student.union@newcastle.ac.uk

End of Term Report - December 2021

A snippet of what I have been up to over the past few months

What have I done this term? 

We are now fully into the swing of first the first semester, and I have been busy as ever. Over the past few months, I have prioritized student welfare and wellbeing with a particular focus on mental health, wellbeing, and student safety. In addition, I have made much progress on initiatives centered around inclusivity, racial equality and decolonising our campus.  

Mental Health and Wellbeing  

  • The sabbatical officers and I have taken a holistic and intersectional approach to mental health by bringing student wellbeing to the forefront of all our university meetings.   

  • New working groups focused solely on supporting and improving student mental health have been established. To ensure your concerns are heard, Abbie and I sit on the governing steering group and we look forward to seeing the university implement meaningful changes. 

  •  I have been exploring how we can offer more avenues of support for students and I am pleased to announce that the university will be offering cognitive-behavioral therapies and workshops on topics requested by students.  

  • It has come to my attention that students are still experiencing discrepancies with the Student Health and Wellbeing Service.  In response, I have set up monthly meetings with the Wellbeing Service to report back on dissatisfactory experiences and how we can fix them.  

Incidents of Spiking  

  • Across the nation, increasing cases of spiking have highlighted student safety as an issue of critical importance. As an immediate response to the situation, I wrote several statements to reassure students, provide useful information and urge students to, either to the university or the police.  

  • Since, we have had a series of emergency meetings with members of the council, the police, licensing officials, and other external partners. These meetings will continue within the city council and I have also partnered with Newcastle’s licensing department to embed spiking and sexual violence prevention into legislative policy.  

Harm Reduction 

  • Another area of student safety I have focused on is harm reduction. From the start of the year, I have highlighted our stance toward effective procedures, support, and education by distributing harm reduction leaflets in halls.  

  • Myself and those in the Alcohol and Drugs Working group finished the new Drugs and Alcohol awareness resources for inductions. These include a harm reduction video and online modules. 

  • Reagent UK Drug Testing Kits are now available in the Students Union. Students can collect these kits for free, anonymously, and without judgment. We also house numerous harm reduction resources, including how to contact Reagent UK for any questions around the drug testing kits.  

  • In the future, I plan to link up with the city council to provide more guidance on party drugs and their effects on mental health – so keep a lookout for that. 

Decolonising NCL  

  • Alongside the Education and Postgrad Officers, I have collated significant information on how decolonising NCL has been received within schools. We are now working with schools to increase participation and foster pledges. Many schools are working on pledges which they will present in the new year. 

  • Held a successful decolonising NCL panel discussion with around 50 attendees online and in person. The aims were to define decolonisation in a digestible form, explore barriers to implementation, look at decolonisation as a movement which goes beyond the curriculum and inspire engagement through open conversation and learning. Filmed by NUTV, the discussion has since had 251 views on Youtube.  

  • Working with Student Services to create a methodology for analysing how to decolonise. This framework will become a universal tool for schools and for other EDI work. Alongside the framework will be 3 training sessions split over a course of time for directors. 

  • As part of the longevity of decolonisng ncl we are exploring how the university can take ownership of this initiative. I will be putting forward a business plan for a designated decolonization member of staff. 

  • Working with the Racial Equality Charter Estates group on a project to undo colonial legacies within our campus buildings. This begins with   

Our Black History Campaign 

  • One of my highlights this term was running the ‘Our Black History’ campaign. The three-week campaign took a collective look at Black History Month as a time to celebrate our Black community and our power to facilitate change.  

  • Some of the events included: The Lauch Party, Claiming Your Space Opening Night, Black Mental Health Workshop, George the Poet Performance, Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Blood Drives, Coffee Meet, Three part video series on Anti-Racism, Representation and Diversifying our Student Media Forum, Decolonising NCL Panel Discussion, Closing Festival and many more. 

  • The campaign received great feedback including comments such as “I felt at home during this event, so thank you for creating that” and “I felt so warmed and welcomed. If an event could give a hug, that’s what this event would do.” However, it was recognized that the campaign had a particular focus on education and antiracism. By some it was felt that the month should be purely celebratory. 

Other Campaigns  

  • I supported the Claiming Your Space Art Competition and will continue to do so throughout the year.  

  • I also supported S.H.A.G Week, a campaign to end the stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases. This year we had over 600 STI tests administered at the SU, a new record for the Union.  

Report and Support  

  • As a Sabb team, we are particularly focused on Changing Cultures within our University, especially those relating to sexual violence, misogyny, and hate crime. While we have all taken on various aspects of this, I have worked with Kay to make our Report and Support process more progressive and survivor lead. We have spoken to numerous organizations in our pursuit and will be launching the new form next year.  

Environment and Sustainability  

  • Myself and your President had the honor of attending the global conference COP26. Our main areas of focus while there was youth empowerment, effective policy and the impact of climate change on indigenous populations, especially women belonging to indigenous territories.  

  • Going forward, there are several environmental initiatives I would like to establish based on what I learned at COP26.  

Inductions, training, and Freshers 

  • Partnered with the induction working group to evaluate inductions and create a plan for this year’s induction content. 

  • Collaborated with Student Health and Wellbeing on consent training. However, we feel that consent training must be mandatory and will be lobbying for this next term.  

  • Worked with the Freshers team to establish a Welfare Station in the town and updated this year's Welfare training for crew members.  

  • Briefed external partners on safety concerns and measures for Freshers Week 

What has been your biggest achievement? 

Without a doubt, my biggest achievement this term was the ‘Our Black History’ campaign.  If I am being honest, much went wrong during this campaign and often during the eleventh hour too. While the mishaps were not by fault of anyone involved, it made the event management side difficult at times. Despite the challenges, the campaign was a real success and that brought people together and positively impacted our community.  

What could you have improved on? 

Replying to emails, arriving at meetings on time (mostly due to back-to-back meetings), and making time to eat lunch.  

What do you plan to do next term? 

Continue on initiatives I have started previously including, supporting student mental health decolonising NCL, launching the new Report and Support platform and working on spiking related licensing policy. In terms of new initiatives, I am looking forward to introducing a policy and tool kit to support student sex workers. I will also be running two campaigns, one on housing conditions and the other on environment and sustainability. 

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