Hi all, I’m very sorry I didn’t manage to provide Officer Updates for the 3rd Council of term – I sadly had a period of prolonged illness, and I therefore did not have that much to report. Below are my updates for the latter half of term, encompassing the 3rd and 4th Council meetings.
- Submit to In Camouflage, a zine on autism & gender!
- Disability Activism: A Panel Discussion
We have had the Equality Act 2010. We have had years of ruthless cuts to services for disabled people. We have seen the bedroom tax, the dissolution of the Independent Living Fund, cuts to Employment Support Allowance, and in late 2016, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities deemed the UK government to be in breach of disabled people’s human rights. In recent data collected by Cambridge University Students’ Union, less than 50% of disabled students felt that their reasonable adjustments had been adequately provided.
It’s time to assess our activism in a contemporary context, in Cambridge and in the UK at large: What have we as disabled activists achieved? What are our goals? How do we make our activism inclusive from the get go – and not just as lip-service?
- Held a disabled students’ forum on Feb 14
- Worked with University staff to set up a working group on alterations to college best practice during intermission. This was using qualitative data collected from intermitting students over the course of Michaelmas and Lent term.
- Everyone at CUSU – staff and sabbatical officers – all had an away day at Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU). This was a great opportunity to chat with our counterparts about the similar and differing issues and approaches at an institution that, for better or worse, is very similar to ours.
- Further planned Disability Activism Panel – March 7
- Finished implementing changes to the Intermission Guide and sent it off to the CUSU designer – it will now be published before the end of term!
- Begun planning the handover period in the first two weeks of July. This includes an individual “handover document” for my eventual successor, but also making a shortlist of sessions that the future sabb team will benefit from in their work.
- Attended and represented students at the following committees.
- Health and Wellbeing. A case review procedure is being put in place after any “serious incident” involving a student occurs in college. This is so that staff are able to reflect, share good practice, and identify areas that require attention. More progress was also made on putting in place a system to “fast-track” those who need medical diagnoses of ADHD, so that this can be funded privately after the NHS waiting list has been closed. The committee also agreed to a proposal to implement an anonymous reporting system to monitor harassment and sexual misconduct, a draft code of practice for college counsellors which is being proposed by the head of the University Counselling Service, and a document for departments and colleges called “When To Refer”, to assist staff in signposting students to appropriate support.
- Digital Teaching and Learning Subcommittee (DTLS). This committee chose academics who would be awarded with a grant from the Teaching and Learning Innovation Fund, based on their project proposals to develop innovations in teaching. It also received reports on the state of the University’s digital strategy for education, which basically currently takes the form in two pilot projects: lecture capture, and computer-based exams. Interestingly there has been very little uptake in computer-based exams so far, but lecture capture has had very positive feedback from students.
- Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning Subcommittee, which I attended on behalf of the Education Officer. This committee works to reward examples of excellent teaching practice across the University.
- Exam arrangements working group. Last year, a pilot was put in place allowing college nurses to provide the medical evidence necessary to provide students with examination arrangements, in the event that the nurse felt that their relationship with the student was strong enough that it would be appropriate to do so. This has been extended for this year’s examinations. Broadly we also discussed what would be helpful to put on for students during exam term to encourage prioritising wellbeing over results. This will be discussed further at a second meeting in Lent. The main thrust of this working group is to find ways of facilitating and empowering students to get exam access arrangements in place as soon as possible, so that all students are aware of and access the support they need, but also so that colleges are left in the lurch as little as possible with supporting multiple students with complex last-minute adjustments.
- Equality and Diversity. This committee meets termly and received updates from the University’s equality and diversity section, as well as a lot of figures regarding the staff pay gap at the University and issues regarding the lag of women getting promoted in all staff positions. The main concern of the committee was finding ways of getting equality and diversity, for both staff and students, effectively onto the radar of departments across the University.
- Access Advisory Group. This group was founded with the desire to put physical access to the University’s property (i.e. all buildings that are not owned by colleges) back on the agenda. The group is still in the early stages but is seeking to formalise its structure.
Disabled Students’ Officer Updates: 20/02/17 & 06/03/17