With the announcement of a third national lockdown and the subsequent impacts that this has had upon students' lives, we want to express that we share the frustrations of the many students who have been let down by the response of the University. Although this term will look different in many ways, the SU team has been continuing our work to ensure that the student voice is heard at all levels of University decision-making. We wanted to update students on some of the material gains that we have made since the beginning of this calendar year, and remind you that your safety and wellbeing will remain our top priority in the coming weeks.
Exam & Assessment Mitigations and Arrangements
The SU team has been working over the last few weeks to coordinate student pressure in pushing for exam and assessment arrangements that recognise the unique disruption this year has caused to the life of students. Our UG and PG Access, Education and Participation Officers led an open meeting attended by over 130 academic reps and students to discuss students' specific concerns about this year’s assessment cycle. This meeting fed into an open letter from Cambridge SU, signed by over 3000 students, demanding that the University and its Departments and Faculties listen to the voices of the student body when considering exam and assessment arrangements. By mobilising the student body behind these demands we have successfully brought the University to the negotiating table, and they have agreed a package of measures which will be announced to students later this month. There’s a lot more work to be done to ensure students on every course get the mitigations you need, but this first step is a big change from the University’s initial position, and shows just how much a united student body can achieve.
The SU Student Shadowing Scheme kicked off over the last few weeks, with 315 student shadows and over 600 participants total taking part in a vast range of activities introducing them to student life at Cambridge! The scheme gives Sixth Form students and Mature Students the opportunity to experience Cambridge University firsthand. The hard work done by Esme and Kate, the UG Access, Education and Participation Officer and the Student Rep Coordinator for the SU respectively, to move the scheme online has ensured that vital access work can continue despite the disruption caused by COVID-19. The SU has worked with some incredible student societies and campaigns to put on over 180 events throughout the scheme - including quizzes with University challenge champions, comedy workshops, sports talks and introductions to student life and the admissions process!
Period Poverty Campaigning
In collaboration with students at the Period Project and the Women’s Campaign we have been working to push for access to free menstrual products across the University. Our Women’s Officer worked with Students for Global Health on an open letter that has been signed by over 500 students (and counting!). Alongside mobilising student support, we are working on a proposal for a centrally administered SU scheme to provide single-use products to all college’s, and will be pushing for provisions to be made available in all University buildings. Resource packs have also been launched by the Women’s Campaign to support college women’s officers in pushing for college level schemes.
Doctoral Supervision Research Project
The research project on doctoral supervision that will be led by Siyang and Aastha has received ethical approval from CHESREC, the University’s higher education research ethics committee. We have also secured some funding from the University’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Project Board to carry out this research. This means that the project will be going ahead as planned in Lent; we’re already in the process of recruiting two research assistants, and will be looking for research participants very soon. Watch this space!
Supporting student representatives
We have also been ensuring that Cambridge SU is supporting the vital work of college level representatives in advocating for their students. Over the past few weeks the sabbatical officers have put on a diverse range of skillshares and training sessions for JCR and MCR Officers to attend.
Our Disabled Students Officer, Rensa has continued running sessions and distributing resources to equip student reps with the skills to ensure that accessibility remains central to their work - so far they’ve reached over 12 college committees and over 220 responses to the accessibility quiz! If you are interested in your campaign or committee receiving training more information can be found on the Disabled Students Campaign website.
The BME Officer, Howard also ran training sessions for supporting BME students, to help ensure that the interests of BME students are central to the work of JCR/MCR representatives. Sessions also allowed officers to share best practice and tips on advocating for students within the college or society.
Chloe has set up a google drive of resource packs for Women’s and Gender Equalities Officers to help support feminist organising at a collegiate level on issues such as menstrual products, college gym hours and delivering consent workshops.
Alice set up online Sexual Health Workshops for JCR/MCR Officers with the charity Dhiverse, covering vital issues such as sexual health, STI’s and communication of sexual assault. Over 30 Officers received training, with extremely positive feedback!