What have you done this term?
Over the past few months I have prioritised student welfare and wellbeing with a particular focus on body positivity and harm reduction. Ella (Editor) and I ran our ‘Feel Yourself February’ campaign to encourage body gratitude and it was timed to combat the negative ‘New Year, New You’ rhetoric. In addition, the harm reduction work that I have led on has gained momentum and I have successfully lobbied the university to adopt a harm reduction stance in the University Drug and Alcohol use Policy; this was an unexpected but very much welcome turn of events and it means the university will prioritise the students wellbeing over authoritarian measures. Another piece of work I am leading on is supporting our Asian students as there has been a vast increase in anti-Asian hate crime recently and I am now working with Jay Wallace at the university (Sexual Violence and Hate Crime Prevention Lead) to create a robust framework to support victims of hate crimes.
Feel Yourself February:
- Despite this being NUSU’s first body gratitude campaign, it was well received.
The aim of the campaign was to encourage students to see their bodies as vessels rather than defining our worth, we wanted to shift the narrative from the external appearance of our body for instead the internal function to recognise how amazing our bodies are.
- We ran a body gratitude art workshop with recent alumni Lou Brown who owns GoodStrangeVibes, a yoga class with the yoga society and we organised a Q&A with Eating Disorder Psychologist, Dr Liz Evans. We also launched a podcast called “Natter with your Sabbs” where Ella and I invited students to chat with us about body image and their own journey’s. The podcast episodes explored gender and the body positivity movement, male body image and how disability can have an impact on body image too. We had great engagement at all of our events and hope this is the first body gratitude campaign of many.
- We are now at the point of submitting the report to present to the University
Alcohol and Substance misuse working group who are creating university policy, in the hopes that this will encourage a firm harm reduction stance at Newcastle Uni. We have successfully lobbied the university to adopt a harm reduction stance throughout their policy, covering all aspects of university life from accommodation to student progress. This is a huge advancement in increasing support for students as the change in policy shifts away from an authoritarian stance and moves towards support being a priority for students involved in drug and alcohol use. The policy must now go through the university channels and all being well it will be adopted in time for the next academic year. We have worked extensively with the university to create the policy.
- We have worked with the newly reformed SSDP society for them to have their own page. We have also created harm reduction pages for the main NUSU website under the A-Z of support services and will link through to SSDP’s pages via ours.
- Kay (CDM) and I have also worked with the Director of Student Health and Wellbeing to identify key risk times throughout the academic year. We will be coordinating a joined up harm reduction campaign to highlight mechanisms for support and utilising cross-communication channels to reach maximum number of students
Jay Wallace (Sexual Violence and Hate Crime Prevention Lead at Newcastle University) and I set up an Action group to address and tackle the rise in anti-Asian hate crime currently happening in Newcastle. It involves a 3 part strategy looking at how we can support students, ensure student safety and prevent discrimination in the future by working with partner schools. This project is in its very early stages but we are hoping to use this framework to create a support-led approach to all forms of hate crime in the future to support and protect our students.
Permission to Pause
I have relaunched Permission to Pause for this exam season which starts 31st May and ends 6th June 2021. The aim of this mental health campaign is to encourage students to take time away from revision books or marking papers to practice self-care and self-love, giving our brains and bodies time to breathe. This campaign will run through the exam period, providing free resources and activities to give students and staff that all-important time to pause. We want you to get involved and benefit from this campaign. All the activities and resources are covid secure making it safe to take a break and pause this exam season. We have created goody bags with coffee vouchers, lotus biscuits, sweets, mindfulness books, stress balls and lots more! There will also be lots of activities to get involved with, both in person and online to ensure everyone can join.
What has been your biggest achievement?
The work on harm reduction is definitely my biggest achievement. It has been a struggle at times to work on changing the attitudes of shame around drug use, but with the help of students who filled in the survey, SSDP society and the Your Voice staff team: we have managed to create a shift in both union and university policy to support students without judgement or need for intervention first. I am immensely proud of how far we have come and the harm reduction report exemplifies all the reasons why a cultural shift is not simply needed, but urgently necessary.
What could you have improved on?
Email response times
What piece of advice would you pass on to your successor?
Your mental health matters too! You cannot give from an empty cup. Please make sure you take some time when you need to and do not apologise for it: you are human.