By Dom Smithies (Community & Wellbeing Officer)
The New Year feels so long ago... That can only mean one thing! It’s time for everyone’s favourite buzzwords:
~ TRANSPARENCY & ACOUNTABILITY ~
So another term has come and gone and the summer term has just begun! It was a busy term with lots going on here there and everywhere so I thought I’d do another blog to reflect on what’s gone on, what I’ve been doing, why I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing and how it’s all going.
I kept up with my ‘What Am I Up To This Week’ updates all throughout term to give everyone an idea of where I am and what I’m doing. But, despite this, #PringleGate still occurred and some students wondered what it was us Sabbs even do (other than argue about what flavour Pringles should be allowed in the office). So for any who are curious as to what I do for you, are invested in the work I’ve been doing or are keen to hold me accountable then get ready for the blog of your life – it’s gonna be a fun one!
First things first…
- I’ve produced a detailed & thorough report, like the one I did last term, of what I’ve been up to week-by-week. If you have any questions or want me to elaborate on anything please don’t hesitate to get in touch – I’m more than happy to offer any clarification / explanation!
- If you’re interested in what I was up to last term (it might be useful to know for context to help understand what I’ve been up to this term) you can read my summary blog *** HERE ***
Now, when people ask ‘what is it Sabbs do?’ I’ve found the best way to explain is to say that there are five elements to the role:
- The Manifesto (doing what you were elected to do).
- Representation (sitting on lots of committees, boards and groups as the student voice).
- Supporting Students (doing what students want you to do and supporting students in all of their activities).
- Being a YUSU Employee (doing what you have to do as a Sabb (promote opportunities & events like Elections, Roses, etc.).
- Reacting to Stuff (having to change our agenda depending on what’s going on in the wider University, City and National setting).
There will be some quiet years where a Sabb can crack on with Supporting Students, their Manifesto and doing the YUSU things. This year has not been that year. When I was running I did not know Brexit was a thing that would happen, I did not know there’d be another general election during my time in office and I couldn’t have foretold lots of staff changes in various organisations. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a lot of unexpected things ensuring that there are big wins for students. Following the UUK Report I’ve managed to successfully push for a centralised reporting & recording system, I’ve been able to ensure that the Student Health Needs Assessment Steering Group here’s the views of lots of students so the City can start to really do something about mental ill-health and I supported the NUS campaign to have a huge collection drive for refugees! I promise I have only altered my agenda and how I spend my time with the genuine belief that what I’m doing is in the best interest of York students.
So, without further ado, here are the key things I’ve been working on this past term:
- Report & Recording Systems – Responding to the UUK report
- Last term a Universities UK Report on examining hate crime, harassment and reporting at universities. I’ve been working to hold the University to account and to challenge them to take seriously the recommendations that were outlined.
- We’ve had multiple meetings of the working group that was set-up to address the recommendations. I pushed and made the case for centralised reporting & recording systems and processes both by making the case in multiple meetings and working with Nouse to do a front-cover news piece on reporting statistics and a comment piece from yours truly on what needs to change.
- I wrote a blog for Sexual Violence Awareness Week updating everyone on lots of progress of lots of projects across the institution
- Since the appointment of an Assistant Registrar Promoting Community Cohesion and Respect stuff has been moving quickly and a new system, reporting form and process is already drafted and looking to be piloted NEXT TERM. I’m going to be leading a consultation on it early in term to see what students think and whether it meets the needs!
- Mental Health
- Worked with the Council’s Student Health Needs Assessment Steering Group (see below) to ensure mental health was on the agenda.
- Have held the University to account in pushing the University to be transparent about how they’re spending the £500,000 mental health investment – arguing that there’s a real appetite & investment amongst students to know where it’s going.
- Have promoted various campaigns, events and activities being run by several student, University and external organisations.
- Have begun work on the Summer Keep Your Cool campaign (see below).
- Student Health Needs Assessment Steering Group
- I’ve been a part of the taskforce set-up in the Public Health department of the Council to focus on identifying the gap between the needs of the student demographic and the service provision. They’re working timeline is June 16 – July 17 so has been an important opportunity I’ve been making the most of.
- I’ve helped them in getting students for consultations, focus groups, drop-ins and did lots to push their survey.
- The survey closed in January successfully reaching the 5% target we had set (to ensure the results are reliable and not too weighted).
- I saw preliminary quantitative data from the survey in February which was really insightful. I recently heard the analysis of qualitative data from all of the focus groups & consultation and we are just starting to build recommendations for the institutions across York.
- I’m being tasked to think of creative ways of how to disseminate the data, findings and recommendations which is an exciting opportunity I look forward to working on next term.
- Refugee Collection Drive
- The NUS Vice President Society & Citizenship co-ordinated a national refugee collection drive in collaboration with Help Refugees UK and work with lots of STAR (Student Action for Refugees) groups!
- We were obviously very happy to participate and the SU turned into a drop-off space for one week. Loads of people brought loads of stuff so thank you to everyone who donated and thanks to our York STAR group who did a fab job promoting everything!
- Referendum & Elections
- I helped promote the NSS Referendum as well as chairing a mini-debate on our Radio Show. I did my best to impartially argue the reasoning behind each side when explaining the issue to students.
- Helped promote the Incorporation Referendum, during the YUSU Elections. Helped students to grapple with quite complex corporate & governance material and ensure they understood what they were voting for.
- Promoted the YUSU Elections (nominations, events and voting) in all sorts of ways (physically & digitally) over the seven weeks it ran. Encouraged people to run for positions, assisted with peoples manifestos & campaign planning, was heavily involved with the media in commenting on everything Election related, promoted respectful campaign, ran a session giving practical guidance on how to do self-care in the election season to all the candidates and was generally around for hugs, moans and motivational pep talks.
- Radio Show
- We started a radio show! This has definitely been one of my favourite things I’ve done as a Sabb! It’s a platform where we can talk about what we’re doing, share our platform with guests and have people ask us questions!
- I did start to list all of the things we’ve covered, spoken about, promoted and the guests we’ve had on but the list got way too long. It is a decent wrap-up of everything we do. Every Friday at 10am – check it out! Holla if you wanna be a guest / want us to talk about a thing!
- We’ve invited the Vice Chancellor to come on and do a show where people can ask questions and he’ll answer them – it’ll be at the end of next term and we’re very excited about it!
- Supporting Vice Chairs for Welfare
- Have fortnightly meetings with the VCs as they’re my main College Contacts. We talk all things:
- Stuff going on so they can cascade it down to their students
- YUSU Policy (they’re one of the groups I consult in the policy process)
- Ask them what they want me to be doing/ what they want me to tell the SU/ Uni to be doing.
- Generally support them as much as I can and to the best of my ability.
- Keep Your Cool
- Ran the Keep Your Cool Campaign in Week 1 of term giving out free fruit, tea and coffee in the library as well as having a few free exercise sessions on.
- Have been working with Isaac and the Give It A Go team to plan sessions for next term’s campaign.
- Have worked with the Department Reps to put together a pool of tips, resources and information to students.
- NUS Stuff
- Was an elected delegate to the NUS LGBT+ Conference
- Voted on lots of policy
- Elected a new committee & Officer
- Networked with all the people to share best practice and get ideas for campaigns/policy that would benefit our network
- Prepping for NUS National Conference
- Reading motions
- Consulting with students
- Getting ready to campaign for two candidates I’m actively supporting.
- Local Ward meetings
- Attended as many local ward meetings as I possible could to represent, and advocate for, students.
- Voter Registration
- Looking to implement a kind-of automatic system with the University where they would register first-year students to vote for them.
- Working with the University to educate students that automatic enrolment is no longer a thing.
- Millie has been leading on running lots of voter registration drives!! #FreeCake
- Prayer Space
- Am going to be putting in a paper in collaboration with the Islamic Society and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Department to ask for better prayer space provision on campus.
- Consulted on the policies that were proposed with the Liberation & Welfare Committee and the Vice Chairs for Welfare. The results of the consultation and the policy process can be found *** HERE ***
- Something noteable that did go through the policy process was a fab policy submitted by the Women’s Rugby Club (UYWRUFC). They wrote a blog on their policy, check it out *** HERE ***
- I’m also submitting two bits of policy myself to YUSU next term
- Love York Awards
But there are lots of things I wanted to do that, for whatever reason, I failed to deliver on. I’m not just doing this in the spirit of accountability and making your lives holding me in check easier, but because I still think they’re important and I want to see Sabbs of the future, if they find the time, delivering on them.
- Eating Disorder Awareness Week
- I really wanted to do a campaign for Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It’s a huge issue, it affects lots of students and there is not the resource or support for those suffering in York and that needs to change.
- Millie & I are still hoping to do some work before we leave office – particularly with Open Door and Unity Health. But there’s lots that needs to be done to improve provision in the City so I hope this will be high on the priority list of things to campaign for in the future.
- ‘How To Be An Activist’ training
- I never got around to fully pulling together & co-ordinating the HTBAA Week. This was one of the things I was super excited to work on and engage students on. There still is, and probably always will be, demand for it. It’s always good to engage students on political & liberation issues and supporting & empowering them to do something about what they care about is something I believe the Student Union should be doing at its core.
- I’m hoping to get some resources, tips and *maybe a video* up online and our website and will try and work on that in my last term in office.
- Community Reps
- I still think there is a huge need for these positions to exist as I feel like they have a huge role to play for the following reasons:
- Representation for off-campus students is lacking in the SU.
- Community organising and positively engaging with local residents would benefit students and the University.
- It’s unsustainable and impractical for on one or two representatives (myself and Millie) to attend what seems to be an ever-increasing amount of local ward meetings.
So there you go, I have been doing lots of stuff – but I am by no means perfect and all-accomplishing!
As ever, if you have any queries, qualms, quandaries or want me to be working on something, supporting you with something or just promoting something please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
And here’s just a quick teaser of things to be aware of going on this term:
Peace & Love,