Hello lovely peoples!!!
So April has seen the end of the snow and the springing of, well, spring! We also had the Easter break and I hope you’re all well rested and pumped up for revision this term. YOU CAN DO IT!!!
I personally am in support of us getting a puppy room on campus to support you through this difficult time, but after the raging argument the unions had about them on Jiscmail I think I’d need a specific mandate… hint hint.
So what have I been up to in the wonderful position of VPW I hear you cry! Well I shall tell you!
Extenuating Circumstances and Fit to Sit
We have a meeting set up in the diary with some very senior and important people over in the University to discuss the review so I’m currently drafting an updated paper for discussion at that meeting.
Gender Neutral Toilets
Wording has been a nightmare! BUT we’re there, hopefully, so these shall be signed this week and operating and I hope lots of you will use them and feedback to us! They are on the second floor in between the hair dressers and marketing (the old kitchen space).
Oh yes, it’s back and it’s shinnyyyy!!! It ran from fab and friday last term as a trial and I’m currently waiting on some stats as to usage etc. We will be rolling it out for fabs the rest of this term so please send me feedback if you go to fab!
Shortlisting of International work experience bursaries
I was asked to help shortlist and I must say I was incredibly impressed, not only at the quality of the applications but also the innovative work experience placements students are personally sourcing. It’s incredible and I wish we could have given money to everyone!
The tickets come out todayyyy!!!! I hope you’re all excited, it’s going to be incredible!
As coursework deadlines pass the VPW inevitably gets more busy with plagiarism meetings, fitness to practice meetings, misconduct meetings and appeal meetings. We are collating information on these (as always) to make recommendations of codes of practice to the University.
Democracy and Engagement Committee
This was a really good meeting, I think we made some really good choices to improve the democracy and improve engagement with Guild Council. Look forward to this paper at the next Guild Council!
Zero Tolerance and the Cross-Liberation Meeting
I made a presentation of the current state of Zero-Tolerance in the Guild and took recommendations from the liberation groups on harassment relating to the defining characteristics outlined in the policy.
The group’s input was invaluable and the recommendations have now been put into the final briefing document that I am taking to SOG next week and then Guild Council where it will become policy of the Guild.
As many of you will remember SOG recently put out an appeal to students to take extra care when out and about in the evening as there had been some sexual assaults in the local area. Following my recent campus crime and security meeting it was confirmed by the police that they have arrested someone that they believe to have been involved in those attacks. HOWEVER, I still implore you all to continue taking care in the community, especially in the evening and late at night.
As always, if anyone has any questions please feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck with exams everyone!!
Sooooo I think I got it completely wrong when people asked for voting intentions because I thought they meant for motions and not for NEC, so this is how far I got with motions… I will hopefully get my intentions out for the NEC as well if I get time.
Obviously all of this is subject to me hearing debates on the day, these are just based on my first impressions.
Membership and Priority
001 – New members – For.
101 – A Vision for the Future of Education – For.
201 – Further Education in the Tertiary Sector – For.
202 – Barriers to Participation – For.
203 – Employment – For.
203a – For.
204 – Qualifications & Assessment Reform – For.
211 – International/Private – For.
212 – FE Students too old at 21 – For.
301 – The Public Value of Education – For.
301a – For.
301b – For.
301c – For.
302 – Students Are Partners – For.
302a – For.
302b – For.
303 – Students Thriving for Surviving – For.
304 – Higher Education: Finding, Markets and A Policy Platform for 2013 – This one I don’t know, my gut thinks it’s better than we already have, but I prefer the amendment a.
304a – For.
304b – For.
304c – For.
311 – Using The NSS To Build A Partnership In Higher Education – For.
311a – I understand why this would be beneficial, but I agree with motion itself that the NSS is one of our only forms of feedback from students nationally and without it students would lose a vital opportunity to have a voice. Therefore I agree the NSS needs changing, but I don’t think a boycott is fair to students.
312 – Xenophobia Immigration Policy – I could do with a steer on this one, given recent developments with the UKBA I don’t feel my knowledge is enough to make a good decision, so for the moment: Abstain.
313 – A Fairer Deal For Postgraduate Students – For.
314 – Postgraduate Employment – For.
315 – We Want Good Placements – In principle for, although I’m not sure if it’s possible/legal to do some of the things in this motion so I would like to hear the arguments on the day.
316 – Timetabling – For.
317 – GPA and Alternatives to the Degree Classification System – For.
318 – International Students – For.
319 – Arts Education – For.
320 – “I Believe the Children are the Future”… – For.
320a – For.
321 – HE to left of Me FE to the Right, HE in FE Stuck in the Middle Confused – For.
322 – Fund Graduate Entry Medicine – For.
323 – Confirmation and Clearing – For.
324 – Knowledge Transfer Diploma – For.
325 – Circle of Life – For.
326 – Marketisation – This is another one I’m not sure about. I’d like a steer, and I’ll listen to the arguments on the day.
327 – Student Representation in MOOCS – For, but there appears to be a typo because the last line says reputation instead of representation…
Society and Citizenship
401 – Organising for now and for 2015 – For.
401a – Against – Not because I disagree with the motion at all, but to me it’s placement makes no sense. This should be a motion of its own, it doesn’t really make sense as an amendment here.
402 – Votes at 16 – For.
402a – For.
403 – Ethical Sourcing/Ethical Investment – For.
403a – I don’t remember this passing Guild Council … Anyone?
403b – For.
404 – Tax Avoidance – For.
405 – Child Poverty – For.
405a – For.
411 – Councils and Cuts – For, but I think this is basically asking to stop cuts because most towns are student towns…
412 – Reinventing the Study Leaver Employment Landscape – For.
412a – For.
413 – Strong Students’ Unions for Strong Citizens – For.
414 – Sex and Relationship Education – For.
415 – Responding to NHS Reform – For.
415a – For.
416 – Challenging Racism and Fascism – For.
417 – Climate Change – For.
418 – Bedroom Tax – For.
419 – Hands off Africa and Middle East – For.
420 – Protecting and Advancing the Arts – For.
421 – Evidence Based Drug Policy – Again I don’t know what’s best for students, I will take a steer and listen on the day.
So March has almost left us now, and it wouldn’t be right for me to start this blog without saying a massive CONGRATULATIONS TO JETHRO!!! And of course to all of the other successful candidates. My commiserations go to those candidates who were unsuccessful, but know that the experiences and skills you have gained as candidates will stay with you and aid you in whatever careers you choose to pursue.
As the title of this blog suggests, I will begin with the usual rendition of some of the important things I have been up to as VPW. However the final bit is kind of an opportunity for me to get up on my soap box and explain an encounter I had in Cannon Hill Park this Easter weekend.
So what have I been up to this month? WELL…
First of all I gained a commitment from the University that the Extenuating Circumstances and Fit to Sit procedures WILL be reviewed after Easter, in time for next year’s exam period (yipee!!! Main manifesto point finally on the road to completion!!) This agreement was at the UEB-SOG (University Executive Board – Sabbatical Officer Group) meeting – the first of it’s kind!! Which is incredible in itself, let alone the agreements we made.
I’ve also been working on Gender Neutral toilets in the Guild! They will be trialled next term on the second floor (the same level as the sabb corridor) between marketing and the hairdressers – right outside the balcony to Deb Hall. I understand that there are issues about the location, it’s isolated and a bit of a pain to get to. But this is a huge step forward for the Guild, for 10 years we have been talking about Gender Neutral toilets and finally we have the opportunity to trial them. The toilets also address some of the concerns people had about case stories from other universities where sexual assaults have taken place in their gender neutral toilets during their club nights as these toilets are in a part of the building which is not accessible during FAB. I have spoken to the LGBTQ association and they were very happy with this proposal and I will leave a comments box in the toilets all term so that anyone who uses the toilets can tell us what they think of them.
I have also been working on a revamped NIGHTBUS! Wooo Wooooooo!!!! As the clubbing scene in town is not doing too well at the moment and FAB is booming as ever I have decided that the nightbus will be best used for Guild nights to get people home safely in Selly Oak and the halls. It is still a free service, which has been a much debated subject because (and this is a fair point) if one is paying for a night out why shouldn’t you pay to get yourself home. But for the moment I think that the nightbus taking people home safely from FAB and Sports Night (or Sports and Nutrition night) should be a free service. I think we should also be working with the local police to ensure that they know times the nightbus goes and places it drops too (for example if it has to start making stops like a bus stop rather than taking people to their houses – for capacity reasons) so that we are not just dropping people in groups with no protection. But that may be a matter for Guild Council and the future VPW to sort through as I suspect it may be after my time now.
So that’s the important parts of what I’ve being doing as VPW. Now I would like to tell you what happened to me on Easter Saturday (the day before Easter Sunday, that is).
A trigger warning here is that this will discuss sexual assault so please don’t read on if you think it will upset or offend you.
So I was helping out a friend by dog-sitting for the afternoon and thought I’d wear little Charlie (the dog) out by taking him for a long walk around Cannon Hill park.
We had got to the park and were half way round our first little wander round the lake when three young men, I’d say late teens, potentially early twenties at a push, jumped out of some bushes on the outer side of the path. They startled me a bit but I barely acknowledged them and continued walking Charlie. Suddenly from behind me I heard an ‘Excuse me’, so I turned around and the conversation went like this:
Him: ‘I think you’re well pretty, can I have your number?’
*I’m walking away, he’s following*
Me: ‘No. I have a boyfriend, this is his dog, so no.’
Him: ‘Oh please, I just think you’re so pretty.’
Me: ‘No. That’s not appropriate.’
Him: ‘Ok, can I have a hug then?’
*He spreads his arms out, I jump sideways and walk a bit quicker*
Me: ‘No, go away.’
Him: ‘Oh don’t be like that, look just shake my hand, I wanna be friends.’
*At this point I stop and turn slightly*
Me: ‘Look I don’t know what little bet you have on with your friends but I have said no now please leave me alone’
*I continue walking, he stays still*
Him: ‘Nahh I don’t care about them, oh come on!’
I then walked on along with the dog and looked back to see him high five-ing all of his friends.
I continued to walk around the park alone with Charlie and a few things occurred to me.
1. I was actively scared now to walk around the park again, and yet I was also scared to walk to along the lonely roads home in case they were there and angry that I had said no.
2. I had first excused my reason for not giving him my number with the words ‘I have a boyfriend’, not that I don’t give my number to strangers, or that I don’t give it to people who jump out of bushes, or even that I don’t like creeps who say they like the way I look before asking my name . But I made myself an object, I told him someone else owned me and therefore he could not. I like to think I’m a pretty strong minded, strong willed woman, and in an instant I gave all of that up.
3. I rang a close friend to talk through the events whilst I continued walking, and one of the first thing we discussed was what I was wearing. I was wearing trackies, a hoodie, big walking boots and a snood. No make up, and my hair a complete mess. We called these ‘not exactly “come at me boys” clothes’. Now this was something else that surprised me, that my state of mind dressed like this was that no one should bother me because I wasn’t dressed for it. Now I know how ridiculous this is, I know that the majority of women who face sexual assault are attacked by someone they know. But I realised that when I go on nights out and I’m wearing short dresses etc I expect to be bothered. I expect to be objectified. Not consciously, but I do. I prepare myself for it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take it well on nights out, I almost always either get a bouncer or get pushy with the person myself (‘short person syndrome’ is what my friends call it because it’s usually against someone much bigger than me). But I did not expect it on this walk, I wasn’t prepared and I panicked, I genuinely didn’t know what to do. How can the way you look change your state of mind so much?
4. Finally, this boy way determined to touch me in some way. He wanted a hand-shake, a hug, probably more. Physical contact was a goal for this boy, and No wasn’t an answer. And a huge part of me feared that had I been alone, in a lonely street, without a big old dog with me, that he probably wouldn’t have taken no for an answer. Touching me was almost his right, and I was being unreasonable.
And of course, this experience is not extraordinary. It’s something that happens every day to women, in broad daylight, in well populated areas. So what does it all mean? Well for a start clothes, make-up, relationship status and location mean absolutely nothing when it comes to sexual assault. These things don’t even feature in the mind of a sexual assaulter. A sexual assaulter sees a woman as their right, touching a woman is not a privilege to these people.
Of course I am generalising. It is not just women who face sexual assault, lots of people of all sexes and gender face sexual assault.
But this all leads to the same conclusion. We should not educate people how to avoid sexual assault. I should not have to learn self defence (although I am incredibly grateful to Leander Jones the VPDR for sourcing self defence classes for women next term), I should not have to be walked home by someone at night, and I should not have to wear ‘discrete’ clothing in order to avoid sexual assault. Nor should anyone else. Instead people should be taught to RESPECT each other. They should be taught from a very young age that touching another is not a right, it is a privilege, it is something that should be earnt.
But this is not an ideal world, and the unfortunate truth is that in a world where sexism is still rife, page 3 till exists and women are still objectified in even the subtlest of ways then women will have to learn self defence and avoid dark streets and walking alone.
But hopefully small changes will get us there, and I for one will never use the words ‘I have a boyfriend’ as an excuse.
Happy Easter Everyone.
February has been, quite frankly, freezing cold! And rather busy!
A huge part of February was taken up with fulfilling Guild Council mandates. The first of which was a mandate requiring the President and I to go away and speak to the relevant people at the University to ensure that Syrian students are receiving the necessary support to continue with their studies here at Birmingham following the conflict in their home country. Whilst the details are complicated and can be viewed in the report to be submitted to the next Guild Council (unfortunately we were a couple of days late to get it in in time for the GC just gone), the simple answer is that the University is supporting Syrian students, and unlike what the motion suggests may have happened at other Universities, no Syrian students have been expelled from our University due to financial issues following conflict in their home country. However, the University cannot offer special treatment over and above other students, such as fee waivers, as they cannot distinguish one person’s difficult circumstances from another students (for example the Syrian conflict and those in Iraq and Iran or natural disasters such as the tsunami in Japan). But the Uni easily can offer fee extensions and deferrals as well as payment plans and hardship funds.
The next mandate was for me to look into the possibility of a Walking Bus from Guild club nights. Having spoken to the VPW at Southampton Solent (the only university I have found to have successfully implemented such a scheme) we found some irreconcilable differences between our locations, and having consolidated all of this information into representation to the women’s association (the proposers of the motion) we agreed that such a scheme is not possible at our university, but that I should go away and fix the issues with the Nightbus to create a scheme which will positively affect the safety of our students. Again this report will go to the next GC.
So next was the General Meeting debacle in which GM-2 was cancelled because the University’s datafile containing all of the email addresses for our members was not a complete and thus a significant number of students never received the notification if a GM. this meant that both GM-1 or GM-2 would have been illegitimate because company law dictates that all members must receive nonfiction of a GM at least 2 weeks before the GM takes place, and thus the whole place must be restarted again, so we are now planning for GM-3, with a whole new notification and a whole new proxy collection which is, of course, less than ideal.
The Guild has come under a lot of criticism for this on social media. But why? This genuinely was not the Guild’s fault. The University supplied us with the wrong data file. But the arguments have been that legally the Guild must know who it’s members are. A. Valid point. But here’s my rebuttal! We do! Because the University does. On this matter we unfortunately cannot be separated and the reason is that all students and the University of Birmingham are automatically a member of the Guild. It is an opt out system, not an opt in one. But the Guild does not accept students to the University, the University does that, and then the University registers students and takes their details. The University has to know what students are here, so it can do very important things such as tell the Government we are students and shouldn’t pay council tax, that we do exist and so deserve a student loan, and most importantly so we can be registered for things like exams. The Guild then receives that information from the University. The Guild could not do the same registration process because then we would be an opt in union, which is not the case.
So there’s my rebuttal. This is a regrettable situation, but it is not the Guild’s fault.
Finally, ELECTIONS HAVE STARTED!!!! Get reading those manifestos, get to hustings and question the candidates, and as of Monday GET VOTING! These people will be your officer team for a whole year as of July, so if you want your say in the Guild’s future make sure you vote for the people you think can make a difference!
I must admit seeing all the cardboard and banners is making me a bit sentimental. But I don’t envy the pressure that comes with elections. So I would like to say good luck to all of the candidates, take care of yourself, make sure to drink plenty of (non-alcoholic) fluids, eat well, sleep as much as you can, and HAVE FUN!! If you’re going to take two weeks off your degree you might as well enjoy yourself!!!
So today was supposed to be the general meeting, something which many students have worked towards for over a year now. Thousands of students petitioned for this meeting to be held. Student voice has put in days of work, and the Guild has paid thousands of pounds in legal advice on how to call the first general meeting we have in years.
It is for these reasons that the president and I stood before the general meeting today and called for an adjournment. Having received evidence of potential deception in the proxy voting process we could not say, beyond reasonably doubt, the vote was free and fair – in line with our legal obligations.
It has been argued that the meeting should have gone ahead and been investigated at a later date. But considering the many hours it could have taken to conduct the whole GM, the potential for the whole meeting to have to be re-run I felt was great enough to warrant the postponement of any voting, so as not to further waste student or staff time.
In my speech I stated that we would need 2 weeks to conduct the investigation, and at that time we would reconvene. This is because I believed that to be the agreed upon time scale (give or take a few days). The chair agreed and the vote was taken. Unfortunately the chair took that to mean just the investigation, which caused some confusion when the meeting was actually adjourned. As it is the chair’s discretion it is up to Andrew and although I will work hard and actively seek to maintain the 2 week limit, it is out of my hands, and I apologise for any confusion.
It is incredibly unfortunate that we have ended up in this position, and I hope that it transpires that the allegations are unfounded. Until then a thorough investigation will be conducted as speedily as possible.
Thank you to everyone, both students and staff, who attended the meeting this evening.
I hope you’re all enjoying the festive period, a time which should full of joy and loved ones. I would ask you all to spare a thought for those students, both home and international, who can’t go home for the holidays. And I would like to extend my gratitude to the Student Mentor Scheme for trying the it hardest to make these students week safe and part of a community, by organising events on the Vale after term ended. The student mentors do a terrific job and that was recently recognised by a thank you in person from the Vice-Chancellor.
So the last time I wrote it was the end if SHAG week, and I’d like to comment on its successes. With of the help of the ARC, marketing and communications, student staff and numerous other volunteers, not least from student groups, we managed to reach over 4000 students with sexual health information and got chlamydia testing to nearly 100 students. Whilst this may not seem a lot in comparison to the total number of students at our university, one must bear in mind the effect it has purely by raising awareness. Every student that saw a balloon, flyer or booklet will have been reminded of the importance of sexual health. More than this, SHAG week has not existed for a long time now, it’s not a long-standing and recognised event, which be came incredibly clear when I was campaigning for VPW. So, in my view SHAG week was a huge success.
But! It’s not over yet!! I did not gist hot do all the things I wanted to do in SHAG week, for numerous reasons. Firstly, the chlamydia testing bus I had ordered I or campus was in an accident and could not make it. Nor did I get to do the liberation talks I wanted to do, and not did the Love Jam get sold because it arrived late. So the plan is to do these things around valentines day. So look out for SHAG week 2!! Because everyone knows the basic psychology that the more times you see something the more likely you are to acknowledge mere remember it!!
So next term I plan to get started on my main manifesto pledge to change the extenuating circumstances procedure – mainly to get rid of fit to sit, so if you ever need me I’ll be in my office researching!!
Finally, I wanted to show you all an email I got recently on jiscmail (the NUS emails from other union officers) that made me laugh and summarises well why this blog is called seasons greetings (this is clearly overtly satirical and is meant to be a bit of fun) …
“Please accept without obligation, express or implied, these best wishes for an environmentally safe, socially responsible, low stress, non addictive, and gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday as practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice (but with respect for the religious or secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or for their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all) and further for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated onset of the generally accepted calendar year (including, but not limited to, the Christian calendar, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures). The preceding wishes are extended without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform, or sexual preference of the wishee(s).
In other words, **MERRY CHRISTMAS**!!”
So November for me has been hugely consumed by the organisation of SHAG week (Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance,) an event which hasn’t happened for quite a few years now and I was keen to bring back. In fact, it was one of my main manifesto points!
So what has been happening? Well! There have been a few bumps in the road, not least for the chlamydia testing bus which was supposed to be on campus all week, but which unfortunately got driven into before it got here and so will be returning next week, meaning SHAG week is now SHAG weeks. Also, Terrance Higgins had to let us down last minute, so I attended the RA results night tonight (Thursday) instead of having a mass debate. You can imagine my disappointment.
Monday we had a talk from Violet Rose, an amazing speaker who has advised the NUS on both LGBTQ issues and sex worker rights. The talk was on consent, boundaries and negotiation, which challenged a lot of people’s views and encouraged attendees to look at consent as a way of empowering yourself, as opposed to benefitting the other person.
Tuesday I held a pub quiz, which unfortunately conflicted with the carol service so wasn’t greatly attended, but nonetheless all those who did attend learnt some great STI facts, such as that 33.4 million people around the world have HIV or Aids. The prize was a SHAG box containing some sexual health essentials such as condoms and lube (if you don’t why lube is a sexual health essential, here is a handy video which explains not only that, but also dispells some myths about losing your virginity http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qFojO8WkpA,) and some non-essentials such as white chocolate sperm and some massage oils. This was meant to be a fun and light-hearted event with a serious message so it had 5 rounds: general knowledge, sexual health, geography, film quotes and finally sports.
Wednesday was supposed to be liberation talks. Unfortunately this was seriously undercut with the Israel/Palestine rally on campus at which I had to take up the role of human barricade, calming and preventing what was actually a huge number of students who were extremely passionate. It was a difficult position to be in, but I would much rather I stood there than our students have to be parted by either the police or security guards as this had the potential to exacerbate the situation, but also because I have every faith in my own students that they would not charge or deliberately be violent towards one of their own Guild Officers.
So what’s to come?
Tomorrow is the SHAG fair where both external and student groups will be coming together in a similar set up to the societies fair, informing students about a variety of things. There will be BeSure, a rape advice centre and student groups such fetish society and nightline.
Next week the bus will be on campus testing for chlamydia, and so I have decided to delay the sale of ‘Love Jam’ until next week so as to make the week more coherent. The idea of ‘Love Jam’ is to reassert the emotional side of sex, in that many students choose to wait, and so the Jam is sold for £1 with all proceeds going to world aids day, and it comes with a little tag which reassures students that one should never be pressured into having sex, and gives 5 examples of ways to say you love someone without having sex, the 5th being give them a pot of love jam.
So that’s it. I hope everyone has thoroughly enjoyed all the balloons and events, and I hope to see many of you at SHAG and Fresh this Saturday, where there will be an absolute abundance of condoms!
So October has been jam-packed! We started with the launch of our Zero Tolerance campaign with a panel event where Pete Mercer (the NUS VP Welfare), Kelly Rogers (last year’s women’s officer) and Sacha Hassan (our Ethnic minorities officer) gave fantastic speeches as to why Zero Tolerance is so important, following which I read out a passage Hannah Skolnick (our Anti-racism and anti-fascism officer) had written, following which there were questions and a bit of a debate and then there was an opportunity for everyone to socialise with some tea and coffee. So overall it was a fantastic event for which I am eternally grateful towards everyone involved in organising, and most of all the my predecessors Johnny Davis and Luke Reynolds for putting the work in to get the Guild Zero Tolerance accredited! I just got to do the fun bit and launch what was always their initiative.
But what is Zero Tolerance? The term has proved more illusive than I had anticipated as people tend to mistake what the Zero-Tolerance is towards. This will be partly due to the fact that the Guild decided to adapt the original NUS Zero-Tolerance campaign which was towards sexual harassment only, whereas we felt that ALL harassment should be excluded as no one should feel harassed for any reason within the Guild venues. What is amazing though is that the University liked this idea so much they also agreed to implement the policy and thus we are one of the only universities in the country in which the university and student union have teamed up in this way to provide a Zero-Tolerance approach to all harassment across campus.
So all brilliant so far! But this isn’t where we stop! Oh no! Myself and Jane Tope (the Equality and Diversity Advisor over at the University who is to thank for the initiative being implemented at university level) have recently met up with an organisation called ‘Hollaback Birmingham’ who are trying to prevent street harassment of women and members of the LGBTQ community. We’re hoping to work with Hollaback in order to begin a programme of harassment reporting out in the wider community. So the next step we’re hoping to achieve is to get a student group set up to begin promoting and raising awareness of the Hollaback aims.
So on the Zero-Tolerance front all is going super well!! But that’s not all I’ve been up to, so here’s a quick list of other things I’m using my time for at the moment:
1. Appeals! It’s appeal season again! Another busy time for student complaints and appeals over at the University, and the ARC and I are looking for trends so that we can pin point anything that can be done to improve standards for students.
2. SHAG week!!!! This is my pride and joy, it really is! I won’t say too much as this was one of my major campaign points and I’ll probably do a whole blog on it closer to the time, but SHAG week is booked in the diary for the 26th of November to the 1st of December and it’s going to be amazing! With events ranging from talks, pub quiz’s and fundraisers all the way to ‘S.H.A.G and Fresh’ on the Saturday which will be World Aids Day so we’re hoping to turn the fountain red! It really is going to be amazing! And I’m trying to involve as many student groups as possible so it’s an oober inclusive event for all.
3. I’m currently looking into re-establishing the student-staff forum so that the students who work int he Guild have somewhere to voice their concerns and get direct representation within the Guild.
4. Freshers Fest de-brief! This week I will be writing a report on Chill Out as a documentation of the wonderful things it does every year and that will be fed into the larger welcome week group, along with the feedback we gained last night from a session with the RAs and today with the whole of freshers fest committee, so that hopefully we can keep improving the experience of those who are new to our university!
So all go!! But all well! And I’ll see you all soon!
First thing’s first, you’ll have to excuse any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes or rantyness. I am currently suffering from one serious bout of freshers flu and it’s now 20 to 8 in the evening, we’ve just finished quite a long and jam packed GOG and I am craving for my bed. So all in all, a sign of a blooming good freshers fest! (Or at least I was when I first posted this. After 4 days of very mixed opinions I have decided to revisit this blog now that I’m less tired and fed up).
So for the 3rd year in a rowI was not on the boozy, stary eyed fresher side of freshers fest, but rather the more tiresome and stressful organisational/stewarding side. And having watched the hard work and contributed I would like to highlight some absolutely amazing successes:
1. Only one ambulance was called the whole of freshers fest (touch wood, there’s still a couple more nights to go). This may not seem like much, but if one considers that in my second year there were 12 ambulances called across the 2 weeks then actually this was a huge and substantial achievement. I can only speculate as to the reasons until further impact assessment is done, but I wish to believe that the hard work in the last few years of both the mentors and the RAs to help raise awareness of safer drinking and in helping to reduce ‘laddish’ behaviour. Also the work of myself and James Robertson to provide a comprehensive chill out event in every freshers fest club night in which those who had had enough, those who wanted an alternative night or those who were too drunk or too tired could come and enjoy a quieter area in which one of our student groups were performing and of course the infamous Chilly bear was roaming free in his natural habitat.
So of course number 2 has to be:
2. Chill Out rooms.
3. The hard work of many RAs, Blue hoods (Freshers Fest crew) and Stewards, including members of Carnival Rag who came to the rescue when we were short on stewards.
4. The good spirit of many new students who were patient and understanding when not everything went to plan.
However, although this freshers fest has been a raging success and everyone involved should give themselves one mighty pat on the back, I think there were some things we should learn from for next year so here goes:
1. Empowering volunteers is the best reward and I think the process that was used in my second year to hire stewards, whereby we were put through quite a vigorous recruitment, interview and training process and then given the title of ‘Hall Ambassador’ made us feel important. (The same goes for RAs only they were just given the training and left with the title of RA in the knowledge that they were slightly above the Hall Ambassadors). I understand that this year there were timing issues, and of course the mentors now do the moving in process, but perhaps the empowerment aspect could be looked at before next year. Because having a sense of achievement in making a positive change to the new students’ experience and a sense of importance having gone through a selection process I think will prevent a high drop out rate and any lack of motivation.
2. Hall pride is important. Hall pride inspires volunteering. If one is not passionate about the hall in which they live they cannot possibly be passionate about making positive change for it. I’m not saying we should go as far as Loughborough does (where they line all the new students in halls up together and make them scream as loud as possible…although this does work well for them), but perhaps distinguishing each hall’s t-shirts by colour is a good way to start.
4. Freshers Fest crew don’t look too authoritative in a pastel colour.
But these are more moot points and I think it should be emphasised that this year was incredibly good. We made sure the freshers had a great welcome and everyone involved, staff, stewards, baby blue hoods (freshers fest crew), RAs and sabbs, all did a cracking job for which they are owed a huge amount of thanks!!
For today I will leave it at that, a huge well done and a huge thank you, for now I need a lemsip and my duvet, but rest assured I have much more to say on the last month so my next blog will be along shortly
Much Welfare Love
Everyone has begun talking about the ‘end of summer’ and all the shops are starting to get in their autumn gear, but for some of us it’s been straight out of exams and straight into Sabb year and thus tomorrow (or today, considering it’s now 00.07) I’m off on holiday! Yippeeeeeee! In fact, a lot of the sabbs are off this week coming, and so over the next week we’ll have to ask you to forgive us if your emails aren’t replied to straight away, but we are off having some much needed sunshine!
So what’s been happening since I last blogged? Well, the healthy eating agenda is getting well under-way, with myself and the ever lovely VPS galavanting around Birmingham surveying all SPAR in a 20 mile radius in order to gather some best practice to bring into the Guild and (hopefully) university centre! The best things we picked out were:
-Big pots of freshly prepared fruit.
-£1 sandwich range.
-a salad bar (in Brindley Place…but we’re hopeful).
-Ranges of low fat options such as yoghurts.
In addition to this we are working with the incredibly nice SPAR manager in order to get low fat mayonnaise used in sandwiches; a wider range of healthier sandwiches in store; some sort of calorie bible for the in-house made sandwiches which don’t, unfortunately, have to come with nutritional information – but if this is not possible maybe separating on shelves according to healthiness; as well as more Kosher and Halal food.
So it’s all go on the food front!
Also, those of you who have put in Chill Out applications should check your emails because we’ve had them all in, gone through them, sorted a time-table depending on your preferences and emailed back out!! Welcome week, Freshers Fest and Chill Out are taking up a lot of our time at the moment in an attempt to show the university why the Guild are absolutely amazing at delivering these services and how we consider the welfare of students to be a paramount concern in their first few weeks at university.
In relation to the new arrivals, I have been working closely with marketing to implement one of my main manifesto points which was to provide a comprehensive package to all new arriving students so that they will have a complete guide as to welfare matters as soon as they get here. That includes information on the Guild, societies, welfare services both at the Guild and at the University, a welcome week booklet, castle cars price guides and many other important things! I’m really excited about them and I’ll definitely upload a picture when they’re finished (if I can ever figure out how!!).
The Nightbus is another big thing at the moment, and I’m hoping to have a new, improved and completely revamped system out asap next term! And now, it might actually be a real, genuine bus! – Not a mini-bus, an actual bus!!
Finally, myself and el Presidente have been having meetings and I am supporting him in putting together a report on the challenges facing international students following new Government decisions on immigration, especially the new 5 year cap on studying in the UK, which will have a detrimental effect on any international student who needs to take a leave of absence whilst studying in the UK.
So that’s it for now! My next blog will be at the end of Freshers fest now, when I’ll be running around with our fabulous VPHC making sure it goes without a hitch and Chill Out is working and documented, so I’ll probably be tired and haggered and in full realisation of my old age.
Until then, have a great last week of summer and we’ll be here to welcome you back for the new term.
- April 2013 (2)
- March 2013 (1)
- February 2013 (1)
- January 2013 (1)
- December 2012 (1)
- November 2012 (1)
- October 2012 (1)
- September 2012 (1)
- August 2012 (2)
- Guild_VPW: RT @Hugo_Sumner: This motion is ridiculous. If anyone thinks Sabbs do it for the money or for other financial reasons they've lost the plot… May 16, 2013
- Guild_VPW: @KrishMerai Best/potentially most controversial hashtag ever! May 16, 2013
- Guild_VPW: @KrishMerai Hey it had context! All the laptops in the RA Guild Council crew are Apple Macs! I can see 7 from here! May 16, 2013
- Guild_VPW: @Tim__Lucas Thank you :) I try my best! May 16, 2013
- Guild_VPW: @MisterJames_ i voted for! I canvassed and the WA told me that's what they wanted! April 11, 2013