As I’m sure you’re aware this is a hectic time of year regardless of if the plague is in town. Hopefully better times are on the horizon with the COVID-19 vaccine being approved and rolled out nationwide. Regardless, I hope you will agree reading this that it has also been an incredibly productive time with many projects having tangible results.
Previous Union General Meeting
At our last UGM you gave us 8 policies to work towards on your behalf:
- Improved COVID-19 university communications
- Keeping current COVID-19 improvements in place
- Library Use
- How COVID-19 has affected the AU
- Opportunities outside the curriculum
- Disable student issues
- International student issues
- Tackling isolation
I’m pleased to report in all three areas I was assigned I have made tangible progress on the points raised
Disabled Students Meeting
As per the previous UGM I started to work on the following points that I was motioned on:
- The SU will make sure DDS is consistent in who they are contacting about their accessibility needs
- The SU will lobby the University for more seating for disabled students prior to lectures or labs
- The SU will lobby the University to review the one-way systems which are not always accessible
- The SU will lobby the University to record both in-situ and online lectures for disabled students to access when they are unable to attend
- The SU will lobby the University to improve communications about the sunflower lanyard scheme and collaborate on digital posters about the scheme
I organised a meeting with the head of DDS and our student disability part time officer. From this meeting several positive points came about it namely
- The SU will be starting its own sunflower lanyard campaign in January
- The University will be re-checking and updating its locations from its own sunflower lanyard campaign
- A survey will be sent out to disabled students asking them to point out areas of weakness in both the DDS support and specific courses
- In general the university will up the marketing of the DDS service so all students are aware of it
On top of this I have worked with the Estates team and the disability officer in order to make the COVID-19 testing site more disabled friendly.
International Students Meeting
Much like the disabled students actions I also organised a meeting with myself, a member of the international support team (Karen Birks), and our student international officer on the following points:
- Lobby for International Students to be able to move out of the temporary rooms if they are still in them
- Alternatively, pressure to give students partial refunds if they are paying more than their accommodation is worth
- Pressure the university to clarify the situation for international students and release a statement of apology
- University to help int’ students move from temporary to permanent
- Increased flexibility in the termination clause of the accommodation contract
The meeting yielded many fruitful action points some of which have already been acted upon:
- A further international students survey will be released to get more specific accommodation issues that international students face.
- We have asked for the SU Minivans to be used as a porter service for international students’ luggage. This decision will be formally made in the next meeting of the COVID secure group
- Karen will be lobbying the university so all students will have access to a physical copy of their accommodation contracts
- An international students life Facebook page has been created to try and create a space for international students to share relevant issues and information
From the previous UGM you tasked me with:
- SU to send messages to those in isolation
- Uni needs to reach out directly to students isolating
- Those in bubbles should be encouraged to involve students who aren’t currently engaging
- SU / Uni needs to recognise students who are not in the UK for this semester
- Need buddy / speed dating initiative / expand FY support system
Unfortunately it isn’t possible to reach out directly to those in isolation according to the members of student services that I have spoken to however I have been creating several ways for students to connect such as the upcoming Yoga sessions, the Changes Wellbeing Group, and the new international student Facebook page. I have also been pushing more mental health online messaging through the start to success project. It’s incredibly difficult to try to connect people in this forced virtual time but student voice have been working on a speed dating initiative where Keele students can connect with one another online via an app. This will hopefully be available soon.
Start to Success Launch
During the middle of November, the start to success project had the official launch of its public campaign at Keele. Throughout the week of 16th-22nd of November the Keele student life page was taken over with posts from myself, the wellbeing ambassadors, student minds, peer supporters, and student services. The launch, while entirely virtual, was a success and the resources that the start to success team have been preparing for the last year have been shared. To look at these resources take a look here: https://www.starttosuccess.co.uk/
In October I investigated an external company called Go Mammoth which provided various companies with wellness classes and activities such as Pilates and Yoga. I then put a poll on the student life page to see which option would be most popular with students and found that Yoga came up on top with over 100 votes. From there I tried to get Go Mammoth funded and set up but they were found to be too expensive with only a limited capacity, so I looked internally within the organisation. The AU were trying to get some form of virtual Yoga set up for its member at a price of £7,000 for online software in order to run it. This was far more expensive than I bargained for. With internal methods out of the questions we reached out to Felicity Walters an independent yoga instructor in Cornwall who was willing to do virtual sessions for £25 per session for an unlimited number of people. She had been running events for the KPA and had come to us highly recommended by Katie the president of the KPA. The first session is due to take place on the 10th of December and will be streamed to the Facebook student life page as well as held on a zoom call. (I hope I’ll see you there)
Our yearly Keele 100 was held where we gained 100 student voice reps and got their opinion on topics ranging from mental health to part time work. The experience was incredibly insightful as I was with several nursing students who are often disconnected from the SU due to their hectic timetables and off campus study spaces. The time I had to ask them questions was invaluable I came away with some fantastic action points to work on in the coming months
Green Impact Introduction
As an officer team we also had an introduction to the Green Impact Scheme where we will be consciously working on improving our positive environmental impact through the UN sustainability goals. We will be working to log these actions on the green impact website in hopes of achieving the excellent results that we obtained last year.
Student Minds Sabbatical Officers Meetup
I met up with other sabbatical officers who had also joined the Student Minds SU’s programme to discuss issues such as keeping students healthy in COVID-19, ideas for the Christmas break for students who can’t go home, and environmental sustainability. Overall the meeting was really productive.
All student drugs awareness survey
At the start of December, I also sent out an all-student email to get students to participate in the NUS Drug Impact survey. 49% of the students who received the email opened it (6324 students). The survey closes on December 14th so hopefully in the new year we will be able see and use the results that come from it to plan our activities around drugs at university.
Sustainability Full Training Day
On Friday 4th Myself and Holly attended the Green Impact Students' Unions full training day to try and gain more experience and contacts when it comes to successfully campaigning in the SU. While we are sad it could not have been held in person it was still an overall really positive experience and we already have ideas on how to better shape the SU for a greener impact on the world.
My manifesto priorities from the start of this academic year are as follows:
1. Increase awareness of differing forms of mental health support with a particular focus on the role of online support options (Mental health support education)
2. Include more options for mental health support in the form of stress and anxiety workshops e.g. art and music therapy
3. Increased staff training on subjects like mental health support and sexual assault
4. Work with university staff to create a BAME role model system
5. Ensure nights out are safe and fun for all students (COVID-19 permitting)
The progress I have made since the last UGM is:
1. As for increasing awareness of mental health support I have created the Changes Here4U Wellbeing group as well as creating the Wellbeing Flowchart. Not to mention working with the start to success project has put a lot of emphasis on mental health support that is available to all students.
2. Again I believe that the Changes Wellbeing group should cover this point although when COVID-19 restrictions ease next year I want to try more creative routes towards stress busting workshops
3. While the University and start to success project has made strides on more mental health training such as suicide prevention it has not as of yet reached the SU. This is hopefully something I aim to change in the new year
4. I have been emailing Hinna Sheikh the current university race equality officer in order to get this organised for the new year. Currently it has hit a roadblock since it needs to go to the B.A.M.E. Staff network in order to get approval and to see if any staff will be willing to help on the project. Unfortunately, they will not be meeting until the new year but fingers crossed we will be able to make strides on this next year.
5. As you can probably guess with the building closing early November nights out have been completely erased so no progress has been made here.
Involvement in Sabbatical Team Strategic aims
Our sabbatical team strategic aims in no particular order are as follows:
1. Anti-racism - Combat Racism in all forms
2. Mental Health - To continually push for a wider range of mental health and wellbeing services and to ensure all students know about these services.
3. Accessibility - Ensure Keele is an accessible and inclusive place for all
4. Our role in the Climate Emergency - To reduce our carbon footprint and to empower our students to fight climate change
5. COVID-19 - To mitigate the negative impact that COVID-19 continues to have on our students
The progress I have made since the Last UGM is:
1. As an officer team we have not only been creating events for black history month, bringing race equity to meetings we sit, but we have also created a new campaign called Be Better Do Better. In addition I have also been working on getting my B.A.M.E. Role model system up and running seen in manifesto update 4
2. Mental health has been my main focus for the last few months with the start to success project, yoga, and the wellbeing group. Most of my day to day activities are around the creating and marketing of events/groups centred around mental health.
3. I have been working closely with both DDS and our part time disabled students officer as well as improving provisions for disabled students at the COVID-19 testing centre
4. We have been in several training events related to environmental sustainability. In addition, number 3 of the UN sustainable goals is around good health and wellbeing so all the work I have been putting into mental health would apply here as well.
5. I have been providing virtual events such as stargazing, mental health resources, and yoga to try and improve the quality of life and mental health of students while they have been self-isolating.
Thank you for reading and I hope you can see the passion and hard work that myself and the rest of the sabbatical team have put into Keele these last few months.