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Letter to VC from a UCU Member

UCU Reps and Exec fully endorse the following letter that was sent to the Vice Chancellor from one of our branch members:

Dear Professor Tickell,

I am writing to express my dismay, frustration and hurt at your latest ‘View from the VC’ of 1/10/2020, which – to my mind – epitomises and makes explicit the sentiment which has underlain a series of recent campus-wide communications (see, for instance, Kelly Coate’s [PVC Education] email here): that online teaching is necessarily inferior to face-to-face, and that those who are teaching online are not only providing inferior content, but are in some way not embodying the community spirit of Sussex.

While I agree that staff who are working to accommodate the very difficult demands of ‘hyflex’ teaching ought to be applauded for their herculean efforts, I am amazed that the staff who are also working long hours in difficult circumstances to provide excellent online/remote teaching are not recognised in your communication. I should not need to remind anyone that staff teaching from home are largely doing so because of a disability, medical condition, caring responsibilities or illness. They are doing so in isolation from their colleagues in their own homes, without any financial provision from the University for office or technical equipment. Each hour of online teaching requires hours of preparation time and adjustment to existing materials, none of which is recognised in the current workload planning and allocation documents.

The sentiment yesterday seemed in direct contradiction to the guidance provided by HR on the website and in the managers’ toolkit, which emphasised an understanding and supportive approach to members of staff who were unable to work on site. Excluding home-workers from your statement of appreciation runs contrary to attempts to ensure that they do not feel isolated or excluded from university life.

Reading your email yesterday morning, in the midst of Zoom seminars, Panopto recordings, online student hours, Canvas discussion boards, Padlet boards and OneDrive collaborative documents, I have never felt so unappreciated at Sussex, and all because my medical condition bars me from travelling to campus, where I could meet with my students, collaborate with my colleagues and – apparently – be appreciated for the hard work I am doing. I know that I am not the only one who feels this way. 

I would hope for an apology, and the provision of more support for colleagues who cannot teach on campus at present. 


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