I can’t believe that I have come to the end of two exciting and busy years of being the Vice President Welfare at Brighton Students’ Union (BSU). When I arrived at the University of Brighton (UoB) in 2014, I never imagined that I would be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to become an elected officer in the SU, influence change and create campaigns to make student life better. The last two years have seen vast change in BSU, UoB and the world of Higher Education, but it has been the day to day impact I can have on the lives of students at UoB that has kept me motivated, excited and humbled to be your elected VP Welfare.
Below are just some of my highlights from the past two years:
1) Wellbeing Cupboards
The Wellbeing Cupboard project took off better than I ever could have anticipated. The campaign started out as my small-scale idea to provide free sanitary items to students but quickly escalated and our five wellbeing cupboards now stock pregnancy tests, sanitary supplies, a range of contraceptives, drink spikeys, wellbeing kits, panic alarms, budget cookbooks and housing advice. Through negotiation with local companies and the hard work of many SU staff, students have accessed over £15,000 worth of products in just 8 months!
2) Anonymous Marking
The Black Attainment Gap is a scary reality that faces Black and Minority Ethnicity (BME) students at almost all universities across the UK. At Brighton, BME students are less likely to achieve a first or 2:1 than their white counterparts and the cause of this shocking statistic is still unknown. However, I pushed for the university to implement an anonymous marking policy to remove unconscious bias from the grading of work. I participated in a dedicated working group throughout the 2018/19 academic year and because of our work, over 200 modules will progress through the anonymous marking pilot in the next academic year.
3) Safe Way Home Scheme
A Safe Way Home scheme was one of my main priorities for this year and I am proud that all students at the University of Brighton are entitled to a free taxi ride home in emergency situations, which can be paid back later. Student safety is our priority at the SU and I am grateful to our taxi partners Streamline and Sussex Cars for making this project a reality.
4) Reinstatement of the free university bus
When the much-loved free Lemon Bus was cancelled at the beginning of the 2017/18 academic year, the Officer Team and I were impassioned to fight for its reinstatement. We were successful in our campaign and it took just a few weeks for a new free, intercampus service to begin. Although there are still improvements that can be made to the service, I have liaised closely with relevant university staff to ensure appropriate amendments are made so the intercampus bus is suitable for all Brighton students.
5) Reduction of Laptop Loan Fines
Every week hundreds of students borrow laptop for short term use from university’s libraries. I was shocked to find out that an overdue loan could cost students up to £5 per hour overdue. I pushed for a reduction of this fine to be fairer to students and the campaign was successful with a fine reduction of 60%, saving students a lot of money.
6) Expect Respect and Consent Awareness Training
To continue the popular “I <3 Consent” campaign introduced in 2015, I amended the campaign with the SU Health and Wellbeing Coordinator to design a more student friendly and engaging programme of workshops. We delivered this training to over 150 student leaders, educating them how to challenge problematic sexual behaviours and influence positive cultures towards sexual consent. Later in the year, I collaborated with a business school student to deliver a campaign called “Expect Respect” to promote positive cultures in sports teams and societies.
Other wins that I have achieved throughout the past two years are reviewing and improving the process for trans and non-binary students to change their personal information registered with UoB, influencing a more accommodating religious observance policy and organising a calendar of non-alcohol based events during Freshers under the #HelloBrighton campaign.
Being an elected officer has been the most fulfilling and exciting post-graduation job I could have wanted. I have been fortunate enough to learn new skills, build networks, and design and deliver campaigns to make student life better. Brighton Students’ Union has an exciting future and I look forward to seeing the improvements that can be made to make student life better. I can only thank all the University’s students and staff, and my brilliant SU colleagues for making my time as VP Welfare so memorable but for now, it’s a goodbye from me!