Presidents Blog 22/10/2021

Governance, building, and future planning...

Hi Everyone,

I hope that you have all had a good week. The building, or digging as it has mostly been, has restarted again! Yippee!!! Friday sees the concrete being poured as part of the base!! My youngest monster has been set a reading challenge by the school, to read in the most unusual places. So, we had him put his waterproof trousers on and sit on the edge of one of the trenches – he sat right in it and there has been mud everywhere!! And photographic proof!!

We are in the middle of Black History Month and there have been lots of really great events so far, have a look at the link to see what else is happening and if you haven’t already had a look at the Union Black course, I urge you to. It really is very good. 

Have you ever watched University Challenge and wanted to be a part?? Well, look no further! We need YOU!! And whilst we are talking about opportunities to get involved, how are your creative writing skills?? Why don’t you check out our Writing competition to see if you would like to enter? As always you can find out the latest vacancies that we have by looking at our Volunteer page on the website. We still have student voice roles on some university committees available and if you feel like coming along to see what happens at our Student Leadership meetings (Central Executive Committee or CEC) you will find a link there as well. 

As the OU has announced their link up with the mental wellbeing service SHOUT it seems a good time to remind you of our mental wellbeing meet-ups every Sunday. These sessions are run by volunteers so come along for a friendly chat.

So now onto what has been happening this week; 

Monday morning was the Rob (chief exec), Beth (director of membership services), Verity (head of EDI and Student Welfare), and my opportunity to meet Jo Godwin who is the new Assistant Director of the Student Policy and Compliance Casework office. It was good to discuss some of our priorities with her and hear of her plans around the casework office, there is a lot that she has planned and hopefully, it will help to make it better for students going through complaints. It also links with the Individual Representation work that we are piloting. I then met with Gareth (Faculty rep for FBL) to discuss the Associate Lecturer contract progress and we also discussed the ballot on strike action by the Universities and Colleges Union. It was then time for the regular meeting between the Association and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Students Office. We had a lot of discussion around alternative formats and printed packs. It is still a mixed picture due to the complexities involved but a much better picture than in previous years. I have been one of the students, who over the last few years, has had their alternative format materials late much later than they should have been. This year they were a bit late, which is much improved; they provided lots of good communication around it. The communication around where materials are at has been a big change this year. We discussed several other issues including the Universities approach to face-to-face contact and matters around gender-critical views. I then met with Fanni, (VP engagement) to talk about our session at Student Voice Week. I also met with Sue (strategic projects and change coordinator), where we discussed some of the points that had been raised during the Strategy session and the Governance reforms session at CEC weekend. We had a meeting of the Governance reform comms team to discuss how we take this forward, including the content of a planned session at Student Voice Week. Monday evening, I attended an online lockdown lecture with my husband Dave. It was a fascinating discussion about women in army aviation. I really enjoyed it, it’s not often that I get to enter my husband’s world! (He is an engineer who works in aviation).

Tuesday started with the website working group; now that the contract for the new Association website is signed it is about what the design will be and how to make it best serve our students. I then attended the STELA steering group. This group is dealing with the progress made with making sure printed and alternative formats get delivered in a timely fashion to students. As I said earlier, sorting this out is getting more complex but at least this year the comms is much improved, which I for one am grateful for. The group was also discussing how this work can be moved into business as usual for the University and how to move it forward. Michaela Robertson, who works with all of this in the students’ additional support team, had a conversation with me and Cin (VP education) after this to discuss some ideas that might help some of our disabled students. Nicky (senior volunteer training and wellbeing officer) and I met to discuss further training for reps. We then discussed Jackie Weaver, who is the ambassador for Compassion in Politics, putting kindness back into the heart of what we do. Fanni, Heather (head of DigiComms), and Pete (head of Community) then met with me to discuss some posts that had been made on our forums and what if any action we need to take. 

Wednesday started with reading Governance and Nominations Committee (GNC) papers in preparation for the meeting later in the morning. Dan (director of engagement) and I had a regular catch up and we discussed some of the Governance reforms comments from CEC weekend. We looked at how we can build the ideas into the reforms that have been mooted. It was then time for the GNC. GNC is s sub-committee of the University Council and we discuss lots of things around the makeup of the Council and what items will be coming to Council over coming meetings. In the afternoon it was time for the PRAXIS steering group. PRAXIS is one of the four scholarship centres in the university and looks at scholarship in the faculty of WELS. Scholarship, as I have talked about in previous blogs, looks at learning and teaching and uses the research performed to instruct teaching of materials and the way it is taught. We looked at the terms of reference and had a roundup of where we were at with projects. It is great to work with Nichola (faculty rep for WELS) on this. I then met with Gabby (head of executive support and staff welfare) to discuss CEC and some of the annual effectiveness suggestions. We also talked about how December CEC might be run. I had a quick catch-up with Fanni around a young student’s issue and how it might affect some work we are doing with the University. My final meeting of the day was with Allan (chair of the board of trustees for the Association) and Rob (chief exec).

Thursday morning, I had blocked off to catch up on admin and some training that I had missed. The training was interesting, there was a section on resilience. One of the people that had been on the course with me suggested that resilience could be explained by the term ‘bouncing forward’ not just coping but learning from it and taking it forward. I then met with Sue (strategic projects and change coordinator), to discuss the governance reforms working group and the Annual membership survey, we also discussed how we were going to present the strategy update. Every two weeks the Disclosure Checks working group meets and Thursday was the day. There were not too many updates from this meeting. I had some exciting news for Reiss (project manager for conference and the 50th) so we had a quick catch-up so I could share it with her. Another fortnightly meeting is one I have with Heather (head of DigiComms). We had an energising discussion around a content plan for the 50th and how the branding is going. I then met with Reiss again to conclude our discussion and to pick her brain! I finished my day with a quick catch-up with Fanni around our session at Student Voice week.

Friday has been finishing emails and writing my blog. I have one meeting today that has been pushed back about 6 times on qualification pathways. I am also going to get down and get some serious study mojo on!! I need to!! 

I am looking forward to my first tutorial of this module on Saturday, so exciting!! And also getting to spend some time with the monsters if they deem to want to!! They spend most of their downtime playing with their friends nowadays!! Hopefully, they will stay out of the mud and concrete!! I hope that you all have a great week, and I will see you soon 😊

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Sarah P Jones


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