This term has been a busy one, with lots happening around the Union and University. Overall it has been a successful term in my eyes, and I look forward to continuing that work into the new year.
What have I been up to?
Newcastle City Council
I raised concerns surrounding advertisers/promoters blocking pavements around campus during Freshers’ Week. It can be quite intimidating for students, and definitely not a welcoming environment that you’d expect. Later in the year I hope to speak to the council again about this issue to ensure that there is proper enforcement in place for next Freshers’ Week.
I’ve been attending consultations on a new licensing scheme for HMOs. I hope that the new scheme if implemented will be a benefit to Students and their communities, in raising the quality of student properties.
PEC (Personal extenuating circumstances) forms
I have been working with the University to improve PEC forms so that they are easier to fill out, and more sympathetic to student issues. The format has since been changed, and does not rely on students to attach an additional document due to character limits.
The Union has been engaged in a project called #StepChange which is the University’s response to the UUK’s guidance and recommendations on mental health. The Union has already backed a funding bid from the Office for Students (OFS). I will continue to work with the project into next year.
I was part of 17 Central Inductions which were compulsory for every first-year student including post-graduate. I was able to explain what help and support provisions that we had at the Union.
Alcohol and Substance Abuse
I decided over summer that I would not be running an alcohol and substance abuse awareness week, but instead would focus efforts over a longer yearlong campaign. Work began in Freshers’ week, with every fresher receiving literature through the Freshers’ Week bags. I will continue work on this into next year.
SHAG Week (22nd – 26th October 2018)
SHAG Week was a huge success this year, with more collaboration with existing services and events. This was shown in an increase in the number of students who completed an STI test with a total of 540, comparable to 509 in the previous year. New Croft the local STI clinic facilitated the testing, free of charge.
Over 5,000 condoms of different varieties were distributed to students. Different sizes and textures so that students could find a condom that they felt comfortable, and would use in the future.
Housing Fair (17th November 2018)
I made the decision this year to highlight the popularity of Housing Fair over Housing Week, however information and advice was at the heart of the campaign. The Student Advice Centre held numerous stalls, and an outreach event at Park View Student Village in collaboration with Newcastle University Accommodation Services. 2,000 housing guides were distributed, and 500 remain on offer to Students seeking houses the rest of the year.
Statistics show a decline in footfall at the fair this year; however attendance scanning was optional and so could explain the small decline in numbers. There was generally good feedback from stall holders and students who attended.
We chose to partner with a local campaign to target sexual assault in bars/clubs. Several members of staff have subsequently received bystander training, and promotional material has gone out to promote the campaign.
The first empowering talk took place on the 26th November 2018. The keynote speaker Patrick Melville, Newcastle Alumnus; spoke about the power of now: you, positivity and gratitude. NUTV recorded the event which will be published on Newcastle University Students’ Union’s YouTube page early next year.
What has been your biggest achievement?
I’ve been working closely with Newcastle University Accommodation Services and Raff Marioni to negotiate rent prices for University accommodation. We’ve secured some significant changes which we believe will have a hugely positive impact on students for years to come, and secure affordable student accommodation for those who need it.
What could you have improved on?
This first term has been quite a difficult one. The University and Union are progressing a lot, and there are a lot of projects tackling a lot of problems within the organisations. There are still so many big problems that mean a lot to students. I think managing my own expectations and workload has been difficult, and an increase in focus to produce quality outcomes next semester will be my main aim.
What do you plan to do next term?
From my work this term, I think that there is a lack of understanding from Students of what we actually do. I think that a lot of students see us as extra circular and don’t necessarily see us as a Union of Students that are fighting for better provisions, rights, experience and more. That is why next term I want to work on trying to engage students more with liberation issues and campaigns. Some students might not want to engage in the liberation side of things, but I hope through campaigns like Stressed out Students which runs during exam periods, that students will feel part of the Union and that the Union is having a positive impact on their time here at Newcastle.
Thanks for reading what I've been up to. Please get in contact if you have any ideas or questions!
Welfare & Equality Officer 18/19