Laura Barr – VP Welfare
As Laura was on pre-booked Annual Leave at the time of the Union Senate meeting,q uestions were summitted by Senators and added to the minutes at a later stage.
Q. Have the Sunflower Badges been introduced and how many have been sold? Can anyone buy them? How are people being told about them and their meaning?
A. They have been introduced and around 29 have been sold so far, but after consultation we decided to make them free alongside the pronoun badges. The sunflower scheme is also being extended further into public transport awareness too with the disabilities officer.
Q. 'Deconstruct competitiveness' - what does that mean?
A. I mean the worry that resources for one group will take away resources for another group. Its obviously true there is a finite amount of resources, and that different allocations happen at different times for different reasons, but I don’t want to run campaigns that make people feel they need to fight for space to be heard. I’ve had some feedback in my 360’s that in my efforts to be inclusive, it has sometimes meant that majority communities have not been considered. I want to ensure that we are inclusive and emphasis is where it needs to be, which includes majorities. For example, for male mental health month, there was a worry to why we weren’t talking about female mental health. This month was dedicated to male suicide because it disproportionately affects men under 45, but we also ensured that trans and non binary people were considered, such as in social media, the demonstration, and various other things. I want to take that stance of, including the majority, but not focusing mostly on them, but ensuring the platform is appropriately shared. This way, I hope to discourage the backlash from different groups (for example, what about international mens day?) and use the years campaigns to have different focuses at appropriate times, and thus not making people feel they have to fight to have a platform. Its very ambitious but hopefully I can help it a bit!
Q. Has there been any feedback about BHM from the forum?
A. Yes! There’s been loads. Lots of things about being more transparent, reaching more people for engagement, having more things as a core offer instead of an add on, having themes around the forum. Its too long to update but I will have more updates come next senate, but its looking like a really good start at the moment.
Q. 'Wellbeing area' - how will you avoid duplication with Enabling drop in?
A. I’m not sure where this was written but its not an area with counsellors, its an area with a cupboard and free products such as menstrual and sanitary items, colouring books, reusable ear plugs (to take away) bags of tea, stim toys for neurodiverse people, and other things. This will be launched in sem2.
Q. Conversation about eating disorders etc - how to ensure students are not triggered by email/posters but conversation still open?
A. I’m not and I wont claim to be an expert around this topic but I have changed eating disorders to disordered eating, and body positivity. I’ll explain fat representation in this one as well. I would like to be able to raise awareness of different conversations and support systems for students who may engage with disordered eating and poor body image, but not by giving them rules on how and what to eat. There is something called intuitive eating, which is essentially learning to listen to what your body needs, and removing shame from food. So, I’d like to address and deconstruct people seeing (for example) cake as ‘bad’ and vegetables as ‘good’, and consider why (with disordered eating) people then project those moral positions of food onto themselves, and so they become ‘bad’ or ‘good’, which then leads to or is already an eating disorder. So, its understanding our relationship with food and ourselves/bodies.
This is a very simple way of putting it and it is MUCH more nuanced than that, but in principle, I’d like to open up an opportunity for people to reflect themselves, and relearn some attitudes they have about food. And, with body image, i would like to deconstruct the notion that ‘fat’ is ‘bad’. Firstly, by not seeing fat as a bad word, but a descriptor, and not someones identity. I would like to raise awareness of people being defined by more than their body, that fat people can be fit and active, and address medical fatphobia.
Medical fatphobia is essentially when someones fatness is seen as the biggest indicator or reason they are ill or have a medical condition, and often this means that people are shamed, not taken seriously about their symptoms or pain, and the fatness is seen as the disorder in and of itself. Again, a much more nuanced conversation than just this, but I hope to try and encourage people to get in to sport to be ACTIVE, not to lose weight or be skinny as a priority, or any reason, but to improve their health- which can still be improved without losing weight as its main goal. Losing weight is often a by product of being active, but losing weight does not happen to everyone who is active. AND, naturally, there will be content warnings where possible.
Happy to talk about this more in person instead of writing an entire essay on here but essentially its not dictating to students what they should and shouldn’t eat, how they should feel, but providing the tools and positive messages that they deserve to be treated with respect, and that they are still valued, no matter what their body size.
Q. Accessibility re physical needs - had previously said can't do gender-neutral toilets as no development plan so why would the University be able to build more ramps?
A. The university is currently developing their 10 year plan which has accessibility AND gender neutral toilets in that plan. Also, accessibility is about MUCH more than just building more ramps… its ensuring that toilets have the red cord in an accessible place and not tied up, its about ensuring that doors open wide enough for people with physical needs and ensuring that there aren’t things in the way, such as small bumps like we have on the SUSU double doors which make it difficult for people in wheelchairs to get over. Its also about making sure that lifts are signposted a lot more easily, making sure that for events and such there are accessibility requirements in place and that in the university and the unions development, it is always a thing to consider. Its also about much more than physical needs, but invisible illnesses that are physical but not apparent too.
Q. Mandatory training - all clubs & socs. What about other students? Should/will it be for all students?
A. We currently have limited funding from the University to go too far with this immediately but essentially we are working off our LMS (Learning Management System), which can only hold a certain amount of people. We cannot put all 11,000 student volunteers on the system at once. I have started with clubs and societies as they are the biggest group that we get issues from and our biggest base of people. The plan is to create a year spread of allocated time for clubs and societies, student officers, and staff. This comes under expect respect, which will be mapped out in more detail in next senate. So, in short, its been thought about and it is an ambitious target that I hope will be kept even after my term, but we because of resource constraint and much needed development of the training, we have to start small and build up.
Q. Aftermath of Brexit - what is 'protection' and how far can SUSU actually go to protect students?
A. We can lobby the university, relay student concerns, provide platforms for students to hear news about Brexit and get correct information, and protect their interests by representing as many as possible when it comes to any plans and decision making with the University.
Q. Expect Respect/Zero tolerance - how do they relate to post-Brexit concerns/protection?
A. Simply that we celebrate and value our erasmus, EU and international students and we will not stand for any xenophobia that may occur as a result of Brexit conversations.
Q. WIDE training - how to evaluate inclusion techniques?
A. They have to put down 3 commitments and longer term we will figure out better ways to evaluate this, but it is hard to do so with 297 clubs and societies. We are also using it in disciplinaries to show that we have given them training, they have promised to do certain things, and if its reported that they have gone against this, then we will be in a better position to educate or discipline them.
Fiona Sunderland – VP Activities
Q. What's happening with the lift in the Annexe?
A. Currently in talks with E&F, currently no lift. Feasibility study approved so that will be happening first.
Comment - WSA - media socs have tried. To engage students there but at the Fresher's Fair only 2 people spoke to us.
Q. It takes you a long time to follow up on emails
A. I generally respond quickly so if you haven't received a reply in a week, please assume I haven't seen the email and re-send
Q. What about refurb of NST?
A. Still happening but conversations ongoing
Olivia - VP Sports
Q. Free sports programme - how will this be funded?
A. Depends how we go forward. It currently uses our rugby development co-ordinator so there is no cost to us
Q. What is the equipment at Avenue ?
A. Tennis, basketballs, football
Q. Martial arts room - any progress with this?
A. We received a petition - S&W have already looked at some of the issues raised.
Emily Harrison – Union President
Q. Last time there was a 10 yr plan you renamed SUSU to US. Will you do it again?
A. No plans for a rebrand in my time
Q. Will students be consulted about 10 yr plan?
A. Yes already happening via feedback received through YMC etc but nothing concrete to invite students to comment on yet
Jo Lisney – VP Education and Democracy