Endorsement from Dr Nadine Ansorg, University of Kent
The ballot to elect UCU’s next General Secretary is open now, and I wholeheartedly support Jo Grady’s campaign and candidacy. I first heard from Jo during the pensions strike last year—she was a very reliable (and funny!) go-to source for any questions related to pensions and the strike itself. In addition, USSbriefs which were co-initiated by Jo proved to be incredibly useful in discussions at our university and beyond.
But Jo Grady’s expertise and skills go far beyond the pension strike. For me, Jo is the candidate of the people. In her manifesto, she provides innovative ideas to transform the Union into an organisation that serves the members and involves them into all the main contentious issues we face in Higher Education. We sorely need such a grassroots union that fights in all our interests, and I strongly believe that this is possible with Jo.
Endorsement from Dr Chisomo Kalinga, University of Edinburgh
I fully endorse Dr Jo Grady to take over as General Secretary of UCU. She is precisely the right candidate to reinvigorate a divided and fledgling union.
I joined UCU in January 2018, shortly before the industrial strike to save our pensions began. Two days before the first round of strike action, I decided to seek legal advice to ensure that my position as a Tier 2 sponsored visa would not be compromised. To my shock, I discovered that if I participated in the strike, specifically on the 5-6 March when my employment contract began on a new visa, I would lose my visa sponsorship and HR would have to inform Home Office to revoke my visa within 10 days. I also discovered the vicious labyrinth of traps that would have ensnared international staff, including new hires who would not have been aware that the absence of their supervisors to ensure they attended their first day of work would have immediately compromised their visas. No one seemed to be aware of how deeply the strike action would affect non-EU citizens on sponsorship visas. First, I was disappointed with my university’s HR department, who never, at any point during the strike, stepped in to directly advise international staff. Second, I was disappointed by how long it UCU headquarters to sound the alarm to warn international staff.
During that time, I became very active on Twitter and remain so today because of the industrial strike. That seemed to be the only place where we could openly share frustrations, fears, ideas, contacts for immigration lawyers and legal advice to understand Home Office’s mercurial regulations. That is also the forum where I first became acquainted with Dr Jo Grady. Jo emerged as one of several de facto ‘go-to’ leaders who were supporting strikers. I had innate and sincere concerns about the injustices of the proposed pension scheme but lacked the expertise to articulate these concerns. Those of us who were concerned about the lack of answers about our immigration status turned to Jo for support. She had garnered a large online following during that period and graciously gave us her time, advice and leadership. I witnessed her engage with concerned strikers; she gave us her time and knowledge on industrial strikes and provided answers based on her independent inquiries. I was most impressed by her fearlessness to take on heavy hitters within the opposition, who were also clueless about the UK’s hostile immigration policies. She directly challenged assertions made by Alistair Jarvis Chief Executive, Universities UK, among others, while I could only respond with pithy GIFs. She waded directly into political territory while academics with far more seniority in the ivory tower remained quiet on the sidelines as they waited to see the outcome. Delays in addressing issues pertaining to international staff could have resulted in certain deportation for many of striking staff, including myself. Jo had the courage to speak up and to share her knowledge with us. We need someone of this caliber to lead UCU.
I’m excited to see how the energy Jo brings to the role of General Secretary will manifest. She was an important voice during the strike and I believe we will benefit from her leadership.
Jo listens. She adapts quickly. She seeks advice. She asks questions before responding with sincerity, decisiveness and authority. What more do we want from a leader?
Endorsement from Mr Steve Rooney, University of Leicester
I’m delighted to endorse Jo Grady’s campaign to become UCU General Secretary. What inspires and enthuses me most about Jo’s candidacy and the campaign it has generated, is the prospect of the union becoming the radical force it needs to be if we’re to confront the many challenges facing all of us working and studying in HE and FE. Too often, questions of pay and conditions, and questions about the kind of education system we want in the first place, are treated separately. Jo’s brilliant manifesto just gets that these issues simply can’t be separated. Precarity, exploitation, mounting stress and workloads, attacks on pensions, the scandal of ongoing pay gaps etc. are all ultimately bound-up in a metrics-fuelled agenda of marketisation, a narrow and reductive view of education’s purpose and value, and a destructive culture of aggressive managerialism.
I’m so excited about what Jo and her brilliant campaign team have achieved in just the brief period since she announced her candidature. This really feels like a wonderful opportunity to challenge a corrosive and unsustainable status quo, and work to create the tertiary education system our staff and students long for and deserve—in the process also creating the kind of union we need to take us into the future, too.
Endorsement from Dr Priyamvada Gopal, University of Cambridge
Over the nearly two decades I have taught at a British university, UCU has been fatally hamstrung by weak leadership at the top, leadership that was all too willing to capitulate—even after strong and courageous industrial action by the membership—to paltry and often frankly ridiculous offers by employers. This year we finally have a chance to break from that tradition of mechanical and often indifferent bureaucratic rule to bring on board a truly independent and thoughtful candidate who is also a working academic and is fully conversant with both the day-to-day and the long-term concerns which face us in this sector from pensions (on which she is an outstanding analyst) to workloads, casualisation and ‘hostile environment.’ Unlike career union leaders with little or no experience of ground realities, Jo Grady has been at the forefront of battles both at the local and national levels. (Her forensic clarity on pensions was absolutely galvanising for many of us who didn’t quite understand all the complexities of the matter.)
Today the HE sector in Britain is at a make-or-break crossroads and its future is vitally dependent on strong, informed and experienced leadership at the helm (experience, that is, of the issues that face working academics and not just union bureaucracy). Our future is dependent on the Union being led by a clear-sighted and committed figure, independent of sectarian affiliations, one who combines an impressive understanding of the issues at hand with kindness, understanding and generosity. That person, without a doubt, is Jo Grady. As General Secretary, she could, with our help, transform our future as a sector. Please help make this historic shift happen.
Endorsement from Professor Bill Cooke, University of York
I am really proud to endorse Dr Jo Grady for General Secretary of UCU.
I have known her for nearly all of her academic career, and she stands out as smart and committed to the idea of a Union that works innovatively for all its members.
In her work on the pensions dispute with colleagues on USSbriefs, she demonstrated the technical nous required of a General Secretary, but also motivated a number of us through difficult times. She is motivated by solidarity for all members of UCU—FE and HE, lecturers and administrators; and her manifesto sets out a strong vision for a new, twenty-first century UCU.
I will be voting for Jo Grady, and hope you do too.
Endorsement from Dr Phil Child, University of Birmingham UCU Anti-Casualisation Officer
My name is Phil Child and I am a fixed-term Research Fellow in Social Policy at the University of Birmingham, as well as the current Anti-Casualisation Officer for my branch. I will be voting for Jo Grady as my first preference for UCU General Secretary. Why? Two reasons.
Firstly, as my branch role might suggest, I want a union that takes the spread of casualisation seriously, seeing the spread of precarious working conditions across tertiary education as a priority to be tackled nationally rather than something to be farmed out to branches haphazardly. This is one of the biggest threats to the long-term viability of the union, and I am glad that Jo has the foresight to see that national coordination is the only way to stop casualisation.
Secondly, I want a union with a genuinely democratic culture, responsive to the needs of rank-and-file members rather than the interests of those paid to serve us. UCU remains baffling, if not actively unwelcoming, to the unengaged member and I believe Jo would be the General Secretary to change this, aided by her current experience of working in tertiary education.
I have no hesitation in endorsing Jo Grady as my first preference in this election, and I strongly urge you to do the same as soon as you get your ballot.
Endorsement from Mr Adam Ganz, Royal Holloway, University of London
It’s fifty years since the founding of the Open University, the inspirational creation of miner’s daughter Jennie Lee and a Labour government which used the power of technology to make higher education available for all. Lee saw education as a public good which made a society wealthier in all kinds of ways that can be measured, and lots that can’t. It was a transformational moment which is rightly being celebrated across the country.
In the last years Higher Education has been treated less and less as a public good, and more as an opportunity for private enrichment or personal power. Universities and colleges are engaged in increasingly arcane and statistically bankrupt forms of rankings in a spurious competition. Fortunes have been spent on buildings and new campuses in unsavoury regimes. Working conditions of staff have deteriorated, and pressures on students and are treated like customers—valued as long as they can pay.
Our Union hasn’t kept up. Previous General Secretary Sally Hunt and her would-be successor Matt Waddup have been working there for more than 15 years, when it was still called the Association of University Teachers. Perhaps that’s why UCU has found it so hard to respond to the changes in education. Despite the increased cash flowing into universities like monopoly money, pay and conditions have got worse overall. Part of that’s bad management—and part is bad representation.
The strike showed how much talent there is in our Union. UCU members are great researchers—often the very best in the field, whether in Trade Union law, pensions, or graphic design and social media. We tell great stories with verve and passion and we inspire people to learn in FE Colleges and Prisons and Summer Schools and online classes as well as in lecture theatres.
So why are our union communications so turgid, and our research often inadequate? Over the last decade and more our Union has failed to respond to the crisis Higher and Further Education is facing in governance, in management, in employment conditions and access. As senior manager roles and their salaries multiply, bread and butter academics don’t have careers that allow them to plan a career or a family—the jobs often don’t even last a calendar year these days.
The private education providers welcomed to the party by the current government—and a number of institutions that should know better—are about to start feasting on the public good. We need to act now.
I’ve been privileged to see USSBriefs at work. Right from the start Jo Grady was at the heart of a small group of volunteers who produced the resources that the Union was not equipped to or not ready to do, both for the strike and for the ongoing crisis in Higher and Further Education. She represents the new spirit we need. She has spoken out clearly against the erosion of our pay and conditions and the degradation of our institutions—how they have allowed themselves to be used to implement the Hostile Environment, to rely on increasingly meaningless statistics to compete for positions in meaningless league tables whilst institution after institution in both FE and HE has been rocked by scandal. Her excellent manifesto is full of ideas about how we can bring about the changes we so badly need—leading by example and matching analysis and organisation with practical and achievable goals.
I care about my pay and conditions and I know Jo will use her subject knowledge to ensure we get the very best possibles. I care even more about what’s happening to our universities and colleges. Jo Grady, like Jennie Lee, is a miner’s daughter who knows from experience how education is crucial in changing minds and transforming lives and can help to fight to make tertiary education not a profit point but a transforming presence at the heart of the towns and cities of this country again, a change as necessary as the Open University was fifty years ago. She’s getting my vote.
Endorsement from Professor Jo Brewis, Open University
I’m voting for Jo because I think she is, put simply, exactly what UCU needs right now. She has been a UCU activist for several years now, is a founding member of USSbriefs and most recently was elected to the UCU NEC. Her manifesto hits every nail on the head in terms of what we need to be working on together to address the most pressing issues facing UK higher education. I worked with Jo for several years at University of Leicester and she is a superb human being—determined, passionate, creative, resilient, absolutely clued up and very, very funny. Please cast a vote for Jo. We need a breath of fresh air at the top of our union and I think she 100% fits the bill.
Endorsement from Dr Demelza Jones, University of Gloucestershire
I endorse Jo Grady as my first preference candidate for UCU General Secretary. Jo offers a unique combination of expertise in employment relations, with rank and file experience as a UCU member and in the grass-roots mobilisation and information sharing that made the 2018 USS strike such a powerful instance of collective action. She has front line experience of the challenges faced by teaching and research staff, while valuing the skills, contributions and experience of professional services colleagues (who often seemed side-lined during the 2018 dispute). Jo’s manifesto offers an exciting vision for the future of UCU. Key issues of precarity and casualisation, the racialised hostile environment (and its extension to our EU students and colleagues), and toxic marketisation and metrics, are placed front and centre as issues the union should be proactively addressing in ways which effectively engage the expertise of the membership, and the love we have for our sector.