So term 1 is done, students are gradually disappearing back home and the sabbatical officers are preparing for a lot of sleep over the Christmas period (and potentially a lot of food too!). What a term it has been, pretty much a rollercoaster from start to finish where you just have a chance to sleep and catch your breath before it all starts again.
While I’ve spent lots of this term getting used to the role and reacting to challenges (brexit, Higher Education reforms, NUS referendum) I thought I’d give you a whistlestop tour of all the stuff that’s been going on this term! In my manifesto, I said that my three priorities would be communicating, supporting and representing you and I’m going to use that to break this down a bit!
In terms of communication...we’ve worked really hard this term to improve our social media presence. The new website is up and running and we’re looking forward to finding ways to shape weekly emails and comms to ensure you’re kept up to date about things that interest you. We’ve also been out and about quite a bit. In Freshers’ Week the sabbs ran around, helping to move new students in, getting everyone hyped for Freshers’ and delivering some welcome talks during which I was made to run up the stairs of central hall with the academic officer on my back. The famous #sabbselfie returned too (shout out to the guys who managed to get a photo with Alex in the bathroom). Freshers’ Fair was incred and it only got better with Campus Takeover on the Saturday night. I’ve also started discussions with the new director of estates about how campus can be more accessible for students.
We’ve been working hard to support you throughout term, I’ve worked with the uni to discuss ways to create student spaces, have worked with PTOs to support their various events and helped with the college committee training that took place a few weeks ago. We’ve also done smaller scale things - the bike light and high vis give away was really popular and the sabb challenges in RAG week were successful, if painful for Alex and Isaac! We also teamed up with OPPA (Office of Philanthropic Partnerships and Alumni) to choose the Class of 2017 charitable cause. Students voted for the Equal Access Fund that supports asylum seekers who wish to study here at York.
Finally, representation! I have spent this term trying to make sure that we are all working towards representing you. I’ve been involved in the policy review process, which is focused on making it easier for you to get big ideas and key issues discussed in the student body. We encouraged the uni to keep fees at £9,000 for the 2016/17 intake of students, throughout their entire degree. We also worked with the uni to create a student partnership agreement that felt more balanced and accessible to students. It was important that this agreement felt as though it worked on the student’s behalf, as well as they university’s.
There are also lots of ongoing projects around the SU building, the YUSU policy process, rent prices, international student experience, timetabling and higher education reforms.
So much of this job is about getting to know people and being a good ambassador for students. Managing relationships with the uni, local community and student groups and national student movement takes up loads of my time.
I do a lot of presentations. Like loads of presentations, for everyone from students considering living on campus, through to prospective students, through to the University Court.
Some things on the manifesto probably won’t happen. Trying to create a social media platform is pretty tricky, for example, but we’re trying to make space. If I complete 60% of my manifesto by the end of the year, I’ll be really happy. That’s not because the ideas aren’t doable, but because a lot of my time is spent reacting to new challenges and keeping you all up to date with everything that’s going on!
Freshers’ Flu is real...particularly when it wipes you out 3 times in one term.
Priorities change: when I came into the role, I was under the impression that the biggest challenge for YUSU was communication. Actually, now I realise there are better ways to represent you, through working on projects from better leave of absence experiences to improving the laundry services (watch this space).
I’m really proud of the relationships that the sabbs have built with the university this year. We’re in a really strong position to push for opportunities and things that students want.
Starting change: we’ve done a lot of work around placements and work experience, the fact that the planon system is a bit useless, and that students need more student spaces. These are all seeds that have been planted, even though they might not come to full fruition by 2017.
The squad has done really well on getting students involved - we have shedloads of course reps, department reps, amazing college committees and fantastic sports and society committees, all prepping for the new year.
Just because a task is started, doesn’t mean it’s not a long way to getting finished. Throughout this term, I’ve had the realisation that getting the ball rolling on a project does not always lead to results. Instead, I have had to return to a lot of projects to keep pushing them forward. Next term, I’ll try and keep up momentum on certain projects so that they’re completed more quickly and effectively.
Student engagement - next term, I intend to be out there far more, coming to events and being around campus. Is there anything you’d like me to attend? Just let me know via facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sticking to the manifesto: I’ve sometimes found myself veering off track and working on other projects, because they can either be started more easily, or because they’ve really inspired me in a meeting. Next term I want to try and stay close to my manifesto for at least one day a week.
Laundry! Do you struggle to use circuit? Do your clothes come out dirty? Or does it charge you twice to actually make a machine work? Well, ready the comments and complaints because in January, we’re going to do something about it!
NUS conference - it’s happening in term 3, but if you want to submit policy, we can help you out! Drop us an email or a message, or swing by the office and we’ll see what we can do!
I will be creating a how-to guide to help you all understand the ins and outs of YUSU processes and how to navigate it in order to make it as easy as humanly possible!
For now, have an amazing and happy holidays, and a great new year. YUSU love xxx