Sociologist's redundancy may trigger strike

A sociology lecturer at the University of Birmingham is at the centre of a redundancy row that could lead to industrial action among the institution’s 1,000 University and College Union members.

January 3, 2013

Twenty-seven posts are set to be cut across Birmingham’s archaeology and antiquity, education and political science departments, but it is the proposed redundancy of Jose Lingna Nafafé that has provoked the most anger.

The university said that the redundancy of Dr Nafafé, whose teaching covers cross-cultural studies, ethnicity and migration, was related to the cessation of its media, culture and society programme, as approved by its council in 2010 and in 2012. The final three students on the programme will graduate in July.

However, the UCU at Birmingham believes there will be damaging knock-on effects should the redundancy go through. It said it would leave “no member of staff to teach core sociology modules in ethnicities” and would remove the only ethnic-minority member of permanent academic staff in the subject.

A spokesman for the UCU said it was “extremely likely” that a ballot for industrial action in opposition to the redundancy programme would be held from 18 January.

Meanwhile, a student-led campaign opposing Dr Nafafé’s redundancy has gathered more than 500 signatories. Ioana Cerasella Chis, campaign organiser and a sociology student at Birmingham, said students felt dissatisfied that their views had not been taken into account during the redundancy process.

“[This] shows how little consideration the university has for its own students,” she said.

A statement by the university says: “Birmingham is a community of 150 nations situated in a vibrant multicultural city. We are extremely proud of our diversity, we actively promote tolerance and condemn discrimination of any kind.”

It also disputes claims that Dr Nafafe’s redundancy would leave the university short of staff to teach core sociology modules, as he “has at no point delivered the sociology teaching identified…indeed, [he] is not, and has never been, a lecturer in ethnicity at…Birmingham”.

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