Spotted at the London College of Communications building at the Elephant and Castle yesterday – an illustration of the pitfalls awaiting aspiring student politicians at a media school. It remains
to be seen whether George ‘Teddy’ Clarke’s election strategy is successful, but one potential voter is less than impressed. Scribbled on the top right of the poster are the words “Why are there six typefaces on this one poster?”. It beats lambasting people as dangerous leftwingers or raging reactionaries.
Senior management at the London College of Communication, where I teach part-time, are taking an increasingly heavy-handed approach in the face of continuing student protests over course closures and reorganisation plans.
According to the latest report on Arts London News – the website produced by students as part of their course curriculum – an injunction against ten students has been issued. The court order prevents the named students from entering certain parts of the college. It would seem that, despite the vogue for referring to students as customers in our marketised education system, the idea of customer service still has some way to go.
Staff have also been wondering how much the college is paying the private security guards it has drafted in, this at a time when lack of funds is being used as a reason to cut jobs and courses. Jonathan Leader, the tutor who witnessed the attempts by security guards to break up a student protest, expressed the feelings of many in a letter he wrote to the college management.
Meanwhile, talks between the staff unions and management seem to going nowhere fast, with a threatened strike ballot looking almost inevitable. Oh, and in the midst of all this we’re still trying to teach.
Students at the London College of Communication staged a sit-in at the Elephant and Castle site this week in protest at course closures and cutbacks. The action followed a flash occupation of Head of College Sandra Kemp’s office last week by over 100 angry marketing students.
The actions are the latest manifestations of anger over a programme of course closures and compulsory redundancies that has simmered for months. College union the UCU claims management have not made the business case for the closures, have not followed consultative procedures, and are refusing to honour redundancy deals. The college says it has consulted properly, but staff who have been asked to present the case for their courses to continue after they have received notice that they are to be shut down are not convinced. The UCU has given notice of its intention to ballot for a strike.
It seems to me, as a visiting tutor, that this is a classic case of management testing the strength of the staff unions. There may well be a case for reorganisation, but it has not been clearly made, and it is the failure to follow set procedure – something there is no shortage of in academia – that is really stoking the fires. All this on top of constant battles to resource courses and the vast amounts of time wasted on basic administrative tasks because of the inability of one central department to properly communicate with another.
Latest developments, in which the leaders of the occupation are being threatened with disciplinary action after a heavy-handed move to quash the protests, don’t seem designed to calm troubled waters.
Note: I searched in vain for a link to post up which gave the college’s side of the story. There have been a number of carefully-worded staff memos, but nothing I can link to which would at least show the case the college claims to be making. It’s all about communication.
At this time of year, college work really kicks in, as accumulated admin builds up, the first tests are staged, and new ways to get students who have missed sessions and tests up to speed needing to be found. Hence the inactivity on this blog which has taken the stats down to rock bottom after last week’s peak. So this is a brief round-up just to keep my head above water – or whatever the cyberspace equivalent is.
Both courses I’m leading at the London College of Communication are going well. The reorganised first year unit, still labouring under the unwieldy title of Production for Media Convergence, is being well-received by students now they are able to focus fully on a particular production strand for a set period. There’s no shortage of imagination or creativity as they experiment with and negotiate a path through the new media landscape. My copy-editing strand also allows us to begin to address the issue of raising the standard of basic writing skills – still the cornerstone of a media career.
The second year production workshops in which we divide students into print, online, video and audio strands and get them to work up a single project are going extremely well, with the students really beginning to push the boundaries. It’s a great learning process all round, and the tutorial team are already looking at ways to further integrate the process next year while still ensuring all students get experience across the board. It’s yet another example of how the trade is having to address the question of how far multiskilling can go and at what point specialisation is required, and also simply what production process works best in what circumstances.
We’re hoping to get the projects up on line for a more public profile later this year, but academic institutions still tend to be a little nervous about work produced in an educational environment going up publicly – yet another example of the new challenges we’re all facing.
Wednesdays are very long days this term – 8am train into LCC, set-up by 9.30am, teach from 10am-4pm, and then down the New Kent Road to New Cross to teach a 7-9pm evening class at Goldsmiths College. It’s another new course, Introduction to Contemporary Journalism, and there’s a really interesting mix of students. I’m taking them through the basics this term, and encouraging discussion and critical analysis. Several have already told me they are looking at the media with fresh eyes, questioning angles and looking at the techniques employed by the media they consume.
Being able to show that media is accessible while still emphasising the importance of the trade’s skills and values is something that makes it all worth it.