It has been quite a while since I last posted on my blog – especially something meaningful that wasn’t a tutorial or free edtech resource (sorry about this, University has been pretty hectic!).

I thought I would do a quick update and talk about some things that has been really frustrating me lately, and although seems to be top of my list to ensure student engagement and a positive student experience, universities seem to be holding it lower than the money they can receive from students for tuition fees and accommodation costs.

Now, I am not saying that teachers don’t deserve to be paid. I don’t know why I would ever say that or why anyone would ever imply that from something I say because, well, I love teachers and their wellbeing is just as important as student wellbeing (I’ve been directly told that I don’t care about teacher pay because I want students to have access to extra support using the money they pay the university, and by questioning where the money students pay actually goes, but I digress) . However, as a student, I need to take from my perspective and really hold universities accountable for their actions over the last six months and the support, or lack thereof, they’ve been providing for first year students.

I am very lucky to be residing in private halls, to be 23 and have an idea on how the ‘real world’ works. It seems to me that ‘knowing how the real world works’ is being thrown around as an insult to first and second years from professionals and third years who ‘don’t see a point in petitioning for change’. The real world works as such: you buy a membership, you are not given the service, you get a refund. You go to a shop, you buy a sandwich, the sandwich is not up to the standard it was promised to be, you get a refund. I am jumping ahead here, I have been very frustrated by the response even students have had regarding making change happen at my university (mainly because they’re in private contracts and therefore do not have promised services and facilities they are not receiving due to the pandemic and therefore think it’s unfair that those staying in halls, who were promised those facilities and services, are requesting a refund from their landlord). Not to be outright, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. If you don’t make the change you want to see, by petitioning, by researching, by pushing the Important People of the world, you won’t get that change. In the real world, you wouldn’t buy a gym membership and charge a different gym for the membership, that’s not ‘how the real world works’.

Now, I am not saying I do not care for the students stuck in private contracts where their landlord isn’t releasing them. It’s a little bit different to students who have to go home at certain points of the year though (because their accommodation rent does not cover these dates) and put themselves at risk. I believe that landlords should be fair, and if students do want to be released from their contracts due to mental health, not feeling safe or any other relevant reason, they should be released from their contracts and more should be done by the Students’ Union to represent these students (by the way, for UoS students, if you follow your student officers, you will know that they are actually campaigning with other universities to get the government to push for students to be released from private halls, but again, I digress).

However, this isn’t my main reason of writing this blog post. Something I am consistently seeing over their Facebook anon submission page, the Discord server I support in running and general conversations with my friends is the lack of support and response from the halls accommodation in regards to support.

Literally anyone can send a list of helpful outside sources (such as Young Minds, Samaritans, SHOUT, etc) or list off the universities endless emails where students can email to ask for support – I’ve done this so I know.

However, why are students getting ignored?

When I initially emailed the University regarding rent strikes and getting money back for students who weren’t able to use the facilities and services that were promised to them, but they weren’t receiving due to the universities inconsistent opening and closing of facilties (not their fault, we’re in a global pandemic) that they were literally paying for, out of their maintenance loans or own money, the Students’ Union took ages to respond. I had to resend the email just to prove that I wasn’t going to stand down from this, I had emailed every possible email I could to ensure I’d get a response for the my friends, the students in the Discord server and the students in the future who would join.

While I wouldn’t benefit directly from this email, the strikes or the refund, my friends mental health would. But even after I had emailed, had a response, gone back and forth, emailed other people, had to search the website for the emails of people I could contact, it did not result in a lot and I felt like I had come away empty-handed. I was suggested to do a petition by a student on the Discord server, and that’s where things started to really look up, but one of the things that gets me is: why wasn’t it suggested by my representatives?

I’m not the only one who’s had emails ignored. Students from the Discord server have emailed asking for extra support, what support is available, how they can access this support, and nothing.

We have no idea the next steps. We’re pestering the Union but it seems like we’re just being more annoying than we are actually winning the fight. Students should not have to fight for any support: housing, finance, mental health, education. It should be provided.

I wish I could personally do more, as a lot of my readers know I am very much a person who advocates for student voice, but for now, I guess it’s endless emails, calls, blog posts, social media rants, and anything else that will get the attention of the Important People.