Newcastle students set some resolutions for the University and Students’ Union for the upcoming decade.
1. Provide more education surrounding consent
I want Newcastle University to make more effort to educate students about sexual consent.
The only time I can recall consent being mentioned by Newcastle University at all was back at Fresher’s week. A member of Northumbria Police simply pressed click on a couple of YouTube videos about sexual assault, then asked if anyone had any questions at the end.
Since then, I have seen posters on the subject of consent around campus, but they have always been distributed by societies like It Happens Here rather than the University itself. Whilst it’s amazing that these societies take the initiative to do this, they shouldn’t need to – the university ought to make educating students about sexual consent its own priority.
Now, I understand that there’s an argument that one small video on consent could be considered all the education we need. After all, we’re adults, right? We understand that rape, abuse, and harassment are all terrible crimes.
For most of us, this is true.
Yet, there’s no denying the fact that there are some out there who don’t understand the concept of consent. As recently as 2017, a Courier article reported that 17% of Newcastle students had been subjected to some kind of sexual assault or misconduct before Freshers’ Week was even over. Whether these incidents refer to full-blown rape or cat-calling, their cause amounts to the same thing: their perpetrators believe themselves to be above any form or punishment or criticism.
Earlier in 2019, It Happens Here’s posters about consent were vandalised, with marker pen scrawled over them. Unfortunately for some students here, obliterating the concept of consent extends beyond a political statement, and into real life.
So, next time I see a poster on consent, or receive an invite to a talk on the subject, I challenge Newcastle University to ensure that it’s associated with their logo.
2. Improve student support
Newcastle University Student Support Services are inadequate, especially for those who desperately need access. In my roles, I often encounter people going through situations that are incredibly emotionally tiring and often traumatising. It is also these people, those with a real need for support who are the most likely to be rejected from counselling, and to wait months to get support that is much needed in place.
NU’s student support system is inadequateGeorgia Corbett, NUSU Disability Officer
The reality is that students with mental health problems exist on this campus, traumatised people exist on this campus, and University as an environment can exasperate these issues. Thus, to turn these students away – the students that our University website swears to support – is cruel. These students end up waiting over a year for NHS counselling, something the Wellbeing Service is aware may be the case, with their only support being support groups provided by fellow students. These support groups that receive no support from the University and shouldn’t be sufficient for those in dire need of support. Real solutions are needed: humanist responses, not copy and paste promises.
3. Provide transparency for victims during the reporting procedure
The current University procedure is to not name the sanctions provided to any student.
This means that when you report any incident to the University, even if you are a direct victim of the individual that you are reporting, that you will not be allowed to know the sanction that they reach. They will only tell you if the individual remains on campus – not likely a reassuring thing to be told, given most of the time students are not expelled for sexual or domestic violence.
My question is this, what is the point in reporting, of going through the trauma of telling the University, making a statement, living in fear of repercussions while you await the disciplinary hearing, only to never receive any sense of justice? No sense of closure or completion? If this was how our criminal system worked, we would be horrified. A system rigged in favour of perpetrators, a system that discourages people from coming forward, surely cannot be just. And you would be right, and it is no more just here. To ask students to report incidents to the University, is to ask students to trust the system that is in place; how can one trust an opaque system which traumatises reporters more than it offers any real solace? The case in the paper last week highlights this at its worst, a student has suffered at the hands of this convoluted and seemingly cruel system, change is needed; that is clear and hopefully listening to student victims/survivors will be at the heart of that, lest more ‘change’ be insufficient.
4. Pop a kettle in the SU
Tea. The reason that I am able to get myself to uni every morning. No cup of tea in the morning means that I will be grumpy for the whole of the day.
In my opinion, a cup of tea is not too much to ask for when you are gruellingly studying for hours on end in the Student’s Union. Once I have finished reading 100 pages of my 3 novels for this week then I would like to be able to pop down in the SU and help myself to a FREE cup of tea. I do not mind bringing my own tea bags, I really do not. But I cannot bring myself a kettle to uni! No, not even a portable one! So please, please please please may we have a free boiling water tap in the Student’s Union to break up my uni work?
5. Pay student media some respect
Last week, Dominic Lee wrote a fantastic article about how student media doesn’t receive the re
spect it deserves. The last seven days have only reinforced this fact more, with people behaving disrespectfully at Fight Night and the University attempting to intimidate the Courier into altering an important story.
We live in a time where journalism is more important than ever. We aren’t just here to celebrate the Uni and SU’s accomplishments and flex our Photoshop skills. If something is going wrong it’s our job to report on it, to inform students and let them have a voice. My resolution for the University and the Students’ Union is to respect our independence and let us do our job.
6. Stop putting ugly statues everywhere
As a hopelessly romantic English Literature student, I bloody love a good statue or two. The classic stoic-looking grey blokes and blokettes staring out into the world, a pigeon, seagull or duck on their shit-caked shoulder.
What I can’t abide, however, is an insulting statue. Call me oversensitive, but I refuse to look at a statue that won’t look back at me. This brings me to the main offender of the numerous statues on campus, the Pink Ballerina. Appearing during the first semester of the 2018/19 term, the Pink Ballerina was met with divisive opinion from day one. Not only was the statue a mess of offensively bright colour, it also lacked a head of any kind, something I simply do not trust.
Why are we here? And why is the ballerina here too? All of these were questions proffered by Senior Fine Arts lecturer Katie Cudden when she had the statue erected in front of the Hatton gallery in the Architecture Quadrangle.
I should clarify that I have the utmost respect for Katie and her work, and appreciate the boldness of her sculpture. However, I cannot shake my crippling fear of headless statues, and this one haunted my first year like a ghost. I hope that in the coming decade the university will accommodate even the most unusual of needs, such as my own.
7. Respect unpaid labour in the SU (or, better yet, pay for it)
Being part of extra-curricular activities like volunteering with Go Volunteer, societies, student media or taking a representative role as a Course Rep or a Liberation Officer is a great way to enhance your university experience and meet people beyond your course and flat. But when you take a position of responsibility in these, like editing for the Courier or being on a society committee, it can’t be underestimated how much responsibility and work this can add to your life. Yes, it’s good fun, but it’s still unpaid labour that I think should be appreciated more.
Perhaps “radically”, I think things like Liberation Officers and Heads of NSR and NUTV should be paid; these roles really do require time, effort, planning and many meetings that would be paid for someone doing those roles in a full-time staff capacity. Running campaigns and fighting for injustices alongside your degree is tough, and sometimes staff appear to expect you to prioritise this like a paid job. Surely the SU can spare some cash to pay all of their Officers fairly? Even if this was just a timesheet for campaign planning and event delivery, it would add extra value to the role and show people that their work is valued and appreciated.
Even without the pay, the unpaid labour of student volunteers is often not appreciated across the board. Society members never seem to understand how much effort goes into planning a ball or a guest speaker. Sub-editors for the Courier dedicate hours of their life to struggling with InDesign and Photoshop to share the student voice in our incredible weekly paper. Liberation Officers, whilst somehow handling the responsibility of representing a diverse marginalised group as an individual, hold the SU and university to account, support students, bring motions to council, run extensive campaigns and do tons of behind-the-scenes work. We should all be aware of this hard work and appreciate it, rather than taking credit for unpaid labour or dismissing their work because of its voluntary nature.
If you’re one of these overworked and underpaid people – I feel you. Having been probably over-involved with extra-curriculars in the SU since my second year, I know the burnout and the frustration that can come when you don’t feel appreciated. Of course, there are some excellent people who do truly thank you for your work, and you know it does matter. Still, let’s show some more thanks to these student volunteers who make our student experience better. And, you know, chuck them a bit of National Living Wage every now and then.
Featured Image: @StudentsNCL on Twitter
Last modified: 25th December 2019