This term has been unusual at best and deeply saddening at worst but we move forward into the new year with hopes that recovery will begin. During the first half of their year in office the Sabbs have faced and dealt with unprecedented issues and situations. They have been incredible and although there may have been times when there has been a differences of opinion on how to focus on issues, students are at the very heart of their work and everything they do.
Covid has taken over the majority of the Your Voice work in one way or another but there are some covid free things to report. Here is an update on some of their work and the work of the Your Voice team.
Democracy and Representation
At the start of the new academic year there is an effort to form the committees and groups within the democratic structure of NUSU. AU and Societies AGM’s usually start off first. This year AU AGM proposed and passed an order to allow more than one official welfare officer in clubs and Society AGM passed the proposal to include a BAME Rep on the Exec. Both positive moves forward for students.
Newly established for this year, Student Life Exec (SLE) replaces the Hall and Community Exec.SLE includes a student rep or NUSU Officer from the following areas; NUSU, University accommodation, the local community, commuting students, ethics and environment, and volunteering. Each Rep or Officer will lead on campaigns and projects decided within the Exec to enhance and improve student life for the students they represent. Especially important this year due to the many issues Covid brought, you can read more about that in the community section.
Other committees include, Education Exec, Media Exec and Welfare, Campaigns and Liberation Exec. All of this feeds into Student Council which is the highest representative body in the SU. Student Council came back in a virtual way but still heard, debated and passed (well not always) policy brought by students for students. You can read the detailed updates in the latest news section here.
Academic Representation is a big part of Your Voice. We are always looking for ways to improve and the addition of EDI (Course) Reps and Environmental and Sustainability (Course) Reps bring current issues to the forefront and allow a stronger student voice within schools.
EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Equality, diversity and inclusion is threaded through all of the work in Your Voice but there are some specific accomplishments we want to let you know about.
At the end of previous academic year, Charlotte Boulton (Postgraduate Officer) and three other students researched and analysed the EDI landscape which resulted in the creation of the NUSU Inclusive Societies Policy. This year’s Societies AGM passed an order which makes it mandatory for all for all executive committee members to read and implement the guidance offered within this document.
Gay Guide to Newcastle from Ben Campbell LGBT+ Officer this guide gives new students the information they need to feel fully welcome to the city.
NUSU is committed to ensuring students can take full advantage of their time at university. We recognise that financial obstacles can arise which prevents students from accessing the activities we offer. The Participation Bursary aims to remove these barriers to participation by helping cover some of the costs of getting involved
BAME Welcome Pack from Dorothy Chirwa (President) and Nadia Ahmed (Welfare and Equality Officer) to offer practical support and guidance to BAME students moving to Newcastle for the first time.
NUSU BAME Union
Sohum Pandya (BAME officer) recruited fifteen students to form a BAME committee to not only ensure that the voices of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students are continually heard but also plan and create events that educate and celebrate everything BAME.
A team of six diverse and enthusiastic Newcastle University Students whose sole purpose is to help you integrate well into the community here, and ensure that nothing makes you feel alienated.
Care Experienced Ambassadors
NUSU recruited two students to not only act as informal point of contacts for care experienced students but also develop workshops that will specifically assist their Higher Education journey. Moreover, these students will ensure the voices of care experienced students are represented and heard at the table where discussions are had.
Campaigning in Term 1
Black History Matters
– Led by Dorothy Chirwa (President) and Nadia Ahmed (Welfare and Equality Officer) this was the first of the 2020 campaigns. Despite not being able to join together in person, our fully digital programme aimed to create community with the opportunity to learn, speak out and feel empowered.
Supporting our Students (S.O.S)
At NUSU, we believe that you are entitled to an education that is consistent, flexible, accessible, and inclusive. The Supporting Our Students (S.O.S.) campaign led by Sian Dickie (Education Officer) is about highlighting all of the ways in which your NUSU Officers and Academic Reps are working to make these values a reality.
This year, the Officers want to put Decolonising NCL on the University’s agenda. They seek commitments and assurances from the University to move beyond the mere touch up of reading lists and demand to see the practice of decolonisation embedded, at every level of the decision making at the University. So far, they have led on 3 events, including a panel with keynote speakers, which have been attended by over 100 attendees altogether. University senior managers have expressed their commitment to the decolonising agenda, and we hope that next term our Decolonising NCL Pledges encourage academic schools to get involved too.
Trans Awareness Week
LGBT+ Officer Ben Campbell hosted a week long campaign to amplify the voices of trans students at Newcastle. This was also the launch of the NUSU Trans Fund to help students buy items to help them in their everyday lives.
Claiming your Space
Claiming Your Space is a project within the wider Decolonising NCL campaign and aims to provide the opportunity for BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) students to artistically explore and capture their Higher Education space which enable them to exist unapologetically (without having to explain or justify ourselves).
2020 has offered up many issues in the community, not least the scapegoating of students returning to Newcastle and receiving a less than friendly welcome from some. We have been working hard to represent you and hope you have felt support when you needed it.
The Community Unity meeting has reps from Newcastle and Northumbria Universities and Students’ Unions, the City Council and Northumbria Police. We work in a collaborative way on student life matters and how to help make your life away from campus as good as it can be,
Some of our contribution to the work can be seen in the recently recorded Northumbria Police Q&A here in the Covid Marshal article here and in the collaboration of community leaflets and messaging below.
SINF (Students in Newcastle Forum)
The SINF is chaired by the Deputy Leader of Newcastle City Council. Members include representatives from Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Newcastle College, NUSU, Northumbria SU, Northumbria Police, PCC, Nexus Travel, Public Health, Council Licensing and Housing teams.
Members of the Forum identify the needs and issues of students in the city in the hopes of finding solutions to address the challenges identified. A newly established EDI subgroup was formed in September because of the need brought to the forefront following the uprising of the BLM movement.
World Mental Health Day
We marked the day with a helpful resource of materials to help support your mental wellbeing.
Drug use - harm reduction work
Nadia Ahmed (Welfare and Equality Officer) began the work on reintroducing drug testing kits alongside other harm reduction initiatives in the summer. The tragic deaths of 2 Newcastle students in October accelerated this vital work. You can read Nadia’s blog here which outlines the situation in October. Nadia is now at the point of writing the report to present to the University Alcohol and substance misuse working group who are creating university policy. You may have also seen the survey launched just last week to help us collate the information to help form the report. So far we have received over 1500 submissions, an amazing response.
Alcohol and Drug drop in
NUSU have partnered with the Newcastle Public Health team to provide students with a confidential space to chat and get support on their drug or alcohol use. This is a free, non-judgemental service open to all Newcastle students.
HIV+ and STI testing
Sexual health should not be forgotten during the pandemic and we offered a virtual clinic for testing once a month starting in October.
PG Welfare Drop-in
Charlotte Boulton (PG Officer) launched the regular welfare drop in sessions to help support the PG community.
This is not all that the Officers have been working on, you can read up to date information from the Officers here and can contact the Your Voice team here. We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback as well as ideas for future work.
Enjoy the winter break, see you in 2021!