delivering wins in respect of well-known problems: casualisation, excessive workloads, dwindling pay and pensions, inequality, and high worker turnovers. The structural conditions driving these problems (i.e. financial mismanagement by HEPs) means that until we revise our approach, these problems will only grow.
I want us to urgently take stock of how we’ve attempted to previously bargain with our employers and to add to our armoury of techniques for driving change. In my view, there are key areas where we should be centralising the law and enforcing our existing legal rights in respect of the workplace (e.g. the wage theft that casualised workers are subject to leaving them with less than the minimum wage – or time /wage theft in having to persistently work beyond the hours stipulated in employment contracts – neither in my view, should be matters left principally to negotiation). I’ll be pressing for better strategizing and increasing the financial budget within UCU to use the law strategically where this operates to the collective benefit of UCU members.
If you want to see UCU #LawyerUp, please vote for me! But either way, please do consider voting for the wonderful people standing alongside me on the @UCUCommons slate. Please see http://www.ucucommons.org for more information.
Representatives of Women Members HE:
Jo Edge (University of Edinburgh)
It won’t be news to anyone that the pandemic has highlighted HE management’s total lack of care for staff and students. During my lectureship, which ended up being all online, I experienced my employers’ insistence that staff came into unsafe workplaces, only moving things online when mandated. My students were fenced into their accommodation, fined for trips to the park, and left to deal with self-isolation without guidance or compassion from the system. Doing pastoral care online and from afar was sometimes terrifying. But all we hear from the government and the media is that university staff are workshy and underperforming. This has to stop.
If re-elected, I have five goals:
- Push for reform to Rule 13: our system for dealing with complaints is not fit for purpose – I particularly want formal support in place for victims both during and after complaints.
- Bring further transparency to UCU’s structures: in 2020 myself and other members of NEC got a motion to improve transparency and accountability partially passed. But we need to do more, including raising awareness of UCU’s structures among our members.
- Improve access to the Equality Standing Committees: the way people are nominated for and elected to these committees is an equality issue in itself. I will investigate how we can open up this process to empower any member to stand without unnecessary branch gatekeeping.
- Work with staff and officers: staff are there to help us, and act on our instructions. We need to work with them, and the General Secretary, to ensure a functional union.
- Advocate for meaningful mental health support: mentally ill and neurodivergent people like me deserve to be supported and championed in our institutions and our union.
It is now five months before the end of my term, and I’m really getting into my stride. I hope to stay on for another two years. Please vote for me and other members of the @UCUCommons slate. For more information, see http://www.ucucommons.org.
Emma Rees (University of Chester)
The fracture lines in the HE sector I’ve worked in for more than two decades (I’m professor of Gender Studies at the University of Chester) are deeper than ever. Colleagues are broken, too, by excessive workloads, low pay, and job insecurity. I’m standing as women members’ rep because I can’t not stand. Add a global pandemic, and the last two years have been devastating.
The pandemic (it’s something of a truism, but truisms contain truths to be reiterated) threw into sharp relief the intersecting matrices of oppression that affect our most vulnerable colleagues and students. Even for those with relative privilege, the competing demands (home-schooling; the second shift; self-care; lecturing) of working in the COVID context took their toll.
At my own institution, our ‘reward’ for having kept the university open, and our students motivated, in the face of unfamiliar learning tech and global existential dread, was to be served with ‘at risk’ redundancy letters. I’ve been a UCU (and NATFHE) member for over 20 years. When the redundancy process began I became one of the branch’s chief negotiators. I faced repeated attempts to belittle my union and to intimidate me. Not only were all 86 proposed compulsory redundancies eventually rescinded, but the trauma revivified the branch, culminating in a massive (and unprecedented – for us) 62% turnout in the Four Fights ballot.
If I’m elected, I’ll carry onto the national stage the successful strategies we used together as a branch to halt our senior management’s vandalism. As an intersectional, inclusive feminist at a post-’92 university, I want to create space for – and cede space to – my marginalised colleagues. I want to continue to work to develop effective policies that will close the insidious pay gaps that characterise the sector. Working on a campus sexual assault project has strengthened my resolve to roll out streamlined incident reporting systems for staff and students who should be able to come forward secure in the knowledge that their wellbeing is more important than an institution’s reputation. Finally – for now – I want to continue to work for and with trans and queer colleagues in the face of bigotry, racism, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny.
There is cause for optimism, as the creativity and insight of my http://www.ucucommons.org colleagues who are also up for election demonstrate. I want to play a part in repairing the sector’s fractures – but I want kintsugi, not superglue – healing, not forgetting. The UCU’s like a family – idiosyncratic, divided, and sometimes dysfunctional. But it’s the only UCU we’ve got. I’ll fight for it when I need to, and I’ll attempt to mediate between its members when I must, because without it we’re really screwed.