Chloe

Do Sabbs Actually Do Anything? – Welfare and Communities

“It’s halfway through what has been an extremely exciting term in office for the Sabbaticals. To mark the new year, the Sabbatical team are writing mid-term reports to update you with what we’ve been up to and the sorts of things we’ve been dealing with, as well as the plans we have for the remaining 6 months.
 
chloe-green
You can read up on our regular reports to Union Council and goals here, as well as our manifestos (just click on your favourite face) here, and remember, in a month’s time, we’ll be electing the next Sabbatical team – so if you have any questions about our roles – get in touch!
 
Also, next Tuesday and Wednesday at 5pm, we’re running a Twitter Q&A session – just use #askSUSUsabbs and join the discussion! – The Sabbatical Team”
 
——–

So! It’s day one of the mid-term reviews and I’m up first. I seek to answer the blog’s question with the following answer: yes. Yes, yes and thrice yes. We do blooming loads. And in case you don’t believe me, here’s just a few things I thought I’d share with you about what’s happened so far, and what’s yet to come…

Happened:

In my quest to get mental health pushed up the agenda at the university, I first carried out a survey on counselling. These results then fed into a business case pitched to senior staff at the university to obtain more counsellors. However, this actually led us to discover many wider issues regarding mental health provision at the university. This whole area is now being looked at in a more holistic and sustainable way, by the university’s management team. Getting mental health firmly on the agenda at uni = done!

Students are freqHousing Don't Settle - Slugs smalluently getting rushed into sh*t housing by rogue landlords and letting agencies and I’m sick of it! In November I launched the ‘Don’t Settle’ campaign, which saw student volunteers take to the streets of campus and halls to tell students to slow down and not be taken in by the lies and coercion. We got rid of over 5000 flyers, my blog was viewed over 2000 times, our new bespoke website has so far collected over 2000 unique visitors, our video got over 500 hits and I have heard dozens of anecdotes about how much impact this campaign has had. Getting out there with student-centered proactive housing campaigning = done! (and there will be more, no fear…)

 

When you look at SUSU governance, it’s not always a space that welcomes many women. Considering that 54%women of our members are women and yet we’ve only had 4 female presidents in over 100 years, this has got to change. In December, I organised a Women’s Workshop, a two hour session specifically for the women students at SUSU who wanted some help in public speaking skills, assertiveness, and self-esteem building. We developed a programme that can be used for years to come, and the feedback we received from the women was excellent: several even described it as ‘life changing’. Taking steps to combat the gender imbalance = done!

SUSU spends a lot of time thinking of its members, but we don’t often look beyond the edge of our campus. I’ve made links with incredible community groups, like Southampton Voluntary Services, Southampton Street Pastors and the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, to engage in issues that arise for ALL residents of this city, students and neighbours alike. These links have created great things: Community Action is being launched in February (watch this space!); Southampton Street Pastors will be providing welfare support to students in the evenings of semester two; SUSU will be reaching out to the students at a mental health recovery college when it opens in April. Making meaningful partnerships that are mutually beneficial = done!

Happening:

Those are the big juicy things that have got me excited in the last six months, but by Jove there is SO much more to come! You guys can look forward to things like…

SUSU’s own letting agency; a housing survey to quantify once and for all the nightmare of student housing (so we can finally lobby in a serious way!); a series of mental health awareness videos in conjunction with the university and SUSUtv; the creation of Nightline’s very own Student Leader; the launch of Community Action; an amazing celebration for International Women’s Day; action on wildly rising international fees and so much more…

My job is pretty cool and if you like what you’ve read here, you can do it too! Elections are approaching us, so have a good think about running for a sabbatical position. It’s rewarding as heck, amazing fun and you actually get to change stuff you care about. Email me on vpwelfare@susu.org if you want to chat about my role. Do it!

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15 Comments on "Do Sabbs Actually Do Anything? – Welfare and Communities"

  1. Chloe
    Jim
    15/01/2013 at 2:36 pm Permalink

    Other than a pet passion for equal rights, does this mid term review look any different to what would of been written by someone in your position last year, the year before last or dare I say it 10 years ago….

    Housing, Mental Health, Nightline, Community action…. Every year sabs promise a lot and then deliver the same. What are you going to do to try and change the dynamic election candidates turning into carbon copy sabbaticals?

  2. Chloe
    Chloe
    15/01/2013 at 5:16 pm Permalink

    Hiya Jim,
    I see why you might say that, but I’m pretty confident in saying that this year has been notably different from previous years. For one, the housing campaign this year has gone from being a fairly standard week awareness event, to a largely viral marketing campaign (which has so far had a big impact). Plus of course, new developments with a letting agency, a campus-wide survey and more campaigns coming up. Mental health wasn’t particularly high on the agenda of previous Welfare sabbs; from what I’ve been made aware of, this is the first time we’ve had conversations with senior managers at the university about widening provision. We’ve also never had a Nightline Student Leader before, so that’s new. Community Action is a brand new scheme, so again, that’s brand new and different as of this year.
    It’s worth noting that these issues crop up a lot over the years because that’s the job remit. These are the areas I’ve been mandated to do work in, so of course, that’s kinda what I have to do! My plans have also been approved by Union Council, so that is the body that directs my work.
    Within my remit as VP Welfare and Communities, what other work would you like me to do, Jim? I’m always open to ideas!

  3. Chloe
    Not So Fresh
    16/01/2013 at 3:20 pm Permalink

    If we’re going on anecdotes as proof of success, I’d call the housing campaign a damp squib.
    Started too late, not enough actual information, often targeting the wrong areas, and 500 views on a video is nothing to be proud of.

  4. Chloe
    Chloe
    16/01/2013 at 4:28 pm Permalink

    Hello Not So Fresh,
    It’s not just anecdote – those figures are all from collected data, so that’s at least all true. I included the anecdote because it was so overwhelming – plenty of emails, comments in person, comments on blogs etc would suggest otherwise. But I see why that may not be conclusive enough, which is why we’re launching the housing survey later in the term. This should give us both quantitative and qualitative data in regards to the success of the housing campaign. So I can be more (or possible less) assured of it’s success, later in the year.

    Though, I’ll note for now – all the information is up on our new bespoke website which compiles every Advice Centre document we have on housing, hence why the campaign primarily directed people to get themselves hot on their housing knowledge. It also started in November, which is of course very early in the year to start thinking about housing – I was advised by students not to do it any earlier, for fear that the ones who weren’t thinking about it, would start worrying. It’s a very difficult balance to strike. Which areas do you believe were targeted incorrectly? We went to every campus, all halls sites, and waited next to lecture theatres after first year lectures. Where would have been better? I’m always open to feedback!

  5. Chloe
    Equality
    16/01/2013 at 8:15 pm Permalink

    Hi,
    Lots of focus on Women, women, women as always…what about us men?

    “Big celebrations happening for International Women’s Day”

    What happened to all the big celebrations for International Men’s Day on 19th November? Also, when are the Male Workshops taking place so we can develop our public speaking etc? Not very equal at all….

  6. Chloe
    Chloe
    17/01/2013 at 11:46 am Permalink

    Hello Equality,
    As your name suggests, you’re interested in equality – so am I. This is why SUSU pro-actively seeks to promote the rights of women on campus, since it’s pretty clear that women still face discrimination every day, at work, on campus and at home. Workshops are designed to redress the balance between men and women in SUSU, as in over 100 years’ worth of presidents, only 4 have been female. Pretty rubbish, huh? And International Women’s Day is a global event, recognised on every continent, designed to celebrate women’s achievements which quite often go under the radar compared to the achievements of men. That’s why there’s the focus on women; we don’t do huge celebrations for Men’s Day, or put on specific workshops for men in the same way that we wouldn’t celebrate White History Month, or have a white people’s workshop. You see what I mean? Thanks for your feedback!

  7. Chloe
    Gabriela Discenza
    17/01/2013 at 9:14 pm Permalink

    Hi Chloe,

    Please could you outline the role of Southampton Street Pastors, as I am not alone in feeling a little concerned at the prospect of a Christian organization providing pastoral care to students?

    Thanks.

  8. Chloe
    Chloe
    18/01/2013 at 10:33 am Permalink

    Hey Gabriela!
    I see why you may be concerned, but they are an excellent group, I can guarantee it. They currently work in the city center at night time during the weekends and have done for years, so they have plenty of experience. They aren’t offering support through preaching any religious messages; their aims are merely to offer support to students who may be upset, intoxicated, disoriented or feeling unsafe. Their website is here, take a look: http://www.southamptonstreetpastors.org/Home Thanks!

  9. Chloe
    Concerned
    05/02/2013 at 8:06 pm Permalink

    I’ve just looked into this a little further, and you are simply wrong.

    It is a Christian Church, and although they won’t be ‘Preaching’, by providing the Welfare support, they claim to be ‘Showing God’s love’, which seems to be directly in opposition to SUSU’s, and the University’s views on equality and diversity.

    Their ‘two-sided’ approach involves a team of actual street pastors providing on the ground welfare support to those in the situations you describe, while another group are located elswhere, in radio contact, praying for the individual. I would be incredibly uncomfortable with a stranger praying for my welfare.

    Other Unions, along with town and borough councils are actively taking steps against encouraging Christian street pastors, including some individuals with Evangelical, strongly Anti-gay views, from working in their areas, meanwhile you, with NO CONSULTATION WITH RELIGIOUS GROUPS or your own LGBT committee have gone off on one, taken it all into your own hands and made a partnership with these people.

    It seems like a massive oversight, and something that will give the approx. 75% of students who don’t identify themselves as ‘Christian’ one more reason not to engage with the Union.

  10. Chloe
    Hmm
    10/02/2013 at 11:21 am Permalink

    This is a bit too Big Society for my liking.

  11. Chloe
    Chloe
    11/02/2013 at 2:54 pm Permalink

    Hello Concerned,

    I don’t think ‘showing God’s love’ is in direct opposition to SUSU/the university’s views on equality and diversity. We foster a culture of religious acceptance and tolerance, as well as not tolerating any discrimination. This includes discrimination against religious students.

    The street pastors do indeed have people praying for their safety while they’re on patrol. This praying can be for the pastors and the punters. As an atheist myself, it’s not something I’m particularly interested in, though I don’t believe this is harmful. The praying volunteers are passive and if you don’t believe in God, then you’re likely to be unaffected by the prayers.

    It’s worth noting that the Christian Union have been providing this service on campus for several years now. Student volunteers give out tea/biscuits during Freshers’ Week events and other larger scale events. We have never received any complaints about this, nor have any problems been logged. Having the Street Pastors take over this duty means that the volunteers will actually be trained in relevant skills, unlike the student volunteers who had been previously doing it with no training. I will be delivering training to the street pastor volunteers and SUSU’s values is a big part of that training. The coordinator of the organisation has told me that many of their volunteers are students anyway, so really this is just a good exercise to ensure that those offering a service are well trained and SUSU has more control over it. The CU have been told about this new venture and support it. So on a practical level, the same will continue, but it will be better.

    I have spoken to other Welfare/Community sabbatical officers in the country and I haven’t heard anything negative thus far. If you could email me on vpwelfare@susu.org with more information about what you’re implying that would be very helpful.

    I don’t believe it would have been appropriate to talk to the LGBT Committee about this, as that would presuppose that the pastors are going to be homophobic. This wouldn’t be an assumption I’d be at all comfortable in making, and would certainly count as religious discrimination. It would be wrong to assume that Christian people are going to be judgemental when one of the founding principals of the organisation is to provide non-judgemental support.

    I can appreciate your concerns but I think that this scheme is fairly inoffensive, considering what already exists, plus it gives us the chance to shape what the volunteers do/offer, which is something we haven’t done before. It also formalises an agreement, so if something does crop up, there are appropriate ways to follow this up. I would never do anything for SUSU that I believe would be discriminatory for any student, and I hope that my background in Equality and Diversity would demonstrate this. If any issue occurs regarding discrimination, I’ll be the first to speak up about it, no fear there.

  12. Chloe
    Jo
    22/01/2013 at 9:17 pm Permalink

    Great report Chloe. I think both housing and mental health issues have been really overlooked by previous vps and I’m glad that this year you’ve managed to make a big impact on both areas.
    Cheers 🙂

  13. Chloe
    Chloe
    23/01/2013 at 6:15 pm Permalink

    Hello Jo!
    Aww thank you, I’m very pleased you think so 🙂

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