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Southampton UCU nominations for Executive Committee 2020/2021



Debra Morris/Denis Nicole

We would be grateful for your vote for Co-President. I am Debra, Library staff member, Denis works in Electronics and Computer Science researching and teaching cybersecurity.

Debra is a member of the executive, our Treasurer and leading negotiations on iSolutions’ restructure; jobs remain at risk although we have been able to mitigate some of its worst effects. She also represents UCU alongside the current President, fighting hard for members’ rights and interests at weekly TU meetings with management.

Denis served as branch president in 2016-17 and on the UCU national executive 2017-19. In the latter role, he brought back the stress and bullying working group. Denis is currently fighting hard for safe workspaces and working conditions on 3 Working Groups in respect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite great commitment from many members, UCU’s strike action over the last year was not as successful as we had hoped. Our view is that the branch needs to work hard to understand why, and to ensure through local initiatives, such as an effective ASOS campaign, that any future actions are as successful as possible

Our most recent Members’ Survey showed that many members are very concerned about the future of our jobs and working conditions at Southampton. We recognise that we need to combine tough bargaining over jobs and working conditions with effective casework in support of you. We are committed to both. Loss of students from COVID-19 means hard times are coming; we need an experienced team to protect our members.

Lucy Watson

I am standing for President because I believe I can bring people together, galvanise members and energise our branch during this challenging period.  A strong, collegial local branch will be vital in the fight for job security for casualised staff, challenging job cuts, protecting mental health, and pushing back against spiralling workloads and deteriorating working conditions. In these uncertain times it is vital that our branch has an experienced, dedicated and compassionate leader. Whatever role you do, whatever contract you are on, as president, I would listen to your concerns.

I am a committed trade unionist, with an extensive track record of casework and campaign work. I am currently a departmental rep and play a key role on the executive committee as Insecure Contracts Officer. I have wide-ranging experience of campaigning on workplace issues and negotiating with the University’s senior leadership team. My communication skills mean I can work constructively with management, but I also have the strength of character to challenge senior leaders and hold them to account when necessary. My key aims are to:

  •       increase democracy, ensuring that all our members feel that the branch represents their views;
  •       challenge poor governance and lack of transparency over strategic decision making within our University;
  •       tackle inequality in the workplace, particularly around gender, race and disability.

I am an independent, non-factional candidate. I endorse Claire Le Foll as Vice-President. Together, we can build a strong, active and caring branch, where all members are welcomed, supported and valued.


Roger Ingham

I am Professor of Health and Community Psychology and have been involved in UCU (formerly AUT) in various roles for more than 35 years. I co-chair the Joint Negotiating Committee, which is the major forum for protecting our members’ interests with senior management. As part of the COVID-19 response, I have recently been appointed as the UCU rep on the Curriculum Planning Project.

I continue to be involved in extensive case-work on behalf of members or groups in difficult personal or professional situations.

Nationally, recent years have witnessed many challenges, with the successful action of 2018 and the less successful action in 2019-2020. I have always strongly advocated seeking local members’ views to guide the branch’s responses to the national negotiations and, to this end, have taken the lead in co-designing and analysing our regular member surveys on these and other important issues.

Locally, my approach in dealings with university managers is to take seriously the professionalism of all members falling within our remit, and to seek solutions wherever possible where we face resistance; I am robust in defence of members’ interests.

In any union there will be a range of deeply held opinions emanating from a range of sources; we need to respect these but not lose sight of the majority views.

I hope to be able to continue to use my experience to continue to serve our members during the immense current and future challenges we face in the higher education sector.

Claire Le-Foll

I believe that a strong branch must have a transparent and accessible Executive Committee that actively seeks to engage our members. A large branch like ours needs to have effective mechanisms to allow for a variety of views to be heard. My vision is for a democratic and proactive branch, that provides space for open discussion, values elections and avoids sterile factional fights.

I joined the committee two years ago as Campaign and Membership officer. I introduced new activities to improve engagement with members (workshops; UCU lunches; social events). I believe a Union should be more than just somewhere to turn for support in a time of crisis – our branch should be a place of collective strength and solidarity where we can work towards a better vision of what our University could be.

I’m an experienced trade unionist, with excellent knowledge of local bargaining, and have represented the branch at a national level. During the recent industrial action, I was elected chair of our Disputes Committee, and worked tirelessly to represent the democratic will of the branch, providing inspiration, strength and leadership to our members.

I support Lucy as president because I believe our Exec could be run in a much more transparent, inclusive and compassionate way, and would benefit from fresh energy. In the current climate, our branch will have to resist attacks on working conditions. Together, Lucy and I will lead a strong, caring, and dynamic Exec that will fight hard on behalf of all our members.

Safety officer

Adam George Dunn

I’m a senior teaching fellow at WSA. I’m standing as H&S Officer because I want to use my experience as an H&S rep to help the branch protect and enhance safe working conditions for all our members.

Health and safety matters at all times—but in the face of COVID-19 there will be great pressures on institutions and staff to resume work in conditions that are uncertain and rapidly changing. It is vital that our branch is proactive in ensuring the University places staff and student safety at the centre of its planning.

In particular, we need to do more to recognise the diversity of our membership in terms of both job roles and individual health and safety needs. If elected, my priorities would be to:

  1. Recruit more H&S reps so that we can identify and act upon members’ concerns across all levels and campuses.
  2. To coordinate more closely with the branch equality officer to ensure the University responds to our members in a more focused and thoughtful way.

A strong and visible network of H&S reps is vital at the best of times, and COVID-19 means we’re very far from those. Working with Lucy and Claire heading the executive, I’m confident we can build a branch that will protect our members in the period ahead.

Denis Nicole

I work in Electronics and Computer Science, researching and teaching cybersecurity.

I qualified as a trade union health and safety representative in 2013 and as an electrical inspector in 2012. Since then I have served alongside David Kinnison as one of the two lead health and safety representatives to the university; I replaced him as branch safety officer when he left. I have also served as branch president and on the UCU national executive. In the latter role, I brought back the UCU stress and bullying working group; we ran a session at Congress 2019.

Trade union health and safety representatives operate under a different legal framework from usual trade union officers; we have wider protections and broader rights to access information. Working alongside other campus trade unions, we have tackled serious safety concerns in research laboratories and elsewhere, and broader welfare issues such as workload, stress and access to counselling. I have the experience and expertise to work with, and hold to account, the most senior levels of the university.

Our input to university-wide policies directly impacts our ability to protect individual members who are suffering from overwork, stress, or dangerous working environments and I consequently play my full part in individual casework.

Recent months have seen me take a leading role in helping formulate the university COVID-19 response, both in ensuring we are protected while working from home and in keeping our colleagues on campus safe; I have contributed to three of the University-wide working groups.

Environmental Officer

Pete Dargie, School of Psychology and Traute Meyer, Professor of Social Policy in the School of Economic, Social and Political Sciences)

Pete Dargie: I have worked at the University since 1986 in technical, facility management and health and safety roles.

I will use my experience and knowledge from existing networks to seek to bring about constructive and sustainable solutions for the benefit of all members. The building managers’ forum, of which I am an active member, considers options for reducing carbon usage and increasing rates of recycling. I will act as a conduit between this group and UCU members, championing new approaches and widening awareness and implementation of acknowledged best practice.

The covid-19 situation brings many challenges to the University but there have also been positives; reduced pollution, flexible working for more colleagues. This role will provide me with the opportunity to work with members and management to ensure these positives are maintained.

Traute Meyer: I have worked at UoS since 2000.  My research has focused on how European societies address social problems such as poverty and inequality, and my particular expertise is in pension policy. Societies need to learn how to pursue socially just policies which are also environmentally sustainable. I would apply this perspective to my UCU-role, and would also pay special attention to ethical and environmentally sustainable investment in pension funds.

We have known each other as colleagues for a long time and would complement each other well: we are both committed to social justice, but Pete would focus on an ecological campus and Traute on the social and environmental implications of University investment.

Ben Thomas

Now, more than ever, we understand our moral imperative to address the climate and environmental emergencies. Action on this must be led by our institutions and we need to work to ensure the university is held to the highest standards of sustainable practice. I am running for environmental officer in order to campaign for a more environmentally conscious university workplace.

As an experienced local organiser with Greenpeace and ActionAid I have been involved in direct action and political lobbying, including campaigning at COP21 in Paris. Through these experiences I understand how to build environmental campaigns to raise awareness and push for change.

As a PGR I have been increasingly involved in supporting the union including producing podcasts and video content to support recent campaigns.

Cooperating with the different unions and the student body we can work towards a truly environmentally responsible workplace including running community programmes to support individual choices, and campaigning to ensure the university management understand how important it is to make green choices in procurement and choose a genuinely green investment policy and research agenda.

We can harness our community’s new appreciation for a different future glimpsed during the coronavirus lockdown. Campaigning to keep these visions for an alternative, more peaceful, kinder, and greener future in people’s minds can be successful in influencing the university’s decision making, and is something I am sure we can all support.

I support Lucy for President and Claire for Vice President.

Academic-related/professional staff officer

Debra Morris

I am Debra Morris, member of University Library staff. I would be grateful for your vote as Academic-Related/Professional Services Officer and Co-President.

A long-standing member of UCU, I joined the Executive Committee in 2018 and what a 2 years we’ve had!

I am proud to advocate for colleagues in iSolutions in the largest restructure in the University. I have done my best to defend rights and interests at a time of huge insecurity and uncertainty; with your affirmation, I will continue to do so – members’ jobs remain at risk. Colleagues in iSolutions have had a horrible time. We must ensure that the University stands by its declared intention to avoid redundancies.

I have participated in strike action and ASOS in solidarity with other members. I have stood on the picket line and articulated our demands clearly and forcefully to ensure that they are audible and accessible to senior leaders. Since working from home, I have represented members at the online weekly meetings between the COO and campus unions.

In the coming year, with your support, I will continue to work for the branch, to ensure that jobs are protected and the health, safety and well-being of all members, and those of our sister unions, are recognised as the highest priority in any return to work on campus in these extraordinary and challenging times. We need to work together, to recognise the true, expressed wishes of our members and engage in fighting the winnable fights in solidarity, across our UCU.

Rich Penny

I’m standing for Academic Support Officer to make sure that Professional Services staff are heard and represented alongside our academic colleagues. I work in the Student Experience Directorate and I know the pressures colleagues in Professional Services encounter; in particular understaffing, and the lack of consultation that accompanies many of the changes we face.

With COVID-19 we’re all facing even more uncertainty – not only about job security, but our health and safety and how we balance our workload with looking after our loved ones. I want to see your Union playing an active role here. We must be proactive in working with the University, but we must also draw and hold clear lines in terms of what our members need during these difficult times.

I am a committed trade unionist with experience as a UCU Exec member, as well as organising campaigns against marketisation and casualisation in the HE sector. I have a PhD in politics, and experience in working on both the academic and non-academic sides of the University. I want to see a branch that is more active and representative of its members. To this end I also think Lucy Watson and Claire Le Foll would be great choices as President and Vice-President respectively.

Ordinary member (4 posts)

Mihaela Brebenel

I am a Lecturer in Digital Culture at WSA. I am standing for Ordinary Member in the Southampton UCU Executive Committee because I would like to use my role to support diverse members’ experiences.

I am especially interested in intersectional struggles that we can bring together in this branch and I am invested in supporting the LGBTQIA, migrant, BAME and disabled rights and fights at the university. I am very invested in facilitating and having conversations about mental health as opposed to the rehearsed wellbeing discourse overly present and further intensified in the last months by the pandemic.

In particular, I would like to raise awareness about how the systemic issues in current higher education, around precarious work, unrealistic workloads and burnout disproportionately affect staff positioned in various ways at the intersection of the above.

Furthermore, I would like to raise awareness about career progression options and possibilities for Early Career Researchers, as the neoliberal university currently shapes them. I would like to start a process of consulting all members on how the Union can actively offer support and transparency in these processes.

Shelley Cobb

I have been a committed UCU member since 2003. As a postgraduate student member, I served as Equalities Officer. I have been at Southampton since 2008 and became a departmental rep in 2012. I am Associate Prof of Film and have been Director of Programmes for two years. I served on Senate in 2017 during the restructuring and voluntary redundancy scheme and in a Senate meeting I pointed out the flaws in the former and spoke out against the latter. As rep I have supported colleagues individually, but also collectively in our recent industrial actions, during which I was struck by the collegiality that characterised our approach.

I am standing for Ordinary Member because I want to further support equality agendas (a driving force in my research and my engagement with public institutions) and the fight against casualisation which I care deeply about. In addition, I will always insist that the university pay attention to and rectify the overwhelming workload pressures that all of us face. At the core of all of these concerns are our values for dignity, respect and care, and as Ordinary Member I will demand that they are prioritized in our university and our union.

I fully support Lucy Watson for President and Claire le Foll for Vice President.

Sue Hollis

I have worked for the University for a long time.  First as a contract researcher for about 12 years, then in IT support for one of the Faculties, and now in iSolutions.  I have been a member of UCU for most of this time, and it is a result of help from UCU caseworkers, that I received paid maternity leave from the University whilst working as a contract researcher.  I am currently a caseworker for the local UCU branch and I also take part in Job Evaluation panels on behalf of UCU.

The year ahead will be challenging for both UCU and the University and I would like to be an ordinary member of the Executive to assist with some of the work the union executive will do to meet these challenges.  It is the work of the union that will provide a voice for staff during these difficult times aiming to help staff get treated equally and with respect.

Maria Palaska

I hold a PhD in English and Comparative Literature and I have taught at the University of Essex and the University of Winchester prior to joining the University of Southampton. I have been working at the University of Southampton since 2013 in various roles within the School of Humanities on short-term contracts. I have been a member of the Executive Committee since March 2020 when the Four Fights strikes were at their peak and the Covid-9 crisis had started. I, therefore, gained significant insight and experience in the current problems and the multiple crises that we are all facing and in how an Executive Committee should be supporting all members of staff.

I am committed to work for:

Ending casualisation, favouritism and nepotism in our University

Implementing meritocracy.

Implementing transparency in University procedures and accountability of leaders/managers.

Ensuring respect at work.

A democratically elected leadership.

Supporting staff experiencing disrespect, invalidation and unfairness.

An Executive Committee which has the interests of University staff at its core and operates with transparency, team spirit and efficiency.

If elected I intend to work as case worker committing to the following:

Confidential consultations in person.

Empathic and personalised handling of each case.

Promptness in response and action.

Consistent liaising with the Committee Officers.

I endorse Lucy Watson for President and Claire Le Folle for Vice-President.

I have witnessed their work within the Executive Committee, and I am convinced that they will work for the interests of University staff genuinely and competently.

Rich Penny

I’m standing for Ordinary Member to focus on issues of casualisation and excessive workload across the University – and to make sure that Professional Services staff are heard and represented alongside our academic colleagues. I work in the Student Experience Directorate and I know the pressures colleagues in Professional Services encounter; in particular understaffing, and the lack of consultation that accompanies many of the changes we face. I am also keenly aware of how both workload and contractual insecurity affect colleagues – particularly in light of COVID-19. It will be vital that our branch is active and resolute in defending members over the coming period.

I am a committed trade unionist with experience as a UCU Exec member, as well as organising campaigns against marketisation and casualisation in the HE sector. I have a PhD in politics, and experience in working on both the academic and non-academic sides of the University. I want to see a branch that is more active and representative of its members. To this end I also think Lucy Watson and Claire Le Foll would be great choices as President and Vice-President respectively.

Vesna Perisic

I am Vesna Perisic and I am standing for ordinary member of the executive committee. I am a principal teaching fellow in the school of maths. I have been a member of UCU since 2006.  I have always taken part in industrial action when called to.

It has been a difficult year for universities and staff, and the union is needed more than ever now. It is so important that we negotiate with our senior managers and ensure that our members’ views and needs are represented, particularly with the changes forced by COVID19.

I think it really important for there to be broad representation on the executive, so that our members’ views are more easily heard.

I hope to be able to contribute to the work of the executive committee and I would like to ask for your vote to support me.

Nick Ruktanonchai

I’m a lecturer in Geography as part of the WorldPop Project, a research group that relies heavily on externally funded grants and includes numerous immigrant researchers (including myself) and ECRs. As a part of this research group, I’ve seen and experienced first-hand the challenges facing vulnerable workers in the academic sector, including an increasingly hostile environment for immigrants and minorities, marketization, increasing reliance on fixed-term contracts, and high workloads. I’ve also been active within UCU since joining in 2014, having participated in industrial actions and acted as a departmental representative for Geography and Environment.

I am standing for Ordinary Member because I want to reach out to other UCU members and provide a voice for a wider segment of the UCU membership. This means 1) promoting important work being done by members across the union, 2) increasing democratic processes within our union, and 3) making sure that voices are heard from precariously-employed members who are often less engaged, but most vulnerable to the worst excesses of university policy.

I endorse Lucy Watson for President and Claire Le Foll for Vice-President.

Christine Telfer

Members are going to be facing new challenges emerging caused by the pandemic as well as all the current impacts to them from the existing ones for which I was recently standing on the picket lines.

The union is going to have a huge amount to do to support them and I am standing to offer any help I can with that.

I have no particular political affiliation.

I do feel very strongly about the pension changes and  have already stepped up to be the pension rep. for the department I work in to offer support to members with their questions and issues on that.