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Sabbatical Officer Report: Chukwudi Ezenyi, President

President – Chukwudi Ezenyi (KC)

 

Manifesto page on the SU website: https://www.upsu.com/representation/representatives/president

 

This academic year so far has been one like no other, presenting various challenges for the students, the students’ union, the university and the city at large. The sabbatical team since the commencement of our role (in July 2020), have been working closely with the university to ensure that students get the best academic experience and student life that could possibly be, before the session resumed in September.

 

The sabb team were (and are still) very much involved in the university’s semester 1+ advisory group, which was set up to prepare and plan for the coming semester/session to ensure the effect of the pandemic challenges on the students’ experiences was reduced as much as possible.

Below are some of the things I have been working on from my manifesto since being president:

 

INCLUSIVITY

Since my previous role as Vice-President for activities and development, having a union which is more inclusive of all our diverse student body has been something I have been looking to improve due to the lack of engagement from some of our student groups. The student groups I am currently working with to increase their engagement are; postgrad students, international students, University of Plymouth International college students (UPIC).

 

Postgraduate Students: The engagement of postgraduate students with the SU has been long term challenge as some of the postgraduate students believe that only provide social activities and don’t know how the SU could support them. Being the postgrad lead officer in my previous role, I organize a postgraduate talk session in the SU to hear from the students how they best feel we can support them, and to let them know things we have in place already that could be beneficial for them. Although the event did not see many in attendance due to the time of the event, but we got some vital information from the few students who attended, and we started working with these feedbacks which was gradually yielding results until the pandemic started. Still being the postgraduate lead officer in my current role, I am looking to organise another postgrad talk session, working with Emi (Vice-president Education) and the postgrad faculty representatives as it would be per faculty this time. I decided to do it per faculty this time as I believe the challenges of the postgrad students might differ per faculty. I have set up meetings between myself, Emi and each postgrad faculty representative where we will plan and discuss the running of the talk session.

 

International Students: since the beginning of the academic year, we have barely heard from the international students considering that there has been a lot of challenges students have been experiencing and clamoring for. Fawzy (Vice-president wellbeing & diversity) and I checked in with the international advice centre (ISA) to see if international students have been coming to them, but they said the case was the same on their end as they had also barely heard from them (and considering some aren’t in the country yet). We became even more concerned when we were still not hearing from them even when the issues of safety net, rent rebate and tuition fees reduction were being heavily discussed as we understand that the challenges, they might be facing from these issues could be different from other students as well. Owing to that, Fawzy and I organized an international student open forum where they could make us aware of their challenges and we make them aware of support services available to them, as we realized from some international students, we spoke with that they had challenges they were facing but did not know what support services were available to them or who they could comfortably speak to. The forum did not have a lot of attendees as student's engagement with things like that have drastically dropped this year. We are looking to reorganise the forum with better promotion of it as we believe from feedback that there is still a need for it. Fawzy and I will be meeting with ISA this week to plan the next forum and discuss how international students could be supported more, in order to see more engagement from them.

 

UPIC: I raised concerns in one of leadership meetings about the University of Plymouth International College engagement with the students’ union and the need for us to extend support to their students as they are full members of the SU. During the sabbatical election week, I attended the University Internationalisation Group meeting on behalf of Fawzy (as she was off, campaigning) where I further raised the concerns of better support for the students at UPIC and helping them integrate better into the university, which was all agreed upon.

Following the UIG meeting, Bogdan Ghita (Associate Professor) who works closely with UPIC asked for us to have a meeting to discuss this in depth for him to more understanding of what the issues were and how it could be resolved. Following the meeting between myself and Bogdan, he sent an email to the head of UPIC, highlighting the issues we discussed. We will be having another meeting with Peter (head of UPIC) where we will discuss solutions and best outcomes to this.

From the SU side as well, Oli set up a meeting for us (myself and Oli) to meet with the head of UPIC and the student engagement coordinator from UPIC. This meeting ran successfully as we did discuss ideas to improve their students’ student experience, especially from a non-academic point as well. We agreed to take on more of the social side of things for them for the benefit of the students.

 

 

DEMOCRACY

I set this point of democracy to ensure that there is more student representation on university committees in order to get wider student views and participation by using the likes of our part time officers, course reps, members of our sports clubs and societies.

 

More Student Representation on University Meetings: at the start of our role, one of the first things I started working on was to see what university meetings we were there and how could get interested students in being part of these meetings in order to ensure that students views are well considered in these meetings.

 

I met with Anna Sendall (Academic registrar) and Emma Hellingsworth (Clerk to the board of governors) on few occasions, regarding getting more student representation on university committee meetings. As a result of these meetings, they compiled a list of university meetings that require student representation on them. Anna also introduced me to administrators/secretaries of these meetings, and I started conversations with them to know, how many student reps sit in their various meetings, and which student reps these are.

 

I then passed this list to the Student Voice Manager in preparation for when we elected our Part-time Officers and who supported me to know which be best suitable and willing to sit on some of these university meetings. I am delighted to see that we now have more student representation on university committee meetings, and it would be great to see this on the increase.

 

Referendum Policy: with the reason to better our democratic engagement in the SU, Will Styles, Part-time Postgrad Officer and I proposed a policy at the last Union Council meeting. This policy looked to reduce the amount of signatory for motions submission and referendum calling from 400 back to 200. Will and I agreed that it has been really difficult to use this policy and has not been used since being mandated. We also explored the option of having it as low as 100 signatories needed but we thought it would be making it too easy to process. It was good to hear that this policy was well discussed, amended (new policy) and approved at the last forum (which I was absent as I wasn’t very well).

 

Sabbatical Elections: Due to the current lockdown, this year’s sabbatical election was one like no other, of which I was grateful to be a part of throughout the process. I joined the Student voice Team in the thinking of running session, where we spoke to students who were considering putting themselves forward for the election and wanted to know more about it. Verity (Vice-president Activities) and I also supported the training sessions that were organised and run by the Student Voice Team.

 

The election ran from the 1st - 5th of March, and candidates had to campaign online only (which has never been done before). This was to ensure fairness to candidates who were looking to run in the elections but were not back in Plymouth due to the lockdown. At the end of the election period, Verity and I hosted the election results night which was broadcast on UPSU’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

 

We now have our Sabbatical Team for the next academic year, and they are Emilia Dowse (current VP Education) as President elect, Charlie Atkinson as Vice-president Education elect, Fawziyyah Ahmed still as Vice-president Wellbeing & Diversity, and Madaleine Morton as Vice-president Activities elect.

 

 

SUSTAINABILITY

Sustainability is something I got a little bit of knowledge from my previous sabbatical colleagues (Tilda Fraser and Millie Green) and seeing the importance of it, I thought it would be useful to set up a student led initiative, where students with vast knowledge on sustainability educate those who have little or no knowledge on this topic. The long-term goal of that is to have a university where every student has the foundational knowledge on sustainability. I mentioned this at the first Sustainability Advisory Group meeting I attended and further suggested if sustainability could be more embedded in the university curriculum for every program. It was well received and appreciated, and I was informed that the university was already looking into that.

 

I also attended the last Sustainability Forum chaired by Neve Peat Part-time Environment and Sustainability Officer, where we discussed on how sustainability could be improved in the university from students point of view. We had previously discussed the idea of starting a sustainability podcast series in an earlier meeting, so Neve in the last meeting made us to understand that the podcast series will be starting soon.

 

Sustainability Town hall Meeting: I attended a sustainability town hall meeting of which I was made a panel member in. I used this opportunity to create awareness of the podcast series that is soon to come.  Also from that meeting, I understood there’s still a need for an action to be taken with regards to the use of single use coffee/takeaway cups, so I will be picking this and the following the university up on this for the best outcome.  

 

I also realized that their needs to be more work done with regards to getting students engagement in sustainability around campus, so I am looking to set a meeting with Neve (and other interested students) on how we get other students to engage with this more, as I know how vital this is for our environment. 

 

 

ZOOM CALL WITH LUKE POLLARD (MP) 

Due to the various challenges faced by students as a result of the lockdown, the Sabbatical Team thought it would be useful to reach out to the MP’s to seek their support for our students. Following our email to the MP’s, Luke Pollard got back to us recognising the challenges mentioned and the need for more support from the government. As a result of this, Luke organised a zoom call for students within his constituency (which UoP is part of) and got to hear firsthand the issues raised by the multitude of students in attendance. I appreciated and followed Luke up after the zoom call to know what had been done so far and responded making me understand that he has raised these issues in a letter to Gavin Williamson MP (Secretary of States for education). Please see the link to the letter below. 

 

Luke writes letter to Gavin Williamson MP for local university students - Luke Pollard MP