Many of you have read and commented about our coverage of university cuts and the removal of wardens from halls of residence. These have been issues we have focused on in some detail in both the wessex scene and wessexblog.
At the Students Union AGM on Thursday two motions, below, will be discussed about these issues. The first, regarding course closures and cuts, will mean, if passed, that SUSU will officially oppose the Vice Chancellor’s new strategy to the extent that it focuses on profitable research based courses at the expense of others. This will mean supporting any reasonable actions of staff, students and unions take against these cuts and requiring the SUSU President to vote against them at University council meetings.
The second officially opposes the decision to replace halls wardens, and contains commitments from the Union to monitor the effectiveness of the new system and increase the avaliability of pastoral support for students in halls.
Students who agree with the motions are encouraged to attend the AGM at noon on Thursday in the Cube, as all students have a vote on motions.
The motions are worded as follows:
Cuts and Course Closures
The Union Notes:
a. The Vice-Chancellor’s new strategy, unveiled at the meeting of University Council on March 25th 2010 contains commitments to “Increasing income from research grants and contracts at a rate which exceeds that of our Russell Group comparators” and “Further develop our existing world-class research and disinvest in underperforming areas to improve our research competitiveness.”
b. The financial strategy, unveiled at the same meeting, committed the University to “focussing academic energies on well funded activity”. The annual financial review predicts a release of resources from disciplines that will be withdrawn from entirely, stating that this money will then be invested in other areas.
c. Sports studies degrees will be phased out by the University over the next three years, despite acknowledgement from the Vice Chancellor that there were no problems with the way the subjects were taught.
d. That the review document which underpinned the decision to disinvest in Sports degrees was not made available to staff, students or union officials during the consultation process.
e. Undergraduate Social Work courses have also recently come under the threat of closure, while Unions have recognised a real threat of course closures and job losses in other areas.
The Union Believes:
a. That even in a time of such financial uncertainty, a strategy which focuses only on the financial value and research quality of degrees is not in the best interest of students.
b. That the University should assess courses in a more balanced way, taking into account the quality of teaching, the demand and the social impact, as well as the quality of both funded and unfunded research.
c. That jobs throughout the University should be protected at all costs, and staff should only be made redundant or offered voluntary severance as a very last resort.
d. That in the future the University should seek to be as open as possible when offering a consultation about course closures, and essential documents should be made publicly available.
The Union Resolves:
a. To officially and actively support any reasonable movement of students, staff or unions to resist cuts and closures on their courses or to the University as a whole.
b. To independently monitor the actions and decisions of the University with regard to cuts or course closures.
c. To provide consistent and clear information to the student body, in accordance with the duty under b.
d. To ensure the Student’s Union President votes and speaks out against cuts and closures based on a sole desire to maximise research profit at University Council meetings.
The Union Notes:
a. The University will replace its current system of halls wardens (officially- Residents Support Assistants) with a new Residents Support Service as of September 15th 2010.
b. Rather than living in halls, staff under the new system will be onsite nightly (6pm-8am) and live elsewhere.
c. The new model has removed the requirement that staff must have ‘a substantive connection’ to the University as either students of staff.
d. A survey of students in halls taken in March indicated that over 79% of students preferred the current system to the new one.
e. A review document, “Residences Support Service- Consultation Phase 2”, published by the University on 08/01/2010 stated that
“All respondents agreed that the new Residence Support Team is a key contributor to the out of hours support service, particularly to our most vulnerable students – first year undergraduates, international students, students with disabilities or in crisis whilst living in University run Halls of Residence. In addition, it was recognised that it helps provide a safe, study conducive environment and maintains discipline in
Halls. The Service’s contribution helps the University sell the accommodation offer to students and their parents. It is a key partner in supporting students in their transition to living in an HE environment, picking up issues and signposting students to other services in the University or in the wider Community. Without this service, other support services could be overwhelmed and/or early intervention in student crises would be lost. It should be maintained as long as the University maintains its accommodation offer to students.”
The Union Believes:
a. That a number of students in halls, particularly first year undergraduates, those with disabilities or mental illness, international students and those suffering from homesickness and stress, require pastoral support while living in halls of residence.
b. That this is best provided by staff who live onsite, become part of the halls community and have a substantive connection to the University.
c. That the new model does not adequately provide for the complex needs of supporting students in halls of residence.
d. That introducing the new model a week before the start of fresher’s fortnight does not give sufficient time to address or iron out any problems.
e. That the University has a duty of care to provide support to these students which should not be considered secondary to financial concerns.
The Union Resolves:
a. To petition the University to halt its plans to replace the current system, and if this is unsuccessful by the time the change has been carried out, to petition the University to return to the current system, or a system more closely modelled on it.
b. To, independently of the University, review the effectiveness of the new system throughout its first two years and offer suggestions for its improvement.
c. To increase the availability and publicity of alternative forms of support for vulnerable students in halls, such as nightline and counselling services.