This piece was written before the OU student leadership team met in January 2021.
With the Central Executive Committee (CEC) due to meet this weekend, it has given me the opportunity to reminisce on the last 12 months. Some may remember that last year I wrote an article on my time spent as an observer at the CEC meeting last January, questioning how I had got there. This time, I will be attending the meeting, not as an observer, but as a member of the committee. Whilst I am looking forward to this meeting with the same anticipation as last year, I cannot help but reflect on how different this year will be compared to last year.
Rewind 12 months, and I was making sure that my suit was ready, shoes were polished, and shirt ironed ahead of travelling to Milton Keynes, and the Hilton Hotel attached to MK Stadium, wondering what the weekend would have in store for me. The January CEC meeting is traditionally the time where the annual dinner is held, on the Friday evening, with invited guests mingling with people from Students Association, as the last 12 months are celebrated. Following the dinner would come a weekend devoted to discussing the issues affecting Open University students.
For obvious reasons, there will be no suit, no travelling, and no annual dinner. Following on from a rollercoaster of a year, both personally for me and collectively as a society, life is very different for all of us. 2020 brought misery for most, and this was exemplified for me with the passing of my Nan due to COVID in April and my wife being diagnosed with COVID in October. However, 2020 also brought some fond memories, and these are what I look back on today.
I have written previously about my feelings about the election process, so I won’t waste too much time going over that again. However, this moment has led to some real highlights in 2020 for me, so I would be remiss if I did not mention it. Whilst it was a delight to take part in the election, this was only the beginning of the process.
Since taking on the role officially in August, I cannot begin to explain how exciting it has been to be part of a group, both narrowly on the CEC and more widely with the other volunteers of the Students Association, which places so much value on the advancement of the Student Voice. This collective voice continues to make an impact on the lives of students and despite much of the work being un-seen, each volunteer gives their time and effort to ensure that the needs of students are not only heard but also acknowledged and listened to.
Personally, I have been working hard to both fulfil my manifesto pledges with some successes already. These have included the expansion of the number of voices heard within the faculty I represent, with initiatives including the invitation of observers to Faculty Assemblies in the Autumn.
At home, like many other parents, I have had to get to grips with homeschooling, which has been a challenge and I am sure others will recognise the juggling act that needs to take place to keep all the balls in the air. Despite this, I cannot underestimate the pride I feel towards my two children, who have taken the upheaval in their stride.
It is through my children that I realise that despite the rollercoaster, despite the upheaval, despite the losses and the moments of despair, that whilst everything has changed, we need to take it in our stride. If they can adapt, then surely, I can. And through this, I recognise that despite not needing to worry about my suit, travelling or the annual dinner, somethings don’t change. The CEC will meet again this weekend, as it did 12 months ago. We will have observers attending the meeting, as I did 12 months ago. Hopefully, as it was for me, this will be a significant moment on their journey as an OU student.