In case you were not aware, I have been re-elected as your Welfare & Diversity Officer for another academic year. I am looking forward to continuing representing students and fight on your behalf for more inclusive mental health support, a more accessible reporting system and working with the local area to keep harm reduction and safe nights on the agenda.
I have been sitting on many graduation processions during graduation week. It has been amazing to be able to see students celebrate together after the isolation and disconnect of Covid on our student community.
Welfare & Diversity Officer Remit
I personally believe there is a strong case that my role needs to be reformed into more of a health and wellbeing role.
- The reasons behind this are that myself & other welfare roles in the sector are treated like counsellors
- People treat my job as one of Student Services or ASK which is not my job.
- A lot of the strategic aims I try to do get overshadowed by disclosures that need to be delt with by other University bodies.
- Societies welfare officers are moving to wellbeing officers to avoid run in of similar issues
- It will be better for the holder of this role’s mental health
- Inclusion should be embedded in all remits.
I will be working with the SU and meeting with focus groups of interested students to give feedback on the reform of this role.
I attended NUS conference with Jack and Holly and gave feedback on housing co-operatives initiative and tackling gender-based violence.
I was supportive of both policies but was critical of them also. The Co-operatives policy benefitted larger Universities and Unions. Where the Sexual Violence & Misconduct policy left out abuse faced by male survivors and individuals who were non-binary. I acknowledge sexual violence is disproportionately faced by women, but NUS policy must also acknowledge male and non-binary survivors.
I have no major update regarding looking into accommodation storage or fridge capacity as I am waiting on the director of the accommodation team to get back to me on the research and statistics, they are conducting on changing one of the rooms close to the kitchen into a secondary storage area.
I am working with Resident Life to raise complaints about students who have been relocated from Lindsay A-D blocks due to maintenance reasons and chasing up the University regarding the water cut off.
I have received more complaints about members of estates entering students’ rooms without the due notice of at least 24 hours. If this is something impacting you, please do get in contact with myself or ASK.
Working Class Representation Week
Before the Easter Holiday I launched Working Class Representation Week which was to focus on one of the more overlooked Access & Participation groups. This week focused on providing a toolkit of support for students who usually define in the University parameters of ‘working class’ which is low family income.
Education resources focused on the definition of working class and how this is a difficult concept to pin in the 21st century, Trade Unions & their successes in the UK, The impact of strike actions, how environmentalism can be inherently classist and the impact of Covid on the working class.
This is a campaign I intend to take forward with me into the next academic year. I have been providing feedback regarding the Universities Access and Participation Plan (APP) on how Low socio-economic groups are measures by the University – currently they are measured under POLAR4 which breaks areas into ‘participation categories. So, areas with less individuals going to University will be Polar4 1 and areas with higher numbers of individuals going to University will be in POLAR4 5.
This can be problematic as individuals from lower socio-economic groups going to university can be included in higher POLAR4 categories, such as myself. In the eyes of the statistic, I would not be classed then as the University recruiting from lower socio-economic backgrounds & thus the data informing the APP may not be fully accurate. This data should be derived from Student Finance England or from Indices of multiple deprivation
I am working with members of Student Services on a newly set up Sexual Violence working group due to a rise in SV cases. We were once leading in the sector at tackling SV cases but have fallen back as Durham have become leading in higher education providers to tackle sexual violence.
I had led meetings with colleagues from the Student Union, KPA, Resident Life and Security to develop a policy on how we report and information share incidents of spiking that occur on campus. This policy is being finalized before passing University committees.
Alongside this policy, I am creating a transparency document for students that indicates how spiking is dealt with and investigated by the SU, KPA & University.
I have began working with Staffordshire police on the creation of a criteria that can be used locally to help encourage venues, pubs, and clubs in the area to use more spiking preventative measures and have awareness resources.
Reporting mechanism steering group
A working group to investigate the reporting mechanisms at Keele has been set up. I have written my proposal for a new, streamlined and more accessible reporting portal which will be presented at the next meeting and further discussed to tackle low incidents of reporting behavior especially around sexual assault. The new portal will no longer require students to email Student services and wait for what could be up to 3 days for a form to sign and make a statement.
I have also been in discussions on how Safe Zone can be used for tip reporting in immediate emergencies around issues such as spiking and sexual harassment. I was reluctant for the main reporting mechanism being on safe zone as this may not be beneficial for students off-campus and may not be accessible for students in technology poverty or with a disability.
A large section of my Easter was reading the Minds Mental Health charter and pulling out sections that would benefit Keele such as focusing on socializing area for accommodation (mostly in long-standing, older accommodation), Policy impact, our campus collaboration with the NHS, and inclusion of marginalized groups into the University community.
I have been working on a mental health strategy where the University commit to a full University approach and on different ways that the University need to take a more ‘Welfare focus’. The main example is that Universities need to look at their own policies through a welfare lens and how they may negatively impact student mental health.
Trying to find alternatives for the go to solution of ‘doing sport’ to combat low mood, poor mental health, or low wellbeing.
I am waiting for a meeting to be set up with the Pro-Vice Chancellor for health and Wellbeing to discuss this strategy further.
There has not been a second counselling review meeting yet. This had been cancelled back in early March due to staff business, whilst the papers were distributed with the discussion of what the new service will look like. The next meeting is in late May.
I set across the Unions priorities of what we would like to see of a counselling service at Keele which included:
- A 24/7 service. During student consultation there was unanimous agreement that students wanted a 24 hours support service for students who wanted support. The sector has practices that have extended hours, but it would be a mighty selling point to prospective students and powerful commitment to student welfare if our new Counselling/ support service could operate 24/7.
- A service user agreement. We request a service user agreement is made for students who access the counselling and mental health support team. That way there is a set standard expectation for students on what support they should receive from this service and how it would operate. This would highlight transparency of the service but also ensures there is accountability.
- Properly resourced, staffed, and managed.
- Inclusive and accessible to all members of the University community, and appropriate to culture and context.
- Working in partnership with local NHS and care services with effective working relationships and information sharing agreements in place.
- Offering different options to counselling in house, e.g cognitive behavioral therapy, eco-therapy, an increased amount of lower-level de-stressing and anxiety busting workshops.
- That the final model for counselling is approved and signed off by an external practitioner to ensure that it is best practice for students.
Since that meeting a member of staff has been appointed to be the head of Accessibility and Inclusion which has seen the merging of Counselling and Disability & Dyslexia Support (DDS). The main priority is to ensure that this does not lead to resources being undercut as part of the One Keele Project.
Disciplinary & investigation resourcing
In University Student Voice committee, I have continued pushing for the University to better resource their disciplinary department. Investigations have been up to 2 years which is longer than the Office of independent Adjudicator for Higher education (OIA)’s recommended 60 days due to the number of reports coming through.
I am working with Tuesday our membership coordinator for student engagement on reviewing both the University policy & SU policy in a welfare lens ensuring that these have student welfare at the focus and policies are not having a negative impact.
I am continuing my harm reduction approach by seeking further funding on providing testing kits so students can test their drugs to ensure that if student do decide to engage in substance use they are doing it with the best knowledge and as safely as possible.
I have been working with student services to audit campaigns and work done by the SU to reach the Drug & Alcohol accreditation which we are set on reaching.
Opposing the Marketisation of Education:
I attended the NUS walk out for free education protest in London to show my solidarity with the notion that every student deserves a free education.
Fight for holistic mental health support:
Most of my work above has been focusing on this, trying to refine the University Health & wellbeing plan, getting the University & Union to commit to a policy review to ensure that policy does not negatively impact student welfare, counselling review, committing to more resources for disciplinary support.
Environment & sustainability:
I have started conversations on how we need to ensure that sustainable initiatives of class friendly especially for students.
I worked with the other officers on ‘Our World Festival’ this year which helped promote an inclusive and diverse community. I further gave feedback to our EDI steering ground on how international students especially need more tailored support so we can encourage assimilation rather than integration.
I am working with members in the Union on Student Engagement and how this is measured. From reviewing the Universities AP plan I want to do more next year engaging those groups into the Union & University life.
Further, I want to work closer with the part time officers next year to ensure that different liberation groups can have their campaigns and voices student led. Next year, I will be working closer with the Part time officers under my remit.