At the University of Stirling we are two days into the UCU strike and it has made me realise how much of my time, even at home, I spend thinking about and doing work. In fact my first response to a possibles strike was “hurray I can get some research done at home” but Peter Matthews eloquently blogged last week about what it means to be on strike.
He (rightly) says
“Academic reading while on strike means you are doing academic labour, have crossed a picket line and are a strike breaker.
Academic writing on strike means you are doing academic labour, have crossed a picket line and are a strike breaker.
Preparing that grant application on strike means you are doing academic labour, have crossed a picket line and are a strike breaker.
Ploughing through your inbox to clear it while on strike means you are doing academic labour, have crossed a picket line and are a strike breaker.
Preparing slides for a talk while on strike means you are doing academic labour, have crossed a picket line and are a strike breaker.”
But that leaves me wondering what I am supposed to do- and that means I have seriously got my work/life balance wrong. I should, of course, go and join the picket line but the key focus of picketing in Stirling is in the morning when I am dropping off at school so I have not made it yet. Yesterday I went for a walk, caught up with the ironing and got on top of paperwork for the groups I do voluntary work with. I also phoned the Doctors which I have been meaning to do for about 6 months and booked myself in for a smear test. Amazingly that was scheduled for today so that was one activity today although I have also made soup, scones and banana loaf.
So, I’ve have made a couple of positive health moves (if you ignore the scones and banana loaf) but I am really itching to send the emails that I keep remembering I need to send, do the paper rewrite I was meant to be doing this week, do the project marking that needs to be done for two different modules and tweet about things other than the strike. This has opened my eyes to how much time I spend thinking about work and trying to keep on top of it and there is nothing unusual about me, I am sure there is a country full of academics who feel the same.
Things are only going to get worse though, if there is no resolution to the strike then even when I am in work then it is “action short of a strike” which means working to contract and therefore no voluntary activities. For me that means no Science Fair in March, no Pint of Science in May, no reviewing the paper which needed reviewing by last Friday, no handling of the paper that has just been passed to me as an associate editor of a journal. I cannot organise the Primary Enterprising maths competition I had planned for June. Probably no involvement in research week in May? I don’t know, there are grey areas and decisions I don’t want to make. I do all of those things because I think they are important and I enjoy them. I think they make me a “good” academic and enhance the University’s external profile. Most of those activities are about encouraging the next generation of scientists and getting more girls into STEM, things which I think are essential. I can, of course, mark those projects, write that paper, work on grants and do the work I am contracted to do.
Perhaps my issues are exacerbated by being a parent from which it feels like there is never down time (!) but I tomorrow I might light the fire, put a film on and start to work on training myself not to think about work all of the time. Of course I need to write that quiz for the school fundraiser in March………