A Year As VP Welfare & Diversity

"Standing up for students, and pushing for real tangible change has been a unique gift that I could not have found elsewhere." Lucy Simpson reflects on her year in office and all of the successes, from Collectives running campaigns on sustainability and mental health, to running workshops on women in academia, disability and so much more!

Well, I think it’s safe to say that this year has not gone as planned for any of us! We started the year off well, only to find that we were up against UCU strikes, a general election, and our own preferendum, and that was just Term One!

Of course, Term Two became dominated quite quickly by coronavirus, and we all know what has happened since. It’s been a hell of a year, but I can say for certain that I am immensely proud of all of the work that I have seen you all achieve, from the new Collectives running campaigns on sustainability and mental health, to running workshops on women in academia, disability and so much more!

Not to forget all the work of the societies and sports clubs, and each and every one of you who have focused on your studies and got through exams and assessments under the most trying conditions.

Wins for students!

  • I’ve pushed the University to commit to the project Report and Support which will give students and staff the ability to report incidents of both racial and sexual harassment either anonymously, or with a request for more support through the Wellbeing and Counselling Services.
  • We launched a feedback system for the student support services, where you can submit feedback and comments on how to improve their services. You can submit feedback through this form here.
  • We released the very first Student Voice Report, focusing on the experience of BAME students on campus.
  • I lobbied the catering services to implement a practice of working with a trained nutritionist to develop their menus. This has been agreed to, and hopefully will come into place during the next academic year, but the project has been put on hold due to the pandemic, so this may be a little bit delayed.
  • I got the University to include the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism into their policies, to ensure that they commit to zero tolerance of antisemitism.
  • I’m working with the Advice Centre to increase the amount of online information and support that you can find on our website, which will be launched later this year.
  • I ran a week-long Eat Well Feel Well campaign on nutrition, where you would have seen the new horsebox bar used for a smoothie giveaway! I hope that this campaign highlighted to you all the importance of nutrition on mental health as well as physical health.
  • I secured a new College policy on gender neutral toilets so that all future buildings will include gender neutral toilets to create more inclusive spaces for all students.
  • We worked with the College to implement new active bystander training for all students and staff to create a more inclusive and welcoming campus.
  • We put up notices in every disabled bathroom on the pull cords, explaining why the cords are there and why they should not be tied up using the Euan’s guide cards.
  • I asked the Financial Wellbeing team to commit to confidentiality during applications for financial support from the University, so that no student sex workers are prevented from accessing financial support (you can read their statement of confidentiality on their web pages).
  • I worked with the Student Opportunities team and VP Sport Dom Brown to redesign committee mental health awareness training and open it up to more people over the year.

What has my experience as a Sabb been like?

This last year has been a rollercoaster ride of unexpected events and trials and I have to say that this year has not gone anything like I expected it to. However, there are many things that I will miss about being VP Welfare & Diversity, primarily the people.

It has been an honour to hear all your stories, worries, and successes, and to stand behind you all and see how amazing you all are. I will also miss the rest of the Sabbatical Officer team, and SU staff who have become more like family and it is honestly really hard when I think about not seeing them on a regular basis anymore.

My ‘Sabblings’ have been the most incredible support and I could not have got through this year without them.

Despite the difficulties that this year has thrown at us, I would not change it for the world. Being a Sabbatical Officer has taught me a hell of a lot, it is intense and emotionally draining. But standing up for students, and pushing for real tangible change has been a unique gift that I could not have found elsewhere.

There’s so much more that I wish I could have done, but I know that the next Sabbatical Officers will continue the fight and always do their best for students.

Where am I going?

Like many graduates, I am entering the job market and looking to the next thing. I’m unsure as to the future at this current time, like many other people, coronavirus has disrupted my plans but I’m looking to the new opportunities that this presents, and options I had not previously considered.

Why should you stand in the SU Elections?

If you’re thinking of running to be a Sabbatical Officer, or even running for a committee position, I would tell you to absolutely go for it.

The experience of being a representative for other people is an amazing one, it can be stressful at times but is more rewarding than you can imagine, and nothing worth doing ever came easy.

The skills that you learn in these roles are rare amongst other young people our age, and is one of the opportunities that you cannot get elsewhere.