Welcome back to all our returning students, and a welcome to our new international and PG students. It’s been quite busy return to work but here’s an update:
Refreshers’ Week and RAG, and Bookends
For those of you who are new to Aberdeen we wish you a good welcome and for those returning, welcome back! Hopefully you enjoyed some of the events that AUSA put on over the first week back. The jazz night at Foodstory Café was an incredible sell-out event and we are incredibly grateful to the owner Sandy McKinnon who kindly donated all the profits of the evening to our RAG initiative. For those of you who don’t know, RAG (Raising and Giving) is the charitable arm of AUSA who raise funds each year for local Aberdeen/shire charities.
Tuesday 17th saw the kick-off (probably the wrong term!) of our men’s hockey team and their 24-hour hockey match. It was excellent supporting them and the sum they raised is in the region of about £3000 but no doubt this is still to rise!
A phenomenal effort again to our RAG committee in organising the Refreshers Ceilidh at Hillhead. Haggis, neeps, tatties, and a ‘wee dram’ and a dance, all in the name of charity. Helping out the committee pull off such a fantastic night was definitely the highlight of the week. For more information about our RAG initiative or just getting involved in events check out https://www.ausa.org.uk/charities/
I’m also very happy to announce (a bit later than expected) that Bookends has finally joined us in the Union Building. Bookends is an incredible 2nd hand bookshop providing textbooks, CDs, and DVDs in great condition at an affordable price for students. Bookends is a fundamental part of our charities campaign and has been going for 20 odd years, again with the proceeds going to Aberdeen/shire charities. Run again by student volunteers. Pop in on your lunch break and have a gander at what’s in stock. Look out for updates on the AUSA website for news about ASR and their new relaunch.
University Of Stavanger, Norway
With the opening of the new term and Refreshers’ Week well underway we also had the exciting opportunity to host visitors from the University of Stavanger Norway. On the 18th and 19th I had the pleasure of meeting the Student President, Magne Bartlett and his team; Viktoria (Vice-President Learning Environment), Jørgen (Vice-President Teaching & Learning), and Anette (Organisational Consultant).
On the Wednesday Morning I gave a ‘light’ presentation on the history of AUSA, our organisation position at now and moving forward, and our strategic importance within the context of the University. In addition we compared and discussed our democratic structures and how our organisations influence University and Government decisions. It was quite astonishing to realise how similar our universities actually are. Over the course of their visit they were also introduced to the role and function of the NUS and how it supports students and Unions across the country.
Over the two days they received a tour of our campus and were thoroughly impressed with the age of the University and its location. A tour of ASV and our sports facilities was the concluding part of their stay which was a contender for most impressive part of our University. We really do take the Old Aberdeen campus for granted some times.
Governance, governance… Governance!
As you can check out in my work report for Student Council I’ve been involved in (and will continue to work heavily in) ensuring that the University is able to meet its Strategic Objectives to its fullest capacity. Most recently that required myself and members of Court working to recruit the new Senior Governor and Chancellor’s Assessor to Court, in succession of Sir Moir Lockhead who renounced his role last year. The Senior Governor and Chancellor’s Assessor (one role) is responsible for the leadership and effectiveness of the University Court as the governing body of University, which approves the University’s mission and strategic vision, and oversees the management of its revenue, property and other resources. It was an excellent privilege as a student representative of Court to be part of such a critical decision making process. More information regarding the new appointment can be found at: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/news/10288/
Halls & HMOs
At AUSA we have a campaigning running called ‘Cut the Rent’ led by our Communities Officer Lewis Macleod. The aim is to, of course, lobby the university to reduce the price of halls. In many cases we’re finding students being unable to afford accommodation or barely doing so, to the detriment of their wellbeing. Quite a significant amount of work is being done by AUSA on the matter but we need your help as well. Sign the petition at https://www.facebook.com/abdncuttherent/?fref=ts and if you have been met with financial difficulty due to the price of halls, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students make up 70% OF THE ELECTORATE in Old Aberdeen for Old Aberdeen Community Council, yet our voice is so underrepresented in the area and so readily disregarded. Recently the Aberdeen City Council has gone into consultation regarding a policy that would in essence LIMIT the number of HMO properties in Aberdeen, particularly around the University populated areas (funnily enough). These are significant issues to which the latter AUSA has immediately responded to; sending an organisational response to the Council and Councillors. The various metrics being used to consider imposing the limitations are not only being misappropriated but are also skewed and in areas exaggerated. We also have the contentious statement that students are “transient residents” who “don’t contribute to society” being used as rhetoric to substantiate non-arguments. We are continuing to challenge these ‘metrics’ and fallacies, and those who are insistent on seeing them implemented. There is plenty to do and also plenty of ways to get involved. We have been in ongoing discussions with Old Aberdeen Landlords who are supportive of us and the fight against HMO limitations. Keep checking AUSA President or AUSA Communities blogs for details at www.ausa.org.uk
Student Welfare and Mental Health
The first meeting of the Mental Health Working Group was very productive. It’s great working with Directors of the University and continuing to see a considerable focus placed on mental health and welfare of students and staff.
On the matter of welfare a member of staff raised the concern about excessive drinking in student culture. At AUSA we are working towards the NUS Alcohol Impact accreditation, aiming to change attitudes towards drinking, building healthier communities on campus, promoting responsible drinking. In clubs and societies it can often feel like alcohol is an integral component of student life however we at AUSA acknowledge that our student body is incredibly diverse, and so I’ll be working with our student groups to ensure that activities can be as inclusive as possible. Comms should be released in the near future.
An action from the meeting was that I’ll be part of a sub-group of the MHWG which will look solely into student problems and academic issues to produce accurate information which can be used in easing these problems and ensuring that our support mechanisms are robust enough.
If you have any concerns or issues our Student Advice Centre (SAC) offers free confidential advice on various matters. https://www.ausa.org.uk/supportingyou/
AUSA also runs an award winning Nightline Service (8pm-8am), completely confidential to help you with any issue you have. https://www.ausa.org.uk/supportingyou/niteline/
Questions and Queries
I have my regular catch-ups with the Principal as you may or may not know, and he is always interested to hear what’s going on in the student community. What’s concerning you and what do you need him to know? Email me during the week and I’ll report back after Monday 6th February.
Chubbe Anucha, Student President