This has been such a challenging year for everyone. We would like to finish our term as Presidents of the SU, by thanking every single student that has been able to keep motivated throughout; we are very proud of you. Noone expected this, but you have made it! Congratulations!
Everyone has made some remarkable achievements this year, and our job would have been impossible without the outstanding contributions of our student volunteers, who have kept us motivated to succeed. Here are some of the things that we have been able to do with your help.
Dan Goulborn, President of Education:
- Completed my campaign on academic feedback by ensuring that the University is committed to “provide students with high quality feedback on their work.” This is published in the Student Charter, which was passed at Senate on 3 March.
- My campaign to set up group wellbeing sessions was adapted by the Suffolk Student Wellbeing Ambassadors, to create a monthly event, called ‘Just Brew It’ on the Icebreaker platform.
- Agreed funding to introduce the Good Night Out Campaign to Ipswich to prevent discriminatory violence in nightlife in Ipswich. This campaign is ongoing, though will be completed by September 2021.
Course Rep Forum
The Course Rep Forum is a new meeting model, inspired by the use of breakout rooms in online meetings. The SU have been able to hold an informal course rep catch-ups, used to hold discussions on current issues, pending motions to Student Council, or just to extend the visibility of the SU and School Officers to reps. It has been a success this year, and I hope it will continue next year.
Challenges of Covid-19
The impact of Covid-19 has been widespread throughout the year, both for the SU and for students. One of the key areas of interest has been the temporary changes to assessment regulations. I have worked with the University to make sure that students will not be disadvantaged in their studies due to the ongoing effects of Covid-19.
I have also been in close discussion with the Health and Sports Science School, to ensure that students on placements in the NHS are being made safe. I have also advocated for students that are advanced in their studies, and are working independently, are being financially rewarded for their commitment.
The impact of Covid-19 also reached graduation. I have been involved in making sure that the Class of 2020 get the best possible experience under the circumstances: a personal celebration, held at the Waterfront building.
The SU have encouraged UoS to take a more open approach on social media, being more responsive to live feedback. This is something that has caused significant tension on sensitive subjects, and answering social media queries is an increasingly important part of the more digitally-focused year we have had.
Students in accommodation
The SU have also been working hard to give something back to students in this difficult year: when the university were given funding by the government for hardship purposes, we recommended that it should go to students in accommodation. A £500 hardship bursary was created to support them. We have also created new Accommodation Rep roles, so we can coordinate events and feedback with accommodation providers and students living there.
This year Freshers and Re:Freshers were delivered primarily online. Events included educational, social and well-being activities: Discover Ipswich Hunt, a Welcome Quiz, comedy nights, mindfulness sessions, a Cook along, Cocktail and Mocktail Making, a Coffee Master class, walks on Felixstowe seafront and in Christchurch park.
The SU’s LGBT+ Officer, Darragh, and Mauro proposed a motion to Council in support of the ban on conversion therapy. The motion was passed at Student Council and commits the SU to release a statement to this effect - affirming our commitment to equality for all students and supporting those who have had negative experiences of conversion therapy. The Student Officer Committee have written and released the statement. The SU are proud of our members for raising this issue with us, and we are proud to be able to support everyone in this way.
The full-time Officers have supported suggestions from the student body to retitle the Sabbatical Officer roles to reflect a growing SU; give equality to the job title and remove an implied hierarchy; clarify the roles of the two Sabbatical Officers.
A motion was proposed by Axel, the Students with Caring Responsibilities Officer, and seconded by myself was passed at Council that petitioned the Sabbatical Officers to work with the University to amend Block Learning. Block Learning is understood to affect some students negatively, despite lots of positive feedback. This motion is being followed up with listening sessions for students that may find difficulty in adapting to the new type of learning. This enables the SU and the University to directly address the issues with Block Learning and resolve them quickly.
Mauro Cardoso, Vice-President of Activities and Wellbeing
It is coming to end of my term, and I am looking back at this past year. What we went through, our challenges and achievements and the direction we are all heading...Personally, it is a little sad that i did not re-run because I have so many sick ideas, especially within sports but at the same time, I have to take the opportunities that are there for me. I still speak to our predecessors and they are astonished at how much I have changed and learned in this role. I was initially worried about people's perception of me because of the way I talk, the way I am etc but then I realised, me being different is amazing for the SU and University. With the support of our officers, and SU staff, we have achieved some amazing work such as offering students short courses, celebrating Black History Month and LGBT+ History Month, addressing Athena Hall students; issues with their landlords, released a statement in support of banning conversion therapy, changed our freshers programme in line with covid-19 restrictions, held listen-up sessions for specific groups of students and loads more. We know there are things we could have or should have done but it is all about reflecting and learning.
1. Our role in the Induction process
We attended a university committee which organised the induction and transitioning process for new and returning students. Here we were able to give feedback from our past experiences and what the student body had told us. As representatives from the SU, we made sure you had opportunities to hear about us, who we are, what we do and how you can get involved. As a result of this, you may have seen us in your lectures early in the academic year. It’s an important part of your journey so we hope to always get your feedback so the university can give you a smoother experience.
This year Freshers and Refreshers were delivered primarily online. Events included educational, social and well-being activities: Discover Ipswich Hunt, a Welcome Quiz, comedy nights, mindfulness sessions, a Cook along, Cocktail and Mocktail Making, a Coffee Master class, walks in Felixstowe and in Christchurch park.
3. Athena Rent
Due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, many students in accommodation have been struggling to pay rent, due to the lack of traditional student-jobs, such as bar & restaurant work. As a result, we have been working to find a solution throughout the year, especially with the owners of Athena Hall. Our main focus has been on Athena Hall this year as it is the most expensive, and the largest accredited accommodation provider. The landlords have offered a discount to students that have not been using their rooms during the third lockdown. In addition to this, the Students’ Union were consulted by the university to create a hardship fund for students in accommodation.
4. Student Council
I seconded a motion proposed by the SU’s LGBT+ Officer in support of the ban on conversion therapy. The motion was passed at Student Council and commits the SU to release a statement to this effect - affirming our commitment to equality for all students and supporting those who have had negative experiences of conversion therapy. The Student Officer Committee have written and released the statement. The SU are proud of our members for raising this issue with us, and we are proud to be able to support everyone in this way.
The SU full time officers have supported suggestions from the student body to retitle the Sabbatical Officer roles to reflect a growing SU; give equality to the job title and remove an implied hierarchy; clarify the roles of the two Sabbatical Officers.
A motion, proposed by the SU SWCR Officer was seconded by the President (Education & Engagement) and passed at Council, petitioning the Sabbatical Officers to work with the University to amend Block Learning, as it is believed to affect some students negatively. This motion is being followed up with listening sessions, aimed at certain groups that are understood to have more difficulty adapting to the new type of learning. This will enable the University and the SU to directly address the issues with Block Learning and resolve them quickly.
The SU have been updating the duties of the Part Time Officers, to embed the roles more centrally within the SU structure. The desired effect of this should be that part time officers will feel more engaged with the SU, and as a result will be better able to represent their voter base.
Whenever possible, we represented student views on graduation. As a result of this, the university have decided on an in-person event to mark the achievement of Class of 2020, with a scope to have a larger graduates celebration in the future.
6. Foundation Board
The SU submitted 9 successful bids to the UOS Foundation Board, such as Suffolk Student Wellbeing Ambassadors, Sports Bursaries, and the Green Suffolk Project. The total amount awarded to SU-based projects was £8,595 – all of which was spent to improve the experience of UOS students.
Every year, the two Sabbatical Officers attend the NUS Lead and Change event. This is an introduction to life as an elected officer and gives the opportunity for networking with NUS staff and Officers, as well as creating links with other SU’s around the country.
Phoebe (NUS delegate) and I had the opportunity to represent the UOS SU on a national level at the NUS National Conference. We had three days of attending a range of workshops that had different aims. Some were solely for digging deeper into policies and having discussions with the proposers, to either suggest amendments or have a better understanding. Other workshops were put in place to encourage networking which is beneficial as we were able meet Sabbs/delegates from bigger/smaller SU’s.
There were many policies that passed including policies relating to sexual violence, mental health, student housing and more. You can see what we voted for on behalf of the student body, on the SU website here.
Dan was able to attend the Conference as an observer. This means that he could take part in workshops, discussions, and policy creation – though was not able to vote on the issues. He attended sessions on student rent, the cost of living as a student, discussions on tuition fees, and a seminar on ending sexual violence. This ties in closely with his role as President and relates to his election campaign to introduce the Good Night Out Campaign to Ipswich.
8. Liberation Conference
Similarly, the Liberation officer's (Women’s, LGBT+ & BAME) and I represented the SU at the NUS Liberation Conference where a range of policies were passed, including Singular Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy, Make Inclusive and Accessible Environments Standard, Period Poverty, Pronouns on Microsoft Teams. You can see what we voted for on behalf of the student body, on the SU website here.
9. Other activities
Extra-curricular modules alongside degree – I am involved in a task and finish group led by the university, which focuses on employability. Here, I am looking to implement extra-curricular modules. With the support of the SEA’s, I gathered more information on extra-curricular modules as my survey in December had a low number of respondents. In addition to this, we offered students an 8-week Spanish course which was really popular. Due to the success of the 8-week Spanish course, I am currently researching whether we could offer other short courses such as sign-language.
Active Bystander Pilot – I am co-leading the Active Bystander Task and finish group which involves staff members from the students’ union. We sucessfully run a pilot on the 21st April which consisted of a range of people who have student facing roles. Active bystanders are trained to identify inappropriate behaviour or situations of concern, recognise that these situations do not represent the social norm and are equipped to respond with direct action through any combination of responses. The aim is to promote a pro-social community. After student consultation, it was concluded that the current issue students are facing relate to communication, loneliness, anxiety and stress. As a result of this, we have created 4 specific scenarios that the participants will discuss on the training day.
Networking opportunities – I am meeting with a few Student Experience Ambassadors in implementing networking opportunities for students. At the moment we are focusing on how students can network online and stay connected. For an example, increasing the awareness of our societies as students can meet people with similar interests and build relationships. In conjunction, the SU are implementing a social media strategy where the aim is to give societies an opportunity to engage with students by social media takeovers, Q&A’s etc. Moreover, we are looking at introducing more coffee catchups with the SEA’s to give students a place to give feedback, receive information and to socialise, which I think a lot of people have missed this past year.
- BHM/Listen-up sessions
- Give It a Go
- Sports Facilities
10. Liberation Officer achievements
- Arranged free sanitary products for students to collect – Women’s Officer
- Set up and started the Women’s Liberation Society – Women’s Officer
- Set up and utilized the Women’s Officer Facebook page to increase engagement – Women’s Officer
- Organised LGBTQ+ History Month – LGBT+ Officer
- Held a trans day of remembrance vigil – LGBT+ Officer
- Created a selection of resources for LGBTQ+ students - LGBT+ Officer
- Worked with the university to get support in place – Policies, Carers page on intranet etc. – SWCR Officer
- Hosted social events – SWCR Officer
- Worked with external charities (Gaddum) to support LGBTQ+ carers (mostly Manchester campus) – SWCR Officer
- Looking to set up social media page to increase engagement – SWD Officer
- Initiated discussions around implementing accessible social sports, such as archery, seated volleyball etc. – SWD Officer
The incoming officers are going to be amazing, and we know it! We wish them best of luck!
Last but not least, all we are going to ask you is to just engage with the student community, trust us you will love it and your whole experience will change.