The Best Student Life. Bristol SU

Vanessa - Union Affairs Officer

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Vanessa: Student Living Officer

Hey everyone, my name is Vanessa Wilson and I’m your Student Living Officer.

I was a student at Bristol, where I studied Experimental Psychology. I was born in Dortmund, moved to East London and was raised in a German/Jamaican household. I live for free food, social justice, baby animals and Nike Air Max 90s. Sprinkle in an idyllic sunset, a dash of intellect and a slice of AJ Tracey and you’ve got my self-portrait!

I represent you on issues around mental health, wellbeing, accommodation and sustainability. I know first-hand how difficult and lonely University can be- so whatever it is, I have got you! Feel free to approach me if you see me on campus or pop into the Students Union for a chat! Email me if that’s your thing or DM on Facebook. After all, it’s my job to make sure that the university delivers the promises that it makes to you, as students. That means I am here to support and empower you. I will fight for the things that you care about- so tell me what they are!

You can find me on campus during my officer open hours from 2-3pm on a Monday.

Here's what I'm working on this year:

1. Address student concerns about the counselling service

  • Lobby to shorten the waiting lists and improve service delivery 

  • Increase openness and accountability with the waiting lists (by regularly publishing statistics) 

  • Increase the range of therapeutic services and specialist care for students with complex mental health conditions 

  • Push to tailor the number of counselling sessions to students' needs
  • Lobby for a transfer system which offers support to students who have suspended their studies 

2. Ensure that support services are equipped to meet the needs of all students

  • Ensure mental health services sufficiently meet the needs of underrepresented groups, i.e. BME, disabled, LGBTQ+, widening participation and international students 

  • Introduce a support service feedback mechanism and ensure improvements are made in direct response to student feedback 

  • Ensure all student facing staff undergo suicide prevention training and are confident to risk assess students

3. Improve the accessibility of peer-led support for students

  • Introduce drop-in tea and talk sessions with the support of the Wellbeing Network and groups like Nightline, Black Dog and Peace of Mind 

  • Create a sense of community on campus by working with student wellbeing groups and empowering them to run bigger and more wide-reaching campaigns 

  • Introduce peer-to-peer support workshops and mental health first aid training for students 

  • Improve online mental health guidance available to students from the SU and the University

4. Improve students’ accommodation experience: fighting to lower rent, improving quality of halls, and increasing students’ awareness of their rights

  • Work alongside the Bristol Cut the Rent campaign to fight for 50% of all university housing to cost less than half of the maximum maintenance loan 

  • Lobby for an increase in accommodation bursaries for students in University accommodation  

  • Grow the "Ready to Rent" campaign to reach students beyond first-years and provide more information 

  • Introduce a renting feedback system so that student can share experiences and avoid bad landlords 

  • Collaborate with the student law clinic to explore the use of a tenant's defence team to allow students easier access to legal advice around housing

5. Improve the communication and transparency of the officers

  • Introduce a weekly open hour on campus where the living officer is visible and able to listen to your concerns 

  • Ensure progress is made on the active policy that has been passed including: ‘boycott the border industry on campus’ and the ‘Cut the Rent’ Student Campaign 

  • Support grassroots activist groups through the SU to help them have a bigger impact on campus 

  • Regularly meet with JCRs and senior residents to ensure that they inform my work 

Here's what I've done so far:

 

+ Policy

Boycott the Border Industry on Campus - 05/06/2018

Needs Ratification


Boycott Barclays - 16/11/2017

Active

  • June 18 - far as aware we do not have current contracts or dealings with Barclays or subsiduries of Barclays.
  • April 18 – Finance at Bristol SU looking in to any contracts with companies with direct connections to Barclays.

Effectively countering drug misuse - 5/06/2017

Active

  • Jan 18 – Met with Lynn Robinson from the University to discuss motion and next steps.
  • Jan 18 - SU will take a proactive approach to informing students about drugs and drug misuse and will be collaborating with UWE on this.

Fight Climate Change - 21/03/2017

Active


Support Student Rent Strikes - 23/02/2017

Active

  • June 18 - Subject to rent strike support will continue - there was none in the past academic year.
  • Jan 18 - Kept in contact with Cut the Rent and ready to support them in their campaign.
  • April 17- Union is supporting this campaign and Cut the Rent on their rent strike, which is due to take place. Keen to continue conversations with the University on this topic.

Integration in halls - 26/01/2017

Active

  • June 2018 - Survey commissioned and report has been written. Support available for society when they campaign. Suggestions from the report and engagement with the University residences will be important in the next academic year to move this forward.
  • Jan 2018 - SU working with University on pastoral review which will include changes to hall allocations. Annual survey included research into whether students felt they belonged to their hall.

Support the ‘Cut the Rent’ Student Campaign - 06/06/2016

Active

  • June 2018 - Met with 'Cut the Rent' group to discuss support we can give and is subject to campaign - likely to be one next year.

  • Officers have repeatedly brought up the issue of high rent with members of University management and Residences.  One sabbatical officer will now sit on the rent setting working group in the university, and will be as transparent with students as we can be on progress. In light of this and the Students' Union petition, the university will be bringing in a £120,000 of accommodation bursaries for 2017/18, which is increasing to £200,000 for 18/19.

  • We have also been campaigning for Digs to sign the ethical lettings charter.


Lobbying the University to Accept the Bristol Pound - 18/02/2016

Active


Renew - Crossing at Woodland Road/Tyndalls Park Road - 01/12/2015

Active

  • 2016 - I have brought this up with the Director of Estates at Bristol University. I have also been helping a local resident, with a child at Bristol Grammar School, to publicise a petition demanding a pedestrian crossing, and have attended a local council meeting where this was put on the agenda for another local planning meeting.

Supporting Student Support Services - 01/12/2015

Active

  • June 2018 - Bristol SU has been running Mind Your Head the last three years and also lobbying the University for increased support to mental health. Huge developments in wellbeing this year include; residential life service restructure, wellbeing service implementation, ad hoc meetings with University Management to discuss community building and greater connectivity between mental health services.
  • 2016 - The committee noted: Sarah Redrup (Student Living Officer) would work with Mark Ames on actions relating to this motion, which had been supported by a number of students. The Committee discussed the increase in the number of students with serious and on-going mental health illnesses who were seeking support from Student Services and the balance between supporting these students, but also promoting general resilience so that students could maintain good mental health and well-being. Mark Ames reported that he was currently preparing a paper for UPARC Strategy Group around strategic objectives for supporting well-being.
  • SU Officers have inputted into the schools review of pastoral support and will do the same with the residences review too.  We have raised the fact that improvements in support within communities (reidences and schools) must not come at the expense of frontline services such as the Student Counselling Service.  The MInd Your Head Awareness campagin will run again from the 24th April until the 5th May, with the aim of continuing wellbeing sessions throughout the exam period.

Bristol SU to support students in lobbying for wider food choices to facilitate for religious student groups - 29/10/2015

Active

  • A range of Halal sandwiches are available in all Source Cafes, the University are going to make these more prominent and raise awareness. The UoB Head of Hospitality and Head Chef have agreed to meet with the student societies who proposed the motion to further discuss the options.

Lobby the University to work towards achieving the Flexitarian Restaurant Award in all cafés within University - 29/10/15

Complete

  • The University have agreed to review the application process. As long as this isn't too strenuous they are confident they will achieve the Award. Sophie (Proposer) is working through the application process with uoB Head of Hospitality.

Supporting student housing cooperatives - 10/03/2015

Inactive


Take an active stance against the replacment of trident - 10/03/2015

Inactive


Half price vegetarian food options at University food outlets on mondays 'meat-free monday' - 10/03/2015

Inactive

  • The University already run "less-meat" Mondays and Thursdays in halls and these have been very successful. The University have agreed to trial half-price vegetarian options on a Wednesday in the Refectory and on a day TBC in the Balloon Bar (subject to management approval).

First year students coming in to halls should be able to opt in or out of paying for the Stoke Bishop bus pass - 10/03/2015

Inactive

  • 11/05/15 The costs of the bus pass for the 16 bus has moved from all halls of residence to Stoke Bishop only, which is the area that benefits most from the bus

e Eating Card - 02/12/2014

Inactive

  • UoB will be introducing a cashless payment system in September 2016. This will take the form of an app which will allow you to swipe your phone to pay for food at all cafes on the Precinct. The tills have just been put in place and the app will have a soft launch in April 2016 as a loyalty card.

Introduction of designated smoking areas to prevent antisocial smoking outside of university buildings - 02/12/2014

Inactive


Support the student campaign for fossil fuel divestment at UoB - 02/12/2014

Inactive

  • 11/05/15 Have had meetings with the University finance team to present the student petition which now has over 1,200 signatures
  • 11/05/15 Plan to send a letter to the Vice Chancellor within the next month demanding the university divest from investing in fossil fuels

Bristol SU's commitment to Sustainability - 30/10/2014

Inactive

  • 11/05/15 Initial planning meeting held to discuss scope and membership of a student committee
  • 11/05/15 First elections in process of being planned to have committee in place for 15/16 academic year. Current democracy review may push this deadline back
  • 11/05/15 Bristol SU has made organisational pledges for Green Capital year