Endorsement from Dr Leon Rocha, University of Lincoln and Jack Newport, graduate of University of Liverpool

I’m a Senior Lecturer in Chinese History at University of Lincoln, having previously worked at the University of Liverpool from 2014 to early 2019. I taught Jack Newport on the BA History programme at Liverpool from 2014 to 2017. The photo below was taken at Jack’s graduation in Summer 2017. Jack and I co-wrote this endorsement for Jo Grady.

I met Jo Grady in 2018 through the USS industrial action, and with many new friends and colleagues, we co-founded USSbriefs. We worked closely together for a year on the many dimensions of the USS pensions dispute, and now I’m supporting Jo’s campaign to be UCU General Secretary. Many comrades have already spoken of Jo’s expertise in industrial relations, as well as her experience in Leicester and Sheffield UCU branch. So I want to talk about something else that is every bit as important in this General Secretary electionI want to talk about all our students.

When Jo Grady launched the Crowdfunder for her campaign, my former student Jack Newport got in touch and immediately donated. He left the following public comment:

Jack’s background is very similar to Jo’s. Like Jo, Jack is the first member of his family to go to university. Like Jo, Jack also shares a working-class background. And like Jo, Jack also shows us the best side of Higher Education—as Jack memorably puts it, “Higher Education is about changing the way we look at the world, so that we can change the world for the better”. I agree with him. Jack is a fantastic student and graduated with a First Class degree in History with a prize-winning dissertation on Maoist China.

During the USS strike last year, even though Jack had already graduated, he kept in touch and even visited his former lecturers and professors at the picket lines. We got talking about the current state of Higher Education in the snow. Jack said he would very much like to become a historian of China, but given the unprecedented scale of stress and anxiety, casualisation and exploitation in the sector, he didn’t think academia would work out for him. When Jack said that, I didn’t know what to say to him—even though Jack has the great potential to be a brilliant lecturer, my conscience stopped me from urging that he should do a PhD.

We have got to fix the Higher Education sectornot just for the benefit of ourselves as university staff, but for all of our present and future students. And Jo Grady gets it. She’s led classrooms as well as union campaigns. As a frontline member of staff, she understands the pressures that we face every day as educators, as well as the pressures that our students have to confront. Weeks ago, I filmed Jo Grady’s campaign video and was able to see Jo in action—she was teaching a class, coincidentally, on trade unions and pensions. Her expertise, energy and engagement shone through. I find it a genuinely remarkable opportunity that, in the 2019 UCU General Secretary election, we have a candidate who has a wealth of experience in education, and therefore tremendous empathy with our plight. And empathy makes great leaders. Jack and I trust Jo Grady to lead both students and staff in the many struggles ahead.