My Archaeodeath blog is now in its 8th year, would you believe it! I started in June 2013 and somehow it is now 2021! This is my 1,592nd blog-post!
Yet, 2021 is proving a grim year for me so far, even more challenging than 2020. This has made blogging especially difficult. As well as the struggles of family life, including dealing with neuro-diverse kids during lockdown and home-schooling, there has been a relentless slew of adapted-online teaching and admin tasks with little or no flexibility on timescale, not least completing our Unit of Assessment 15 (Archaeology) REF2021 return. These factors together meant I decided to reduce my blogging from 15 posts-per-month to 10-per-month from January.
However, things have just taken a turn even worse and I need to halt my digital public archaeological activities, I hope temporarily. Here’s why.
Yesterday, Thursday 1 April, at 17:21 from a no-reply central HR email account called (seemingly without irony) ‘Change’, my employer alerted me to the fact that my post is regarded as ‘at risk’. So, I join a number of colleagues in Archaeology and other disciplines at the University facing the threat of impending redundancy. This would be shocking enough had this letter not arrived the evening before the Easter break and after I’ve not only delivered many years of service but having concluded an unprecedented workload during the pandemic and I was looking forward to my first annual leave of 2021.
As you might appreciate, the letter and its timing are devastating to my morale and I’m deeply upset by these events.
For the record, I have no further details regarding why me and my colleagues in archaeology and heritage at Chester are being targeted as at risk. We have survived and thrived via a host of collective achievements in adapting and innovating our teaching and administrative roles and tasks through the last 12 months of pandemic lockdown, undertaking a vastly increased workload to fulfil our jobs. Moreover, we have such a healthy cohort of undergraduate students, postgraduate taught students and a burgeoning postgraduate research community. Our student feedback has been exemplary and our students are doing great work. In addition, we have tried so many new things. For example, I’ve set up an entire YouTube channel to innovate for the lockdown of use to promote my teaching as well as my research on the archaeology and heritage of death and memory. Also, the 6th University of Chester Archaeology Student Conference – DigiDeath – was a resounding success as a digital event, supported by colleagues and our learning technologists.
Likewise, our research is high in quantity and quality, as testified by our just-completed REF2021 outputs, environment and impact case studies. For example, I’ve published 4 original academic edited books in the last two-and-a-half years alone, most recently Public Archaeologies of Frontiers and Borderlands. Also, over the last 2 years I’ve founded, designed and co-edited a brand-new academic publication – the Offa’s Dyke Journal – and published two annual volumes: 1 for 2019 and 2 for 2020. There are also so many synergies between my teaching and research, such as the aforementioned 6 student conferences I’ve facilitated, and many dimensions of my research beyond the academy, including my work with the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory and this blog!
Archaeology and heritage has been an evolving success story at Chester, supporting the city, the region, and national and international debates regarding the human past and its significance in the present and for the future.
So what next? I truly expect to fight and beat this threat to my work and I express sincere solidarity with my affected colleagues too. UCU are backing us and we voted this week against any compulsory redundancies. Yet, I now have weeks of torment in limbo before I can even learn more about why my post has been identified as ‘at risk’ and mount a defence.
I hope you appreciate that, for my mental and physical health, I simply cannot go on with my digital public engagement in this climate, including my blogging. For my readers on Archaeodeath, I thank you for all your support over the years and months! I sincerely hope to return as soon as I can to share more good information and insights in the archaeology and heritage of death and memory. I hope this will follow the University agreeing to our Union’s position of no compulsory redundancies.
But for now, I must bid you au revoir!
ps. For the latest developments, I will be tweeting about the ‘at risk’ issue for Archaeology at Chester via @howardmrw