The Best Student Life. Bristol SU

student living: ruth day

Hey everyone, I’m Ruth and I’m your Student Living Officer this year! My role is all about ensuring that you have the best student life possible, focusing on mental health and wellbeing, housing, sustainability, finances and community outreach.

I have done three years out of four of my degree in Maths and Philosophy – I’m taking a year out to represent you full-time, and once this year is over I will go back to finish my degree! When I was a student, I got involved in as many campaigns as I could. I was involved in Bristol, Cut the Rent campaigning for fairer housing in the city and University, and also was involved in mental health campaigning with the society Support Our Services. I was also part of the LGBT+ Society committee for two years and really enjoyed running campaigns and events to bring together fellow LGBT+ students.

I am really excited to represent students full-time in areas that I’m really passionate about! I want work to ensure that every student has safe and affordable housing, is able to access the support they need, and for sustainability to be a focus of our University and SU.

I also work with the Wellbeing Network, RAG & Volunteering Network, Sustainability Network, Care Leavers and Estranged Students Network, and Parents, Carers & Mature Students Network to ensure that student voices are represented.

Most importantly, I want to work with you to create a University and SU that works for you!

What am I working on this year?

 

Supporting student mental health and wellbeing

  • Shaping the University’s review of Personal Tutoring, pushing for improved mandatory training and widespread clarity surrounding their roles. 
  • Lobby the University to increase wellbeing provision around assessment times. 
  • Ensure that all staff in wellbeing roles have mandatory training on issues faced by BME, LGBT+ and Trans students.

Improve awareness, training and treatment for student drug and alcohol use

  • Improve and update the University’s existing drug education campaign
  • Push for Wellbeing and Resilife staff to receive more training on drug and alcohol support 
  • Guidance for academic staff on how to support students who are facing difficulties with their drug and alcohol use

Safe and affordable student housing 

  • Continue work lobbying the University for a rent reduction strategy
  • Build further links with the tenants’ union ACORN and support students setting up a housing cooperative. 

Building supportive halls communities

  • Improve SU training for new JCR committees
  • Ensure that Resilife and current JCR committees are ready for financial handover 

Action on the Climate Emergency

  • Lobby the University to meaningfully support the climate strikes 
  • Lobby for arms companies to be banned from Careers Fairs
  • Support the student-led Divest Barclays campaign. 

What have I done so far?

 

March

  • I met with the CEO of the Russell Group to discuss fees and collaboration to support students in private sector accommodation.
  • I won an extension to the rent rebates (to the end of the Easter break) and extra bursaries for CLES and students in receipt of the accommodation bursary.
  • I successfully lobbied the university to open music rooms and open halls study spaces until 8pm.
  • I raised issues from students in catered halls to the university.
  • I’ve been doing lots of work on improving Personal Tutoring with David, Leah and Jason including continuing to develop Personal Tutor training, EDI guidance for Tutors, and a Personal Tutor portal on Blackboard.
  • I am working with Khadija to secure BAME ad-hoc wellbeing sessions with the Wellbeing Service.
  • I am working with Jason and Marten on improving Trans healthcare provision within Student Health and the wider NHS, and improving the name and title change process at the University.
  • Wellbeing and Resilife staff should be receiving drug awareness training soon and we are starting to look at how we can make the drop-in a more permanent part of University services.
  • We have begun work on financial modelling for the student housing co-op to be able to get their first home and I fed into Shelter's fair renting manifesto for mayoral and council candidates.
  • I have continued my work with the BAME, Multifaith and Wellbeing Networks on a good provision of non-drinking and single sex flats.
  • David and I have been working out the next steps following the Climate Day of Action and I have been working with VegSoc on looking at the University's newly released Sustainable Food Action Plan.
  • Jason and I have been working to support IFemSoc and the Women's Network following Sarah Everard's death, we are investigating the Zoom-bombing which occurred at a Sarah Everard vigil, and are raising issues around the safety of our campus spaces to the University. 

February

  • As part of the University Mental Health and Wellbeing Steering Group I supported the LGBT+ and Trans Network Chairs to bring their priorities to the University.
  • I met with student services and the Inclusion Team with Jason to further plan content for the Personal Tutoring training suite we are designing with Julian Kendell.
  • Jason and I met with the University to discuss an Equalities guide for Personal Tutors.
  • I began working with the University on the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy refresh and the questions for this year's Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey.
  • David, Jason, and I met with the Digital Education Office to set up a Personal Tutor portal on Blackboard.
  • I met with The Bristol Drugs Project and the leads of all the support services to agree drug awareness training for staff in the Wellbeing Service and Resilife.
  • I met with Release (the drugs reform charity) on updating the residence conditions and local rules so they better reflect the University Harm Reduction approach.
  • I had an initial meeting with the housing co-op and our project support to start getting a financial plan off the ground. I also met with the University to discuss how they could support the housing co-op project.
  • I started initial planning and research for a student tenants' union.
  • I met with Sarah Purdy, Pro Vice Chancellor for Student Experience, to discuss reforms to the current rent setting process.
  • I supported the Transition Team to run an events focus group with staff and the JCRs to improve the provision of online events.
  • With the Residential Experience Coordinators I have set up fortnightly JCR President forums to plan campaigns and hear their issues.
  • I interviewed Larissa Kennedy (NUS President), Tony Juniper and Marvin Rees (Mayor of Bristol) for the Climate Emergency Day of Action.
  • David and I secured £20,000 from Bristol Alumni and Friends with the help of Erik Lithander for sustainability projects in the long-term following the Climate Emergency Day of Action.
  • I am finalising plans for the Sustainability Careers Spotlight with BUST and the Careers Service.
  • Following pressure from Bristol SU, The Covid Impact Fund has now been publicised on the University's website and is open to students who need financial help with things like rent and childcare costs. 
  • I spoke at the national rent strike rally with more than 200 attendees alongside speakers such as John McDonnell MP and Owen Jones.
  • I met with Thangam Debbonaire MP to raise local and national student housing issues.
  • I facilitated a meeting between the University and the Bristol Rent Strike to discuss the rent rebate and further financial support for students in living in university halls.
  • I sent a letter to student housing providers asking them to postpone in-person house viewings during this lockdown. If this is still happening with your lettings agency then get in touch and let me know.
  • I supported students in sending a letter to local Councillors asking for their support for student renters in the private sector. 

January

  • I secured a rent rebate policy from The University of Bristol. This is a 100% rent rebate for students who are not currently in residence and are unable to travel due to the national coronavirus lockdown. Full terms and conditions are available here.

  • I have been supporting the Bristol Rent Strike as their campaign continues and have been helping grow a national rent strike movement to link up strikes all around the country. 

  • I have started planning a refresh of the All About Drugs campaign for the first week of February, and have been working to ensure the Bristol Drugs Project drop-in can continue over lockdown.  

  • I had the first meeting of the Student Debt Working Group to review the University's debt collection procedures to ensure that they work for students. 

  • I met with SU Presidents from other Russell Group Universities to draft and sign an open letter to Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Groups to demand ‘no detriment' and safety net policies.

  • Jason, Leah, David and I finished drafting a paper on improving Personal Tutoring with recommendations to set up a working group on to get tutorials included in student timetables. 

  • I have continued to work with Jason on the Personal Tutor training resource. 

  • I attended the second meeting of the Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey group to plan next year’s survey. 

  • I met with SU Officers from across the country to discuss how to tackle private housing issues students in halls were facing. 

  • I sent a letter to private landlords with the University and created a template letter for students to send to their landlords. 

  • I had a preliminary meeting with VegSoc and the University Catering Team about their new sustainable food plans. 

  • I continued planning the Climate Emergency Day of Action with David and have started interviewing keynote speakers for the big day. 

  • I supported planning for the University’s launch of Ecosia in early February. 

  • I attended the second meeting of the Student Debt Working Group with Jason and James, the WP Network Chair, to ensure that proper procedures are put in place to support students in debt. 

  • David and I met with the University to discuss how they can better publicise their Covid hardship funding to students. 

  • I met with UCU to discuss the intersections between the rent strike campaign and their campaign against casualisation. 

  • Jason, Leah, and I met with the University to discuss Covid messaging and security issues. 

  • I reviewed room rents for 2021/22 with Paul Smith and the Accommodation Office. 

  • I had a further meeting with Resilife about what can be done to support non-drinking students in halls. 

December

  • I sent an open letter to Bristol's letting agencies urging them to postpone in-person house viewings at least until January in line with Bristol SU Lettings policy.
  • I lead the My Rent My Rights campaign and supported hundreds of students in house-hunting webinars with the Accommodation Office.
  • I successfully got the University to U-turn on their policy of using students’ bursaries to cover rent arrears. I am setting up a working group with Jason to review the University’s Arrears Policy.
  • I am continuing to work with the University on co-creating a rent strategy and have fed into conversations around rent setting for next year - pushing for more affordable beds in halls.
  • With the Bristol Rent Strike I won a new compassionate case-by-case contract release policy and I am working with ResiLife to ensure that this policy is fit for purpose. We also won students a rent rebate amounting to a 30% reduction over 7 weeks to make up for the fact students have been told to campus later in January by the government.
  • I am working with the University to re-write the local rules for halls of residences so that they better reflect the University’s Harm Reduction Approach.
  • I finished a 3-week housing co-op campaign supported students to develop the co-op's business plan and operational policies, and am supporting their preparations for a meeting with the Chief Operating Officer of the University this week.
  • I am working with Jason to amplify student concerns around the University's new policy around security and the police in halls.
  • I supported JCRs in a forum with ResiLife to raise concerns around communal and study space in halls.
  • I have continued making progress with the BAME, Multifaith, and Well-being networks to ensure that students who don’t drink alcohol are better supported in halls.
  • I fed into the University and UWE's new joint Harm Reduction statement on drugs including alcohol.
  • I supported students in the Medical School with concerns about the application of the Harm Reduction policy in the Medical School.
  • I am working with Jason and the Liberation Network chairs to make student support services more inclusive. Have secured a commitment that the support services will develop Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Improvement Plans over the coming year with student input.
  • I have been working with Jason, Leah, and David to improve Personal Tutoring - the university has committed to a co-authored proposal for improvement, and we are working on a proposal for a comprehensive PT training course. I have worked with Jason and the Liberation Network chairs on making tutorials more inclusive.
  • I am continuing to plan the Climate Emergency Day of Action with students and the University.
  • I am having some promising discussions with the University about cutting ties with arms companies and we now have a clear plan for getting University support for divestment.
  • I have started planning a Sustainable Careers showcase. 

November

  • I have secured a 10 day rent rebate for students living in halls recognising that students will be leaving their accommodation to travel within the government's 'travel window'.
  • I have begun to draft a rent and accommodation strategy with the University to create a long-term plan for more affordable rents.
  • I am working with Leah, Jason, and David to develop a training module for Personal Tutors, and an EDI module for all student facing staff.
  • I am supporting societies and groups to set up a peer-support network to enable students to access peer-to-peer support more easily.
  • We ran our first drug reagent testing kit drop-in, and I am working on making it more accessible.
  • I am developing guidance for academic staff on supporting students who use drugs and alcohol. I am exploring a reform of halls of residence conditions to better reflect a Harm Reduction approach.
  • I am supporting the Rent Strike as they take their demands to the University Board of Trustees on the 20th November.
  • Bristol Student Housing Co-op is now a legal entity and I am running a 3-week introductory campaign with them to build their membership.
  • My Rent My Rights campaign is now up and running.
  • I dropped in on JCR and PG Hall rep training and will be meeting with relevant reps to understand their priorities over the coming weeks.
  • I am working with the BME, Multifaith, and Wellbeing Networks to ensure the university properly supports all students in halls.
  • I have passed over the Arms Off Campus campaign to student reps and I am working with David to put together a robust proposal for divestment.
  • I am working with VegSoc and the Sustainability team to procure more sustainable food on campus. 

October

  • I supported the rent strike campaign, led by Bristol, Cut the Rent. The rent strike is reported to be the largest in UK history, with over 1000 student sign ups. The campaign was started due to student frustrations at paying full rent, given the disruptions and restrictions because of the pandemic.
  • I launched the All About Drugs campaign, and free drug testing kits were made available to students. Weekly drop-in sessions began with The Drop, part of the Bristol Drugs Project, where students could receive harm reduction advice, support and information.
  • I supported the Wellbeing Network in the launch of their new buddy system. The scheme aimed to help students make friends, and linked up students with similar interests. 

September

  • I worked to improve the personal tutor system, getting more universal diversity training and creating a video with the University of Bristol marketing team, clarifying the personal tutor role.I also shaped the University’s drug education campaign, and pushed for free drug reagent testing kits for students.
  • On housing, I set up the first student housing Co-op in Bristol, and worked with the accommodation office to develop a rent reduction strategy.
  • I worked to support students who were affected by the Dean Street Works housing not being ready for the start of term. We successfully lobbied the University for a range of asks, including providing one week rent free for first week of tenancy, laundry and moving costs, and more.
  • David and I also lobbied the University to timetable a Climate Emergency Day of Action in term 2 and established an Arms Off Campus student campaign.