A Call For Positive Communication

We are now just over halfway through the term and we have faced more than a year’s worth of trials, challenges, and changes. Unfortunately, this has seen some students and groups display a counter-productive attitude when communicating with us. VP Societies & Sport Lucy Brown has put this blog together in the hope of creating a better working relationship between our student groups and the Student Opportunities team moving forward.

We are now just over halfway through the term and we have faced more than a year’s worth of trials, challenges, and changes…

We know this has been an extremely distressing time for all of our student groups as you try to deliver the best possible experience for your members, in what are – let’s face it – bloody s**t circumstances.

We get that it’s difficult – we really do – and of course you’re going to be frustrated and want answers when it comes to what you can and can’t do as a group. Unfortunately, we do not always have the ability to answer immediately and some decisions, although difficult, are necessary as safety measures to protect all students and staff in the Royal Holloway community. 

While the majority of you have taken things in your stride and been understanding of the challenges we are all facing, there have been occasions where some students and groups have displayed a counter-productive attitude when communicating with us.

We’re here to support you and provide solutions to issues you are facing, wherever possible – this is made so much easier when you approach us in a professional manner, rather than simply laying into us from the get-go. Put simply, a polite email is likely to go much further than a disrespectful one.

To ensure more positive communication is achieved going forward, here are some things to remember:

Government updates

Since the start of term, there have been multiple government updates that have resulted in continual changes to how both the University and the Students’ Union operate. This, in turn, obviously has an effect on you and your student groups.

Just as with the wider world, we’ve seen how these updates have the capacity to change everything, sometimes with less than a day’s notice. When this does happen, try to remember that this impacts on all of us; it takes time for us to read and understand the new guidance, work out how it impacts our groups, formulate an action plan, and communicate the necessary information to you.

The time this takes is entirely dependent on how large the repercussions are, often needing multiple variations for all of our different groups. It's also important to remember that it's not just us making the decisions, there are various other stakeholders involved in the decision-making process, including the University and national governing bodies. Unfortunately, we do not get a heads up of the updates before they are announced and we are waiting for live news updates at the same time as you all are. Please understand we’re not ignoring the situation, it’s just vital that we take the necessary steps to ensure we follow the guidance and communicate the correct information out to you.

At the Students’ Union, we want to do everything we can to make sure you still receive a good student experience, both in terms of your education and your wider engagement with student life. However, when the new guidance and/or legislation is announced, we will need time to get our heads around it before we can come back to you with a response. Where possible, we will release a holding statement, but we really do appreciate your patience during these times.

Changes to Students’ Union operations

Since the start of term, you’ll have seen many changes to how the Students’ Union operates; this includes our venues, the Union Helpdesk, and many of our student group processes.

Where changes have been made, we have kept you updated and we will continue to do so. All updates on our response to the current climate are released in blogs on our website and shared to social media platforms. Student groups are kept up to date with changes through Freshdesk, committee pages on Facebook, and the Student Group Activity & Risk Assessment Guidance document shared on their group’s Google Drive.

Effect on mental health

We understand it can be worrying if you never know when the next change is coming, and when it does come it can seem like the whole world is flipped on its head (again!!)

Covid-19 has increased the risks associated with mental health by removing support networks and other protective outputs. It has also introduced more stressors into everyday life. Stressors are things that cause stress and we are all affected by them in some shape or form.

Mental Health First Aid England believes that everyone has a stress container, a concept to help us understand how we experience stress. The size of your stress container reflects how vulnerable you are to stress. Factors like your genes, your unique life experiences and your environment impact how large or small it is. Try to be understanding of those around you because you never know how full someone’s stress container is!

Stress containers also have taps - these are things we do that relieve stress (e.g. going for a walk, reading a book, having a bath). These taps play an important role in managing your stress container. We understand that your student group may be one of these taps and you are keen to continue to access them wherever possible. We want our groups up and running as much as you do, but this can only happen when it is safe to do so. We are here to help you find alternative activities wherever possible and I’m always here to support student groups in whatever capacity I am able to.

This isn’t a message that was easy to deliver, but as your VP Societies & Sport I felt it necessary to ensure a better working relationship between our student groups and the Student Opportunities team moving forward. If you are ever frustrated, please do come and talk to me before going in all guns blazing. I wouldn’t have run for this role if I wasn’t passionate about student groups, and will continue to fight your corner.

You can send me an email at vpsocsport@su.rhul.ac.uk or reach out to me on social media (@rhsusocsport).