University of York Students' Union (YUSU)

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I got that summertime, summertime sabbness

Posted by Dominic Smithies, 08/08/2016

Hello hello hello!

So I've taken over the reins of all things well-being, community and liberation related. All of us Full-time Officers have been in post for a few weeks now but have been here, there and everywhere so I thought I'd finally sit down, formally introduce myself, reflect on the first few weeks and report on what's yet to come over the summer!

So, without further ado...

Hi! I'm Dom Smithies, your new Community & Well-being Officer. I'm a Philosophy graduate, was Vice Chair for Welfare and then President of Alcuin CSA in my first & second year, was involved in LGBTQ Network, I was a Nightline volunteer - and am now a public face of the service - and threw myself into as many societies and volunteering projects as I could with the time I had that wasn't already being spent avoiding my degree and in Willow.

My priorities for the year involve:

  • Piloting a Community Reps scheme
  • How To Be An Activist training - covering things such as: liberation activism, allyship, national student politics, how to change things in YUSU, be a better Course Rep, how to engage with colleges, etc.
  • Working with Careers to better promote job opportunities to students
  • Revamping the Liberation & Welfare Committee to be more proactive in running relevant and impactful campaigns and generally supporting the College Vice Chairs & Part-Time Officers to the best of my ability
  • Better promotion & signposting of support services like Nightline, Open Door and the Advice & Support Centre

Week 1: Residential

What better way is there to kick-start a year than a week of team building, planning and training with the rest of the Sabbatical Team and the YUSU senior management team?! We had a great week away on a residential in Sheffield going through all our manifestos, identifying overlaps and team priorities, identifying how we intend to work both individually and as a team. Lots of exciting stuff to come in the year ahead!

Alongside all the ice-breaking, team-building and planning, a lot of the conversations we had revolved around the EU Referendum, with the Brexit result coming in just the week before. While we personally feel that the result is devastating for many students and higher education, we understand that we can only move forward from this and try to make the best of it.

However, myself and the sabb team are committed to challenging the validation of harmful, xenophobic and racist attitudes that seems to have occurred alongside the increased reports in hate crime since the referendum results came through. The referendum has multiple implications, but we must keep working positively for cohesion and collaboration and remain united in fighting for a fairer, more compassionate, and more understanding society.

Week 2: SU16

Spent the week in Liverpool with the rest of the team meeting the NUS team and all the other Sabbs from up and down the country and the other nations. The conference involved the NUS launching their strategy, announcing the National Demo on November 19th for a free & liberated education, regional networking with other Sabbatical Officers from the North East and training workshops (I attended sessions on: the #AntiSocialMedia campaign, interfaith inclusion, trans inclusion and crisis communication). I had the privilege to meet a lot of amazing people doing a lot of amazing things.

Week 3: Graduation Week

Spent the week settling into the office, having plenty of introductory meetings with staff from all over the University and internal training on all sorts of things (using the printer, for example). Also had the immense pleasure of getting to be around campus at such an exciting time with everyone graduating and celebrating their success - CONGRATULATIONS CLASS OF 2016! - as well as graduating myself!

Week 4: Doing the things

After lots of planning, training and networking I finally kicked off with a week of writing up proposals, consulting with project stakeholders, catching up with part-time officers, and beginning tangible work on a lot of the priorities within my manifesto and working on things outside of it - such as a two hour meeting on the green/red kitchen notices, which was actually incredibly productive and will make an incremental positive change for students with the process becoming a lot more transparent & clear #smallwins.

Week 5: Lead & Change

This week was spent at Lead & Change - a training conference run by the NUS -  over at the lovely Keele University, with all the Welfare/Equality/Diversity/Community Officers from SUs from all over. I had to pack my bags, say goodbye to the rest of the Sabb squad and hope they didn't accidentally burn down the Union while I was away (they didn't).

It was an incredibly beneficial week. We were put in tutor groups of 15 for the duration of the conference to receive the training, discuss plans for the year, learn best practice from other Unions, share ideas and build a support network - I was incredibly fortunate to be in a group of some of the most creative & passionate people I've had the privilege to meet and not only learnt so much from them and their Unions but have come away with ideas to work on both singly and collaboratively.

What to expect for the rest of the summer

So I'm at Kids Camp next week and then in NYC the last two weeks of August (cue Madonna, Holiday). Then in September I'll be delivering Head STYC training, hopefully launching the Community Rep scheme and will be getting ready for all things Freshers’!

Closing remarks

I can't express how excited we all are for the year ahead, for Freshers’ Week & welcoming all of our new students, to do lots of positive things for students here and to see all of you do and lead on fantastic things yourselves!

All that's really left to say is to always support your fellow students. Hold us officers to account. Give lots of things a go. Be sure to have an absolutely fabulous year!

And always remember: there is more that unites us than divides us.

Peace & love,

Dom xoxo