Posted on Wed 01 Apr 2020 at 10:34 by Cecilia Wallback
Last week, as usual, I have been continuing to attend the morning COVID 19 Emergency Steering group via Microsoft Teams. These meetings used to happen at 8:30am but have fortunately migrated to 9am now that we are all home working and meeting via video chats. I can’t remember specifically what I spoke about each meeting, but a summary of the main topics I have worked on to get resolutions and communications around have been the Graduation Ceremony, students who don’t have their own personal devices (laptops, f ex) that they can work on and complete examinations/assessments, don’t have connectivity (internet), or a suitable study space. I have discussed the petitions going around, such as cancelling first and second year exams, releasing students from their Hillhead contracts, and now the petitions going around to mitigate third and fourth year exams.
Graduation Ceremony – I can’t get a clear answer around the questions I have received around this. When I contacted Ruth Taylor (Vice Principal for Education) she forwarded me to the same people who have been ignoring my emails so far. My understand of this is that you can still attend the postponed ceremony even if you graduated in abstentia. If you need to apply for the ceremony now despite happening in the summer, I don’t know. The FAQs only say ‘’ We will provide more details about your options for graduation in due course. ‘’ (https://www.abdn.ac.uk/staffnet/working-here/coronavirus/faqs-9773.php#1-what-is-the-impact-on-graduations).
Personal devices/connectivity/study spaces – So far, it seems less than 10 students have been in touch regarding lack of a personal device. Student support provided them with some fund to get (cheap) laptops that they could work from to complete their university work. If you have received this support, get in touch and let me know how it is working out!
If you are struggling with being able to complete your work, please do get in touch with your school to ensure you are not disadvantaged by the current crisis, and if the school don’t listen, please get in touch with either Dariya (Education Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org) or me so that we can get on the University about this!
First and second year exams – to be perfectly honest, this was already in the works before the petitions made its rounds, but I believe the petitions was the tipping point that got the decision made. Some courses still must do exams due to the demands of their accreditation body, such as Business, Medicine, and Dentistry.
Hillhead contracts – This was also flagged by a petition, and the fact that some other institutions had already made the decision to release students from their University accommodation contracts. I participated in several meetings around this, emphasising the financial impact it was having on students and the hypocrisy of encouraging students to leave to travel to their ‘normal place of residence’ but still expecting students to pay for their University accommodation. Louise (Communities Officer) and Alexander (Welfare Officer) joined me with this, and now that students can break their Hillhead contracts, Louise have continued this work onto other PBSA (purpose-built student accommodations).
I met with the Activities Development Manager, Danielle, and the AUSA CEO, Margaret, and we discussed online activities for students that we can organise. My thought is that while we are all on lock-down, not everyone has flatmates but even if you do have flatmates, you may still experience feelings on loneliness and boredom. I have three flatmates and I know I do. We decided to plan some fitness related activities, as well as recreational and educational. This has now been picked up by the AUSA Activities Team, and the first fitness video was released this weekend. It was not the most instructional or motivational video, but I was told it’s just an introduction and that going forward we will get videos that explains how to do the exercises. If you or your Club/Society/Group/Forum is doing anything online, do get in touch and we can advertise these activities!
I’ve also been meeting with the University’s communications people to discuss student communications. Although, why I am not sure, because my feedback seems to only rarely be considered… I have asked them to send out information to students regarding the Student-led free food delivery that has been set up, which has the aim of helping those who are struggling financially, who are vulnerable, or in isolation to get some food delivered to your residency. You can sign up for this here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSen-iY5t76yYLO6EGEA6O66K_GeRTAJ8EXYhk9aXFhUXLh53Q/viewform?fbclid=IwAR1CgSAptYtz8HbsSR0EyZIFyVtTlDif4OkHp0eB5mikMiMe_qeTg7tn7JU
If you have a prescription you need to be picked up, or a shopping that you wish to have made but can’t leave your home, you can also sign up for that here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfxVFhN1B8PKqx_Q_N1LHetxO7jj1YmjYhQZJxXpZI-cnsF3A/viewform?fbclid=IwAR35rFhWhsXPNhPwegeXiOqRV2ZKLxV0cnvSyGOmPoz5oKuzLtLemKQDYW0
Although because this is volunteering, it is not something I am actually doing during work time, so I only do some admin stuff and figuring out ways to make the process easier for the student volunteers.
I’ve had meetings regarding the Capital Projects on campus (such as King’s College and Johnston). The project if slowly moving forward, and there is really nothing to update on at this point as the meetings last week were not overly productive.
I’ve been doing a lot on the Democratic Review, working on re-drafting Byelaw 6 based on the comments Louise collected from various people. I have now sent it to the Sabbatical Team for feedback before I proceed with them as I have to submit them to Student Council next week. For this, I had a meeting with our Representative Services Manager to discuss what our AUSA webpage actually is capable of, as I am looking at the way we do Co-options and to ensure it is done consistently across all Standing Committees and that it is done in an accessible and democratic manner. So far it seems very promising!
Speaking of Student Council, I had a meeting with some people from the AUSA Representation Team (f ex, AUSA reps and Communications coordinator) together with the Sabbatical Team make decisions for April Student Council meeting. I had an idea that we could host the Student Council voting online via the AUSA webpage to make sure every councillor had the opportunity to vote. Isla (Sport Officer) suggested that we use Zoom to have at least one meeting opportunity for councillors to discuss motions and questions Sabbatical Officers on their work report. I think this is a very good idea, I think accountability is very important despite that I can’t remember ever actually being questioned on my work report in the past. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.
On Thursday, I attended the AUSA Representation Team meeting. A lot of the discussion at that meeting was around the Hardship Funds and the fact that some of the Sabbatical doesn’t seem to think it is very accessible and the fact that it is every necessary in the current situation. If you are struggling financially, please apply to the Hardship Fund even if you think you don’t fulfil the criteria - https://www.ausa.org.uk/ausaadvice/hardshipfund/ !