By Daniella Theis
Students and Strath Union Student Executives joined together for the ‘first-ever’ Strath Union student forum yesterday to discuss the effects of Covid-19 on student wellbeing.
The Government has announced that universities and colleges will begin to reopen with a phased return to on-campus learning alongside a blended model with remote teaching, but there is still a strong sense of uncertainty felt by many students.
Forums are opportunities for students to consult with one another on any issue. Yesterday’s forum – which was the first of its kind for Strath Union – saw students from several different faculties and programs meet for an online discussion with the Student Executive committee.
“Student forums were passed as a new part of the democratic structure of the Student Union in semester one last year, but until today they had not actually been used”, explains Benn Rapson – Strath Union’s Vice President Welfare and organiser of the forum.
He adds: “Having a tool to raise those issues is really important. In this case, given the importance and severity of the Covid-19 crisis, it was really important to capture student feedback to be able to sit in meetings with the University and present that feedback.”
Opinion on the personal impact of Covid-19 on each student was split, but all attendees “strongly agreed” that more concise information needs to be provided from the University about the effects of Covid-19 on the running of the upcoming semester.
“We all know it is a bit up in the air at the moment”, says Rapson. He adds: “It’s all good getting people in a room and having a discussion. It is not much good if that information does not go anywhere.
“I can assure everybody that information is going to be used in conversations with the University in pursuing the answers that students raised during the student forum. It is going to be used to ensure that semester one is as smooth as possible for students. Officers are already implementing bits of the feedback into contributions that they are planning to make at meetings next week.”
Around half of the attendees of the forum agreed that Covid-19 had an impact on their physical and mental well-being as well as their grades, studies, and financial circumstances. Around the same number of students agreed that further support services for financial, physical and mental wellbeing are needed and that quiet and safe study spaces need to be secured. Other concerns raised by students included questions regarding mandatory physical attendance for shielding students or students with caring responsibilities, as well as the effects of Covid-19 on the study experience for international students and students participating in the Erasmus exchange program.
Any student wishing to make further contributions to the forum’s discussion are encouraged to contact Benn Rapson via email@example.com or contact one of the other student executive officers.
It is not just members of the Executive Committee that can call for and organise a student forum. A member of Student Parliament can request a forum through Student Parliament and other students can call a forum by contacting a member of Strath Union staff, who will set up a petition on the website. Once that petition gets fifty signatures a forum can be arranged.
To find out more about forums, get in touch with the Union at firstname.lastname@example.org.