Presidents Blog 26/11/2021

Better Health, winter, and OU Council...


Hello everyone,

I hope that you have all had a good week. Thankfully the small people in my house are much better and the other one is well on the way to being better! In some respects, I am happy to see the colder weather as it brings the most beautiful sunrises and I love wrapping up against the cold. My only panic now is how shorter time it is before the ‘C’ word. I am not prepared at all, how are you all getting on?

I don’t usually go online on a Sunday, but it was a real treat to log on to a Student Voice event where people were sharing their highlights. I am so grateful to all the members of staff at the OU and the Association for all the hard work they put into student Voice Week and to our amazing volunteers, without them the events would not have been possible. So, a massive thank-you to you all! I hope that you all enjoyed it as much as I did. 

On a more sombre note, the weekend also saw Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day that honours the memory of the many transgender people whose lives have been lost due to acts of anti-transgender violence; as an Association we represent many students who really struggle with being open about who they are and wanting to change their outward appearance to be who they are on the inside. As an ally of all our LGBTQI+ students, it saddens me that we will have lost some of those students this year and also friends and family members of our students. It was a timely reminder to read this article in The Hoot which provides more information. I hope that over the coming months and years we will be able to be more open and even more supportive of our students. We have an amazing group called OUPride who are doing amazing work, but there is always more to do.

We also launched our new Values and Behaviour policy last week as part of anti-bullying week. We have reviewed our values and added a new value of Kindness and Compassion. Please have a read of our policy.

Monday

Our new STEM rep, Steph Stubbins, and I met with Nick Braithwaite, STEM executive dean and OU lead on sustainability. We discussed how students can get involved in the University; there is a lot of important work that we can get involved in to help the University achieve its sustainability goals. 

I spent much of Monday reading 600+ pages of Council papers, Education Committee papers and writing speaker notes for Council. So, lots of admin tasks!

Tuesday 

I met with Reiss, project manager for the 50th and Conference, to discuss the Conference steering group Agenda. If you want to get involved in the 50th Delivery group we need two students, just email OUStudents50@open.ac.uk

It was then a long day at Council. Council was run in a hybrid fashion, some on-campus and some online. Due to all the AV support and new tech, it ran really well, and I am sure some learning can be taken from this for future hybrid meetings. There were a lot of great discussions during the day and although I can’t share the details there are some really exciting developments in the pipeline. I shared our Annual and quarterly updates and will share these with you separately. 

After Council, it was time for the Conference steering committee. We had some excellent discussions around the programme updates and competitions. It was the most fun steering committee so far! A great end to what was a really long day.

If you haven’t signed up for the Conference yet there is still time! So please do! There is still time to join this group and contribute so have a read and see if this can be you. 

Wednesday 

After an early meeting with a student, it was the regular meeting with PVC-Student’s office. The Association meet regularly with PVC-Students to discuss topics that we can work on together and bring up issues that we need to look at. We had a long discussion with Dan Moloney, Director of engagement with the Association and Michelle Smyth, head of government and external affairs, around advocacy. There are a lot of upcoming issues such as the Freedom of Speech bill and the Government white paper (on higher education issues) that we need to be ready for.

The Culture Review group met next, and we discussed how we can share codes of conduct and also the implementation of our new values and behaviour policy. There were some interesting points brought up but the one that has stuck in my head is ‘Representation Matters!’ 

As part of my passion to drive forward Digital Inclusion within the University, I am on the Digital inclusion Management group. It was a catch up to review progress and how this group fits in with the OU’s governance. We have students on both task-and-finish groups that link into this group; Hanna Silk, Area Rep for Wales, and Cin McGuigan, VP Education. 

I am co-chair of the student satisfaction improvement working group with Liz Marr, PVC-Students. We get together with Rachel Garnham, senior manager student voice, to discuss what goes into that meeting. Wednesday was the day for me to meet with Rachel! We had a great discussion around student voice and student satisfaction and what it means. 

It really was a meeting heavy day. Next, I had a meeting with Reiss where we discussed progress with the 50th celebrations and how to move forward. 

On Wednesday evening, I attended a Change laboratory to discuss co-creating a new curriculum. This was a great way to end what was a really busy day.

Thursday 

I started the day reviewing the potential impact to the Byelaws that could happen if the changes, that are being proposed to Conference, are accepted. 

Every month the senior team of the University get together to share what had been going on across the university. There are over 90 people in the meeting, and it was interesting to hear from the nations and research teams this time. 

It was also Carers Rights Day, so please read this great article by Cin. 

I also had regular catch-ups with Rob Avann, chief executive of the Association, Sue McCabe, strategic projects and change co-ordinator of The Association and finally with Nicky Powell, Senior Volunteer training and wellbeing officer for the Association.

Friday 

This is a much-needed Admin day!

Our student reps are working hard on your behalf and they had lots to do with the success of Student Voice week, so a huge thank you. Our England rep Leanne White has also written a great article for The Hoot around deferral. It’s helpful and well written and for some of you, it may well be quite timely.

I hope that you have all had a great week and I hope you all manage to get some downtime; rest is so important. You need to rest your brain to produce your best work! So, until next time, GO WELL! 😊


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Sarah P Jones

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