Written by Toby Cray
University of Leicester Students’ Union voted by 35-5 to oppose the university’s disinvestment strategy during a heated debate at their annual members’ meeting on the 1st of December.
The proposal was led by Rhiannon Jenkins, Leicester Student Magazine’s Chief Editor of Arts & Culture, which led to a tense exchange when she stated the accusation that:
“The university are spreading misinformation – because the 2020 statistics actually show a rise in the number of students taking English at A-level.”
The university announced the disinvestment strategy in October, with five Schools affected, writing to 3,800 employees warning of potential compulsory redundancies.
Professor Henrietta O’Connor, Head of College of Social Science, Arts and Humanities, defended the proposed disinvestment by stating:
“I’m not taking this lightly at all, nobody wants job losses and that’s a big concern. We want to minimise any redundancies but ultimately the priority for me as college head has to be about students and their experience.”
Vice Chancellor Nishan Canagarajah added to this by saying:
“My job is to make sure students have the best experience […] sometimes I have to make painful decisions.”
Rhiannon responded to this by stating: “Contact hours are it for us, so if you reduce staff, you automatically reduce that all-important time for us.
“It also means our course will have less variety and narrow the specialist modules available, taking away what makes English at Leicester so special.”
Professor O’Connor added: “What I want to do is strengthen the English department, making it sustainable and ensuring It continues to have a really strong presence at Leicester.”
Rhiannon reacted to winning the vote by stating:
“It will definitely have an impact, even if it’s just a morale boost for effected staff to know that the SU is officially and publicly defending them against action that is inconsiderate and contradictory of the university’s core values.
“Hopefully over the next few days we’ll be able to formulate a more solid action plan that can take the lobbying proposal even further.
“The main thing for me is that our staff, who have put their all in this term, are protected and able to keep their livelihoods.”
Toby Cray is a second-year journalism student at the University of Leicester. You can find him on Instagram here: @toby5.c