The Fair Strike & the Good Provost

Dr. Chris Pepin-Neff
4 min readMay 1, 2022

A fair strike and a good Provost are not mutually exclusive. It is a dialectic where both can be true, and that is what I have found in my experience.

I am a Senior Lecturer for Public Policy at the University of Sydney who enthusiastically supports the right of the Union to conduct Industrial Actions as part of its negotiations with the University of Sydney. A strike is planned for May 11–12 next week. I am also a queer, disabled, non-binary person who supports the Provost Annamarie Jagose.

There has almost been a “devil shift” formula in the local media that characterizes Annamarie in harsh terms, and considers her actions with a level of disproportionate malevolence. The reason why you turn someone into a folk devil is to create a singular narrative to organize behind. Together these elements describe devil shift, which functions as an operating principle of political action.

From Honi Soit

However, I did not join the Union to torch good people with hard jobs. Annamarie Jagose is a good person, with a good heart, and she deserves better than hollow reflections of her positions. To be clear, I encourage the University to adopt the Union positions regarding the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement. I think 40–40–20 is sacrosanct, I think First Nations employment is a key issue, and I believe in full sick leave for transition related care. These are areas of honest and open debate. I am a proud Union member. AND still, the treatment against Provost Jagose is both too much and off the mark.

In 2020, I reached out to then Faculty of Arts Dean Jagose because I have a disability that was causing me significant problems. I told her that I was going to have to take unpaid leave. She said she understood and asked if I would hold on while she investigated options. I was in crisis and ready to walk away from academia.

When she got back to me, my world changed. She had checked in with HR to find out my options and I was eligible for sick leave for a short, but crucial, period of time that would add to a package of support (annual leave, ect.), which provided me with more time to make a final decision before leaving teaching. She had also arranged for HR to call me.

This is someone who is both an administrator and a queer scholar who knows how to navigate the system so marginalized groups do not fall through the cracks. I was at risk of falling, but Annamarie saved me. I know I’m not the only one.

All I am asking is for a fair go on both sides. I took the picture above with my Master of Public Policy students, who I’m happy to report I’m teaching this semester. A dialectic remains: I support the Union striking on behalf of students and staff. To make the University of Sydney better. And I would encourage each of them to meet with the Provost if that need arose, with full faith that they would receive the same graciousness that I have.

This isn’t a suck up piece for either side. No one asked me to write this. The Union is tough and Annamarie is tough. But so am I. Because of the support that the Union gives me through the EBA and the support from Annamarie I am back at work and proud of my students.

Annamarie is not one-dimensional and efforts to malign her are probably going to bounce right off. Still, this debate deserves better. I hope VC Mark Scott takes the Industrial Action seriously and engages with the constructive criticism that engages staff and students on campus. And I hope we temper our characterizations of management. Quite simply, Annamarie Jagose helped save my life and I am here, not because I owe her, but because I know her.

Christopher L. Pepin-Neff is a Senior Lecturer of Public Policy at the University of Sydney.



Dr. Chris Pepin-Neff

Senior Lecturer in Public Policy, focusing on the role of emotions in the policy process. Pronouns (they/them). Opinions are mine.