Self-destructive tendencies (2 of 2)

June 21, 2012

As a delegate to the UCU congress, I was struck by the stark contrast between the views expressed and supported by the majority of delegates and those obtained by the general secretary in her election and the follow-up consultative ballot ("Up close, too personal", Letters, 14 June). The attitudes of the former, stated again and again in short debates on the critical motions, reflected positions that most ordinary members would fail to recognise.

An example would be the delegate who spoke vehemently - even intemperately - about the temerity of Hunt in contacting the delegate's members directly through the ballot. The possessive noun is a fair reflection: not in an imperious sense, much more in a motherly way, as if Hunt had been grooming the person's children through Facebook. It was for her, said the delegate, to discuss issues with her members, not the (elected) general secretary.

The fear was always the same: that UCU members might be treated as intelligent adults, a view presented most clearly in one of the motions gaining an overwhelming majority at congress, Motion 63: "The process of consultation itself should be designed to persuade members to support the most effective strategy." Paradoxically, the objection to Hunt's ballot was that in allowing members to think for themselves, she had inadvertently (and without UCU Left support) designed a consultation that persuaded members to support the most effective strategy for reform of the union!

What we have in that motion is the common element that so offends the minority of activists rejecting reforms, namely, the amazing attitude of so many delegates to their own members (lecturers and professors), whom they see as people who are incapable of making a sound decision because they are not sufficiently politically aware. Thus, for UCU Left and its many followers at congress, the ordinary member should only have information filtered through, as it were, the party leaders to enable those poor dim souls to arrive at the "right" decisions.

If the UCU is to survive, branch members need to ask their own delegates to congress why it was they so resolutely undermined Hunt when the members themselves had only just elected her, in an overwhelming ballot, to carry through exactly those reforms that congress chose to strike down?

Andrew Morgan, Swansea University

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