Three-D Issue 34: Chair’s report

Anita Biressi
University of Roehampton

It’s been just over six months since my last report for Three D. And this short period of time has witnessed immense and significant shifts in public sentiment, in social behaviours, in the economy and in HE and specifically in our fields of professional practice, teaching and research. No wonder we are tired! The re-charging and widening recognition that Black Lives Matter, the continuing prominence of the #MeToo movement and the growing momentum to decolonise curricula may be cause for cautious optimism and an indication that even generations of systematic oppression can be exposed and challenged. But at the same time, the COVID 19 Pandemic and its catastrophic damage to health, well-being, livelihoods and future social security and social mobility are a reminder that embedded inequalities and precarity will be with us for some time to come. It’s against this turbulent backdrop that we renew our commitment to deliver education and research which nourishes, sustains and energises our students and which equips them for their journeys into the future whatever that might hold. It’s impossible to fully encapsulate the developments and changes that have taken place in the sector and in our fields and MeCCSA’s response to them but here’s some indication.

We are establishing more formal guidelines for all MeCCSA badged events regarding our expectations of professional and courteous behaviour. These include putting in place clearer protocols for delegates (so that they ‘understand’ non-discriminatory and proper conduct and cannot be surprised if they are directed to leave an event) and for chairs (so they are supported and empowered act in the moment). These will be in writing and on relevant webpages. We continue to endorse, recognise and support the labour undertaken by our members, and especially by our Networks, to keep BAME, disability and gender equality issues on the agenda and their expectation that public debate on these matters is respectful. You can find out more about these Networks’ goals and activities on our website and in the reports published in this issue.

You will also find on the website the public call for a New Deal for Higher Education which MeCCSA is supporting. Last month, we joined 48 other associations and learned bodies in calling on Education Ministers in the UK and devolved governments for action to head off the potentially calamitous impact of COVID on the UK Higher Education sector’s ability to sustain excellent education and research. We argued that the impact of the pandemic has also starkly highlighted the already embedded problem of an unsustainable funding model for universities which needs fixing now to avoid creating even more social and economic damage in the medium and longer term.

Another related issue which has been on the table as been the radical changes in working conditions of colleagues in our fields and the potential impact of COVID recovery measures on teaching in media, communications and cultural studies. We are currently considering how best we can take soundings on its unfolding impact through commissioned research. MeCCSA thanks its members and fellow travellers for generously sharing support strategies, teaching materials and other resources through Networks and via our Jiscmail list. This is very much appreciated in these difficult times.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has meant that we have been obliged to suspend or cancel many of our planned activities for 2020 and we are moving activities online where possible. We also took the precaution of postponing our annual conference which will now be hosted by Robert Gordon University in early 2022. We will nonetheless be running elections for the MeCCSA Executive and undertaking the AGM online and in order to participate in either/both activities, individuals need to be current MeCCSA members or belong to HEIs which have a current institutional membership at the time of voting, hence the importance of maintaining membership. In recognising that the postponement of the annual conference to January 2022 means that one of the major membership benefits (reduced conference registration fees) is not possible for the upcoming year (Sept 2020-August 2021), we are reducing membership renewal fees by 50% for 2020-21.

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