Charlotte Agnew, President Welfare & Inclusivity, provides an update on what she's been working on recently.
Since students have been coming back to campus, this autumn has seen so many changes both on the University Campus’ as well as our day-to-day University life. These changes have not been easy for everyone, which is why the welfare of students and staff during these uncomfortable times are, as always, super duper important!
For the last few weeks, I have been working with both Universities, FXPlus to gain a wider picture of the wellbeing amongst the student body who are experiencing a whole new norm of studying at the moment. Not only that, but to really dive into the gritty details of exactly what support is being provided to help support the wellbeing of students and staff.
Physical accessibility imposed before Covid-19 is still ongoing, although this area has expanded significantly since then. As well as monitoring accessible routes around campus, this has become even more important due to the one-way systems and the need for consistent sign-posting. Physical accessibility has also stretched to being able to communicate with masks on for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing both on campus and outside of campus such as in the supermarkets. In response to the communication barriers due to lip-reading, I am leading an SU project which is looking into making badges and stickers for lip-readers to communicate their needs, as well as an information and signposting on what lip-reading is and how to do this safely within a Covid environment.
In separate conversations, the online environment has exposed new gaps in accessibility which includes subtitling for online lectures, videos and visibility to allow lip-reading as well as internet issues which can severely disrupts one’s access to lectures, etc. This is why I want to raise questions surrounding this in the SU’s next Big Course Rep Meeting to gain a more detailed picture of these issues so these barriers can be addressed as effectively as possible.
Along the themes of feedback, there has been a large amount which highlights the issues around waiting times for wellbeing support and lack of resources surrounding mental health. This important and critical feedback has been shared with David Dickinson, Director of Student Library Services in order to find ways to work effectively with FXPlus to distribute and signpost students to the right resources and find ways to help make waiting lists shorter.
This month I am leading the ‘Together, Wherever’ campaign which creates opportunities to engage with students with daily lockdown prompts, as well as president drop-in calls to have informal and private conversations with students to help build a picture of what they’re exact needs are in the longer run. This campaign also aims to bring the various wellbeing resources under the same umbrella in order to make it easier for students to navigate through it. I am also exploring how students are accessing resources whilst in isolation, as well as understanding how food packages are working. I am soon talking with colleagues in catering and accommodation to discuss how this is happening in other accommodations outside of Glasney. If you have any ideas, please get in touch!
I have had conversations with colleagues in catering around my ideas for more cultural and religious food holidays in the food outlets such as The Stannary and Fox Café to diversify their menu. Becky Nesbitt from the Multifaith Chaplaincy was also keen to get involved as we work together to support faith and cultural societies to put on events and international food weeks. However, due to the Lockdown, this is more likely to take place following the New Year. Unfortunately the Culture Ball lead by the ACS (Afro-Caribbean Society) was postponed due to the second Lockdown. Since Black History Month, I have been having conversations with FXPlus to keep pushing EDI (Equality, Diversity, Inclusivity) as an agenda topic.
Whilst collecting student feedback surrounding mental health and wellbeing, it is important to make sure that voices from POC (People of Colour) are involved as well to ensure that the data is diverse and representative. Cornwall is not racially diverse, so some students that may already feel isolated due to the colour of their skin or cultural background (e.g. being the only POC in their household). This is an additional layer on top of the isolation already caused due to Covid-19 and the limitations in meeting other members like themselves in what would have been in-person social clubs and activities. This aspect also applies to many groups within diversity including international students, mature students, LGBTQIA+ communities and so forth.
Lastly, I’ve been in lots of meetings discussing Christmas and supporting students, so if you have any worries or thoughts please do get in touch.