My first month as MSU President
Although technically I’m closer to two months into the job, now that results have come out and we are officially a month away from the first day of the 2020/21 academic year, I felt it would be a good time to talk about how the last month or so has gone.
Coming into the job during a pandemic has certainly thrown me in at the deep end. I spent a week in August at NUS Lead and Change with other sabbaticals from the UK and the question of Covid-19 and Student Unions was one that clearly played on all our minds - with recurring questions on ‘Welcome Week’, a return to campus, sports, etc arising. Being able to talk and form relationships with other sabbs was an incredibly comforting part of Lead and Change given the circumstances and also led to literally hundreds of ideas forming for 20/21. I have since been in regular contact with Aberystwyth's SU President and Leeds Beckett’s Activities and Events Officer. We’ve also started to form a relationship with Arts University Bournemouth and their President and Deputy - as another small and specialist university who work without a SU building and huge team like other universities it’s great to have their insight into how their day-to-day workings run.
A-Level results day was understandably a mixed bag, and I was incredibly sorry, especially as someone from a low income area and background, to see how so many of our 17 and 18 year olds were so unfairly graded and treated by the government. Not only were our students unfairly treated during the pandemic when they were more or less forgotten by the government, sent home and expected to pay for accommodation they didn’t live in, potentially provided for a household, lost jobs, lost access to university, and when our final years didn’t get to say goodbye to their friends, now our brand new students have been unfairly treated based on their socio-economic background by an algorithm created by people that sat those same exams decades ago. I am, however, thankful that our incoming students are coming to a university and are part of a Student Union I know will support them - this cannot ever make up for the injustice they faced, but hopefully will allow them to continue on in their academic careers represented fairly and with grades they truly deserve.
Myself and our new Women’s officer - Lizzy Miller - have spent time discussing how we can elevate the period poverty scheme at Marjon. Following on from suggestions and advice from other institutions and feedback from Sasha Morrissey’s questionnaire sent out earlier this year, I spoke to Lizzy who has been incredible with all the samples and literature she has acquired from organic tampon and sanitary towel companies, and from companies who provide reusable products like cups and towels. I’m fully expecting my desk to be overrun in the next few days with samples! Hopefully this is the first step to working with the university to elevate the scheme (which they have already worked so hard on) and to provide period products that help reduce Marjon’s carbon footprint, make periods a subject that shouldn’t be taboo, and most importantly ensure that everyone at Marjon who has a period is accommodated for.
I’ve also been amazed to see an influx of society applications during the summer - including our BAME society (one of Geoffery’s last moves, and has really hit the ground running), the Workshop, Uniboob, a potential cricket society, and more. It’s incredible to see how much everyone misses campus and seeing students who only confirmed their place less than a week ago already getting together to set up societies and clubs. It’s clear from everyone I’ve spoken to how excited everyone is to return.
Among everything else, I’ve also been planning welcome week with Mick and Joe, attended my first Marjon University Board of Governors meeting, discussed our autumn AGM, met with the MSU external trustees and officers, refreshed the MSU Facebook page and set up an alumni page, attended interviews, met with some new students during campus tours, filmed some TikToks, discussed the SU open area, collaborated with a local clothing brand, and much more (probably boring) stuff that I could probably spend hours talking about. Most importantly, I’ve been counting down the days for everyone to get back to campus. Things will understandably be different this year, but the SU is working incredibly hard to make sure everyone’s Marjon experience is something to write (text) home about.
See you all in a month!