So as you may have been able to guess I haven’t been up to much as Community Action Officer lately due to all my time being taken up running for VPDR, so haven’t got anything new to add in that regard.
I thought I would use this blog post to tell you about Reclaim the Guild. This is a fantastic new campaign which aims to reform the structures of the Guild and inject some much needed democracy into it.
At the moment:
the final decision making power in the Guild lies with the Trustee Board. This is the most powerful body, and it can overturn the decisions of Guild Council, as it has done many times in the past. It is made up of a majority of non-elected students, and it is pretty much unaccountable to students whatsoever. They have the power to decide where the Guild’s money goes, to suspend and expel elected officers, hire and fire staff, investing in businesses, training Sabbatical Officers and more… A number of unpopular decisions have been made without students consent in the past 12 months – the latest of which was the decision to replace the Student Housing Association (SHAC) with the Santander Bank.
This clearly needs changing, and this is what Reclaim the Guild aims to do. Its two main aims are to have a Trustee Board in which the majority are made up of elected students, and to have Annual General Meetings (these are meetings in which anyone can attend and decide on major policy issues for the Guild for the coming year).
I won’t blab on for too long. I recommend you get involved. You can find out more detail here: reclaimtheguild.com
Hi everybody, we have some bad news I’m afraid. The sleepout is cancelled until further notice. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I informed the VPDR of what was happening ages ago, and that he promised to sort out permission from the university to hold the sleepout, and I was given the impression that this in fact was the case, I have just been told annoyingly that permission has not been granted. Apparently one of the main reasons for this is that there are no adequate toilet facilities available, yet the Guild have refused to leave the toilets open for the night, or refused to grant us enough money to pay for a security guard to keep them open.
I’m not blaming anyone for this last minute cancellation, as no one is accepting any and to blame any particular person in the Guild/university would be presumptuous. I’m just very exasperated that this has happened after all my efforts and everybody’s enthusiasm.
But all is not lost. We have agreed with the Guild to work out all the details for the provision of facilities and for permission to be granted, with the hope that at some point in the future – this term/next term/next academic year – the sleepout will go ahead.
I’m sorry again, and I hope people haven’t wasted too much time collecting sponsorship money. Feel free to donate to the charity regardless through this Just Giving page, as they are a very worthy cause and this does not change the fact that they could do with some more money.
Thanks for everyone’s help,
I am organising two events which are happening very soon and which should be both very informative and a new experience. Hopefully you will will also have some fun along the way .
The first is going to be a lecture given by Simon Hackett and Lee Harris of the homeless charity SIFA Fireside, Bethan Wright, a social work student at Birmingham University who is on placement at SIFA Fireside and Tony Kelly a very charismatic ex-service user who was homeless.
They are going to be talking about their experiences with regard to homelessness. They will be highlighting what they feel are its underlying causes and also giving their first hand accounts about the daily realities of homelessness. I feel that homelessness is one of those things that everyone is aware of but that we don’t truly understand.
This will be followed by a “Sleep-out” near the end of February (probably 23rd) somewhere on campus (exact location TBC). This will involve a bunch of interested students getting themselves sponsored, each for a small amount of money (about £20 each – although of course the more the better), to sleep “rough” (in sleeping bags and cardboard boxes) somewhere on university premises. This is designed to teach these students about the daily lives of the homeless, and to raise money for the SIFA homeless shelter in Birmingham so that they can continue to provide sufficient food in these difficult financial times. There will be a bin-fire all night at the sleep-out so you won’t get cold, and hot drinks, meat and veggie sandwiches, juice etc will be served for free. There will also be very interesting members of the charity to speak to all night about the issue if you feel like it.
If you, or anyone you know, are interested in volunteering for the sleep-out, please let me know. I am aiming to get 50 people. You can contact me on:
The details and updates for both events can be found on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/166756900093328/
So what’s been happening?
I have two very exciting campaigns which I have submitted to the Guild and which I hope see fruition.
1. I have been working with a homeless charity called SIFA Fireside and we have hatched a plan to do a charity “Sleep-out” some time next term. It will involve a bunch of interested students getting themselves sponsored, each for a small amount of money, to sleep “rough” as it were (in tents, sleeping bags and cardboard boxes) somewhere on university premises to learn about the daily lives of the homeless. This is designed to raise awareness about the realities of, and reasons for, homelessness in Birmingham, and to raise money for the charity in question so that they can keep providing food for their service-users in the face of a loss of a substantial amount of their funding due to Government budget cuts.
A couple of weeks prior to this, members of the charity will come and give a lecture somewhere in the Guild/University about homelessness.
2. Alongside Kelly Rogers (Women’s Officer) I have put together a proposal for starting a MyGeneration project, similar to the one that exists in Oxford University.
This will involve organising a big day where we get students from local schools and sixth forms from poorer areas into the University to participate in a series of mini-lectures and workshops. This will involve getting staff and departments involved in doing fun lectures and seminars, and also societies setting up things like debates and workshops where the pupils can try things out etc. It is essentially giving students a taste of University.
Then the students choose a mentor on the day and swap emails, and we set up a e-mentoring scheme. This could be done formally, by setting up emails through the Guild. Ideally, the mentors would commit themselves to sending emails once a week.
This is about widening access to university. Hopefully it would encourage school students who are pessimistic about their chances to attend university because of their backgrounds, or else those that are put off attending due to the fee-rises, to strive hard in school and develop an enthusiasm for attending university.
Hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas and all that jazz!
So what’s been happening that’s worth talking about then?
Well I’ll start with a bit of bad news…
Edward Bauer, the suspended VPE, has been banned from campus whatsoever by the university management until the conclusion of the Guild’s investigatory procedure into his case has been announced. When will we be told? Why are we being kept in the dark? Who knows. They finished the investigation a couple of weeks ago.
The Listening Campaign hasn’t been going so well. This is partly because it has been difficult to get a quite apathetic student population interested, and partly a fault of my own: I have simply not had very much time to harass people due to third year essay stress, alongside a lot of my time being spent organising and participating in protests and other action – around the changes that are going to be made to the university system with the Government’s new HE White Paper, and the expensive and pointless changes that are being made here at the University of Birmingham.
You can view a speech I gave about the horrendous changes that are going to be made at this University here:
And to supplement this here is another speech, given by Open Place Guild Councillor Simon Furse, about some of the damaging effects of the White Paper in general:
(In terms of the Listening Campaign I plan to have a push at the beginning of next year, and so we’ll see how that goes. Until then though I’m going to give it a rest).
On a more positive note…
I think students are becoming increasingly aware of the detrimental changes that are being made, although the complicated and confusing nature of a lot of the issues in the White Paper means that it has been more difficult to galvanise people to act than it was last year with the controversy surrounding the Brown Review. But we have a positive development. Mark (President) and Zuki (VPHC) agreed after a long and productive discussion on the coach down to the demonstration
in London on the 9th November that the Guild would put on education seminars about what exactly the White Paper is going to mean for the future of Higher Education. I have volunteered to give one of these seminars.
Kelly Rogers (Women’s Officer) and I have also hatched plans to work together to start up a MyGeneration project here at the university which will involve education sessions given by students to local sixth formers and other interested school pupils. We plan to start this up after the Christmas holidays, so I will provide more details then as to what exactly this will entail.
So, an update on how the Community Action Officer work is going. I have been carrying out my listening campaign in Selly Oak, door knocking and leaving my survey with people. Unfortunately though the first time I went to collect them it turns out a lot of people hadn’t done them :-s, which I probably should have expected I guess. So… I am going to collect the rest very soon, but if people have not filled them in then I will change tactics – to what I am not as yet sure: perhaps lecture shout-outs, or perhaps I will set up some stall on campus or in the Guild at some point. I will let you all know how it goes….
Hi everybody! The year has finally started for real and we have some sunshine to accompany us through the settling-back-in period , which is always a nice surprise.
I thought I would just let everybody know that my promised “Listening Campaign” has started to become a reality. The questionnaires are all drawn up and I am going to start interviewing people from tomorrow, which is exciting. So watch out Selly Oak! – because I will be in your face, bugging and annoying you relentlessly for the next few months. I think this Campaign is important because I feel that many student s have problems which are not being addressed by the Guild and by the university, and are not having their voices heard to a sufficient degree. So therefore I want this campaign to give students a chance to express themselves and any grievances or concerns they may have – and hopefully the findings from this little investigation can be used to highlight hitherto ignored issues in student life and help direct Guild policy from now on.
If anybody is particularly keen to fill in one of these questionnaires then just email me on: email@example.com and I will send you a copy.