Posted by: sarahwakefield | September 28, 2010

Week Fifteen: Welcome week for everyone: past, present and future.

Cycling in on Monday I could feel a change to the air that was more than the weather deciding the summer in Manchester was most definitely over. There was a buzz around Oxford Road, feeling of confusion, as if something was going to happen, but noone was quite sure how it would turn out or quite how it would get done. On reflection, this seems to be the most likely way for most of this year to feel. Running to keep up with the events, most of which will pass you by, even as someone who works full time in the Union.

This week felt for the first time that we could get together and deliver strong outcomes for students, because of the nature of the SU’s structure means that we can keep an eye on what happens in a students every day life and if needed take these issues straight to the most senior levels of the University and get things done.

This was epitomised most strongly for me this week when we discovered a facebook event called ‘Fuck a Fresher’. Now, this is a phrase which most students will have heard banded around, but this event had been set up by a promotions group who had been working within University   halls of residences selling tickets to first years. The event was simply bad taste and was the means of Social Junkies of getting a little bit extra exposure for the nights they were promoting at the possible cost of inviting sexual exploitation of students new to Manchester. The Union is not about preventing it’s members having a good time in the way they want to, but it is in our interest to ensure that they can do so in a safe space. As Social Junkies had been working within University Halls of Residences we were able to get into meetings with senior University managers and make immediate contingency plans and also put in place the framework for planning a safe Welcome Week for next year. The full story has been covered on p1 and 6 of this week’s Mancunion.

In stark contrast to the hectic nature of the Student Fair I attended a meeting of the University’s Board of Governors and in the midst of planning on Monday a meeting with exec and the Vice Chancellor.
Up until now University meetings have felt a little bit exotic, a slice of meeting excitement outside of the normal flow of a day in the Union. But this week they gobbled up my time away from students. Don’t get me wrong, it is great fun and a bit of a kick to sit in representing the student body to a group of 50+ year olds who have all done something impressive in their field to get to the level of Governor in the University. But having societies back being active in the Union reminded me why I had a passion for this role in the first place and why I am so proud to represent our members to the University and wider community.

This week, therefore, I was struck by the past, present and future of the Union. The societies which I had signed up to during my first student fair, the University meetings which allow students to speak up for their needs and finally the future of a Union which responds to the everyday problems which students encounter, moving quickly to offset the damage and build a safe environment for students to thrive and express themselves.

PS as part of my manifesto pledge I said I would spend 2 hours every week talking to students and this week I spent many hours talking to chairs of societies and members of their committees to see how we could serve them better, next week I hope to get out and about a bit more!

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