Here we are at the end of what must have been one of the strangest terms to ever be a student in history.
We knew we would be coming back to a different experience but with little knowledge of just how it would play out. I am massively impressed with the dedication of students this term, to continue despite the circumstances, but we acknowledge that it has been a difficult time for many.
Despite the challenges we have experienced so far this academic year, there are reasons for optimism with the news around vaccines and I sincerely hope you are all able to take a break over the holiday period to refresh and reflect on what an unusual term it has been.
In a term where there were so many government restrictions in place, imposing so many limitations on how we go about our daily lives, it would be easy to think that we haven’t been up to very much here at the Students’ Union, but I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we’ve been working tirelessly and harder than ever to support students this term, with every day seemingly bringing a new challenge! Here’s a brief rundown of some of the things we’ve been up to:
Alissa Chohan (VP Education) and I have attended early morning ‘Rapid Response’ meetings with the senior Executive of the University on a daily basis since September and throughout the whole term where we have worked in partnership to flag, discuss, and resolve any immediate issues and concerns from students in relation to both their education and their experiences on campus.
We know that the University has found our involvement in these meetings invaluable and we have really appreciated the part we have played in ensuring student voice is at the heart of the decisions being made. On my side, this has focused on the wellbeing of students in self-isolation, the COVID security of campus, the mass testing system put in place for students to return home, and everything in between. For Alissa this has focused primarily on the delivery of education in the blended approach, with feedback from the Digital Education Experience 2.0 Survey (report findings to be released to students in the new year) providing important insight in recent weeks, alongside securing a new extensions policy and support for digitally disadvantaged students.
We have also engaged heavily with both academic reps and Collective convenors this term to understand the experiences of students and where improvements need to be made. These discussions have focused on safety on campus, the experience of PGT students, the equality impact of COVID changes, and the mass testing system among other things. We are grateful to students for providing this extremely beneficial information which has fed into discussions with the University.
Communicating all of the information this term has been mammoth, and we have worked closely with the University to support the communication of key messages. I would advise you to regularly look at the student intranet and @rhscampuslife Instagram, as well as the blogs posted on our website and social media, to ensure you don’t miss anything.
We know it can be easy to get lost in everything that is going on at the moment, both at university and externally. Henn Warwick (VP Wellbeing and Diversity) has been working closely with the Wellbeing team to support students on a range of issues including the launch of the reporting platform RH BeHeard and support for students applying for the Study Support Grant and the Digitally Disadvantaged Fund. She has also met with the lead practitioner at the Health Centre, in the GP Assurance Group, to discuss issues of sexual health and contraception and is excited to release some promising news on this topic in the new term. As always, if you feel you could benefit from some support, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Henn or the Wellbeing team.
I also appreciate that it has been a particularly difficult term for the 130 sports clubs and societies that we support, with the introduction of the Rule of Six at the beginning of term imposing real limitations on their ability to run activities, followed closely by all in-person activity being suspended from the start of the November lockdown.
However, Lucy Brown (VP Societies and Sport) and I have been hugely impressed with the quality of the online activity that student groups have been running, as well as the fantastic campaigns we have seen on social media. Lucy has been working tirelessly to support groups, despite all the changing regulations, from lobbying for space for societies to meet in accordance with COVID secure guidance, to working closely with Active Lifestyle & Sport to provide access to facilities for our sports clubs. We know it will have felt incredibly disheartening to be a member of a club or society this term but the virtual social networks provided by so many of these groups have been crucial to the mental health and wellbeing of so many students this term.
Despite everything that this term has thrown at us, we are excited to head into Term Two and a new year which will (fingers crossed) provide some light at the end of this tunnel. We are particularly looking forward to throwing ourselves into a few non-COVID related pieces of work (!), including our housing policy inquiry, our annual Academic Rep Conference, support for joint honours students, continuing our work on anti-racism, organising some free Active sessions at times of high stress, running a sustainability campaign, and launching a review into how we support academic societies. We will, of course, continue to support all students with the potential impacts of the pandemic as we all collectively navigate the next few months.
Finally, I would like to say an enormous thank you from all of the Sabbatical Officers for all of your engagement and support this term. For now, take a break and relax after an intense term (and year) and enjoy the time off, before we head into what will hopefully be a more positive year in 2021.
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