Olivia Union President:
Fiona ran through the pre submitted questions for Olivia’s Report.
Q: What is the lockdown support pack?
A: If you test positive for Covid, you fill in a form for Student Services and you then receive a wellbeing call from Student Services. During that call they will check in with students about their academic needs and what their situation is and any welfare support (e.g entertainment packages, food support)they might need. Olivia mentioned that she worked with the University to produce the support pack.
Q: What is an appropriate balance between in person and online activities?
A: Olivia said that this is a really difficult one and something they have been working on for the last 6 months. SUSU’s view has been that we want a really blended approach to online an in-person activity because some students are really nervous about going on campus and others who are very keen to be there. So, we have taken the approach that we need a blended learning approach with some support for students who cannot make it to campus for any health reasons. So that is what we have been trying to do through our activities and we have tried to lobby the university top do on the academic side. So, for our ‘Welcome Week’ we did some in-person meeting greets but then we replicated them online.
Q: The long-term site goals are very vague, what are they?
A: Olivia agreed that it is vague. She added that this year is not a massive priority for sites, and she tried to reflect that on her report just because of the nature of how this year turned out. The long-term sites goals are to have a very strong physical presence and a support presence in every campus. What had happened before was that Sabbs held drop-ins in every single campus each week. Going forwards it has been included as a massive part in the SUSU strategy and that shows that we are trying to commit to this long term. We are also working with the University and Student Services because they are looking what their presence is going to be in sites as well. So, we are looking if we can co-ordinate in that sense. But as mentioned earlier this is more of a longer-term focus than a shorter one.
Q: The halls representation is also rather vague. What are the halls forums? How often are halls forums to be held? What is the role of the halls officer in this? Is one halls officer enough for all halls?
A: Halls forums started taking place a while back. They are basically a chance for students to ask any questions they have. There are representatives from SUSU, Student Life and Residences. They are taking place monthly at the moment and if there is a need for more, more can be put in. The role of the halls officer is to be co-chairing alongside Olivia. If one halls officer is enough, is difficult to answer. Olivia noted that there had not been any representatives for individual halls this year. The halls structure used to be very different and at the moment this is a transition away from that. Each hall used to have a committee and was there to organise social activities and our focus has moved this year particularly away from the social activities to the more representation function. So, for this year it is particularly relevant to provide representation more heavily than ever, so we thought that the halls forum would be a good chance for students to feed in any questions.
Q: How is SUSU ensuring halls students’ welfare in halls?
A: Olivia mentioned that whenever we get a welfare complaint through halls whether it comes through our anonymous supporting tool or whether it is emailed in directly, we try to raise it with the university. For example, we had issues for water supply come up and general welfare. Welfare is a real focus for us because we are aware that this is a big transition for them, and we are focused on this kind of loneliness and mental health issues around students in halls.
Q: Relating to Building 42, I do not understand what the proposal is. How can there be a proposal but no analysis of wants and needs?
A: Olivia commented that this is something she is really passionate about. She thinks that the SUSU building is very tired and not fit for purpose. There were leaks at least once a week during the Freshers period, so we need a substantial investment in the SUSU building and Olivia has been trying to lobby the university for that. It is very early days, and it is something that takes a long time, so she is not expecting to have anything done during her time as a Union President, but she wanted to get the ball rolling on it. Olivia said that SUSU are lobbying for the project to get going and it is, which is really positive. Olivia mentioned that they are meeting every two weeks with Estates and Facilities to go through the building plans. SUSU are putting a proposal to the Estates Programme Board soon and then we can get going with some stuff around the wants and needs. Wants and needs are assessing what our priorities are and what needs to happen for the students’ union to improve and then what would be the things that would be nice to have. As part of that we need to ensure that we are involving everyone, and that is part of the new SUSU strategy; so, it would involve student input, staff input and university input.
Q: Is there a way we could present a better format for these plans?
A: Olivia said that she has been having conversations with SUSU’s Chief Operating Officer around trying to include these plans on the SUSU website. We are hoping to have an ‘Update’ section on the website, but this is more of an idea at the moment than ongoing.
Avila Chidume, VP Education and Democracy
Avila’s plan was taken as read, and she moved on to answer the questions asked:
Q: What training do PATs already receive (if any) and what training do you want them to get?
A: The training PATs currently have is determined by the Centre for Higher Education and Practice; the department within the university that provides a variety of resources to do with standard support, signposting students, and areas and topics such as Equality and Diversity. The issue is that the majority of the training is not compulsory, so what Avila is hoping to do is work with the course reps to lobby or encourage the lecturers and PATs alike to participate and demonstrate that they have done this training and that they are ready to support students when need be.
Q: Promoting opportunities for BAME/LGBT/disabled has been put under ‘Representing academic interests’. Does this not lie with Nicole/Corin (Welfare and Careers)?
A: The magical thing about this year is that all 5 Sabbs are working together very well so everything is interlinking perfectly, so Avila is working alongside Nicole and Corin. The areas which Avila is focusing on are to do with Employability. Avila has taken that one from what was originally under Activities because she felt it fit more into what she hoped she could achieve this year. So, she will be focusing on businesses which are purposely advertising towards these minority groups and allowing students from those areas to apply.
Q: What information and communication does this concern?
A: Lots of communication which students currently receive is to do with general uni-wide issues and concerns. However, there are often times where there seems to be areas where miscommunication takes place and students receive information which is not relevant to them or they do not receive any communication at all. So, Avila would like to work with the University to ensure that when important decisions are made this is communicated as soon as possible. For example, first year students might receive information that is only relevant to final year students, and Avila does not think that is right, so she is hoping to work with the university to improve this.
Q: Is this only the actual sending of information or also how to find information?
A: It is a combination of both. As Olivia mentioned we are working to improve the SUSU website to ensure that things are easily accessible. We want there to be a smoother transmission to information being shared to prevent misinformation being spread.
Nicole Akuezumba, VP Welfare and Community
Nicole’s plan was taken as read, and she moved on to answer the questions asked:
Q: How many of the University working groups are you targeting for student involvement? Or to put it another way, how many of the groups do you believe to be relevant for a student member?
A: There are probably 2 main ones that Nicole is hoping to get students involved in. The Race and Equality Charter which already has student representatives sitting on it and then the Tackling Harassment working group which is currently postponed until the Spring semester due to Covid and other priorities right now. In answer to the last part of the question Nicole said that she thinks there are quite a few of them, but a lot of them are staff focused, for example there is the US Respect which is not relevant to students.
Q: Why the focus on paid-student advisory group, could this potentially increase expectations and create barriers to being able to become a of member of these groups?
A: Nicole explained that the reason why she proposed that the advisory group be paid is that she feels that sometimes the content of these groups could be taxing for students, so it would be beneficial for them to have some kind of financial or some kind of incentive to go through this emotional tax.
Q: How is PGR welfare included into SUSU’s approach? Often this group feels that they are between students and staff and so people might be less inclined to approach SUSU. On the other hand, the Faculty internal structure vary very widely.
A: As PGRs sometimes feel they are between students and staff it might be difficult for them to feel that they are represented by SUSU. When Nicole tries to do campaigns she tries to make sure that the content that goes out applies to all students and it is not specific to undergraduates and besides PGRs it also applies to international, to mature and other hard to reach groups. For example, when we did the International Buddy Scheme, we had 2 application windows; one in October and one in January to make sure that any PGR student starting in January could be part of the scheme.
Q: What do you consider hard to reach students and why are they hard to reach?
A: From Nicole’s perspective hard to reach students are international students, BAME students, students who commute and students who live on other campuses and also mature students and PGRs as well. With regards to why they are hard to reach, for example mature students start at a different age group to other undergraduate students and that in itself puts them in a different life perspective. The same thing could be said for student parents, who have different priorities to a typical undergraduate.
Q: What is the network you want to create to engage with hard-to-reach students?
A: Other Students’ Unions have networks to reach out to hard-to-reach students. They have specific events and create communities for them. So, for example they have a ‘student parents network group’ where they have events (e.g have lunch together, meet and greets). That is what I meant by network.
Q: What is the aim of SUSU EDI strategy?
A: One of the 3 key values of the SUS strategy is ‘Take Responsibility’ and as part of that, EDI is important and we need to ensure that we have an EDI strategy so when we are holding other responsible we have a strategy that helps us to do that. Our vision for the future is that every student can have a good experience at Southampton, so it is important to have an EDI strategy so student from varying backgrounds, especially BAME students who suffer from racial discrimination, can have the same experiences as a non BAME student. That also applies for staff. Staff need to feel safe so then they can provide students with the best experience possible.
Q: Is this only for SUSU roles and clubs?
A: The EDI strategy would be for all parts of SUSU; from Operations to Facilities, which are things like the staff in the ‘Shop’ to the staff in the ‘Bridge’ and all staff; the finance staff, the HR staff. This would be done to ensure that all staff and students are our priorities here at SUSU and they feel well represented and safe.
Q: Are there any plans to help the university responsible for their EDI strategy?
A: Our EDI strategy is in line with the University’s strategy, so we are looking at what they are doing and as we look through it, if we see anything that we do not agree with we will definitely call them up on that. SUSU’s EDI strategy is in its early stages, but as time goes on, we will hold the university accountable where necessary.
Q: Are there any of those groups which have a relevance to PGRs? Because there is a lot of overlap between our PGR staff or students and there might be boards that might be relevant to our specific needs.
A: There are working groups that could get PGRs involved and moving forwards Nicole will contact Avila to talk about getting PGRs involved there.
Action: Nicole to contact Avila to talk about getting PGRs involved in groups which are relevant to PGRs.
Sam Tweedle, VP Sports
Sam’s plan was taken as read. There were no questions for Sam.
Corin Holloway, VP Activities
Corin noted that his plan is to help societies and make it easier for societies to do things. He then went on to reply to the questions that had been asked.
Q: On ‘Advertisement’ you are a bit vague. How are you going to find new ways?
A: We will try to work with the Marketing team and try to get students involved in things. Corin added that he tries to talk to students directly and message them suggesting things that they could do. That way Corin believes is more effective. He asked if anyone had other ideas on how to advertise more, to tell him.
Fiona also added that this is a general plan, so it did not matter if not every point of what Corin wants to do goes into the plan.
Q: What is the Nuffield plan?
A: The idea is that the Nuffield theatre exists, theatre societies want to use it. Before covid it was used by professional people, but unfortunately it closed due to covid and now they are trying to work out what to do with it because it is empty. At the moment the plans of what is going to happen to it are confidential, but Corin is trying to work with the Arts team to make sure that is used for students and in a way that will benefit students. Corin also added that they have a decent proposal. He added that this is unlikely to happen this year.
Q: What is the rough ratio of PGR to UG students in societies and in link to that how do we market to PGRs and equally to other hard to reach students? Do you have a strategy on how to market? Nick Hillier, Senator, who had asked the question noted that he believes that since there is a lot of interface between Sabbs they could work together and learn from each other, and he believes that there should be a different strategy for different groups.
A: Action: Corin to find the stats for PGR students. Also, Corin to look at the strategy in how to engage these groups.