Goings-on as ULU Vice President: August to mid September

Activity Update August – Mid September 2013

I was re-elected as Vice President of the University of London Students’ Union in March of this. My second term started at the beginning of August. I am going to re-start writing regular reports of my activity as ULU Vice President, as well as articles on the student and wider political movements. This is for accountability purposes, but also for members to be fully aware of what I am up to.

I shall recount my goings-on from August 2013 up until September 2013:

1.     Workers Rights

a)      3 Cosas Campaign: For those of you that don’t know 3 Cosas -‘three things’ in Spanish – is a vibrant campaign to win sick pay, holiday pay and pensions for the University of London’s outsourced cleaners. It is going to be a major focal point of my  – and ULU’s – campaigning work in 2013/14.

Last Term and New term:

–          Last term we ran a ‘Summer of Action’ to put pressure on the University of London. This involved organising stunts, regular promotion of the campaign, protests, fiestas and more. A student was unjustly arrested for chalking campaign slogans on university premises. This eventually led to the University banning protest on campus.

I have been supporting the activist with legal advice and court proceedings. This also involves building a campaign to oppose the police’s presence on campus and intimidation of activists. Full court date is on the 17th October.

–          New Term: I have been working on plans for the campaign for the new term with UoL staff. This is principally about encouraging new and returning students to support and become active for the campaign, and put weight on the University to level up the terms of work for outsourced staff.

We have:

–          A joint Bloomsbury campus campaigns ‘Friday fiesta’.

–          Introduction to the campaign evening with banner making, food and speeches.

–          First 3 Cosas protest in mid – October.

–          Latino nights at UoL students’ Unions.

–          Produced campaign materials: stickers, posters, t-shirts, badges

–          Writing to clubs and societies asking them to join our campaign.

–          Re-vamping the campaign’s social media presence. #3cosas

–          We are planning stunts, direct action, industrial action for the campaign – watch this space.

–          UoL student Garden Halls of residence:

The University is redeveloping UoL Garden halls. We have been working with porters and cleaners from the halls to ensure that:

a)      the University avoids redundancies at all costs and a commitment to reallocate workers wherever possible, but to fully consult with staff.

b)      Comfortable, safe and affordable interim accommodation to be organised by the University.

c)      For the Halls not to be opened up to private contractors and privatised.

d)      The redevelopment to lead to better quality halls of residence with no rise in the fees.

We will be working alongside the workers in the halls to inform students of the changes and engage them in a campaign along the above lines. This will involve meetings in halls.

2.     Housing:

–          Briefing on ‘guarantors’ for private tenancies:

There are many problems with housing in the UK: there is an acute shortage of social housing, and partly as a result our housing costs are the third highest in Europe; letting agents often get away with charging excessive and unfair administration fees, and government policies on the ‘bedroom tax’ and cuts to housing-related benefits threaten to exacerbate the crisis.

As students’ unions, we must not forget these issues when campaigning on housing. At the same time, picking immediate issues on which we can score progress is a sure way of demonstrating to our members that it is worth campaigning on the bigger things.

We have produced a briefing that focuses on one particular issue which faces many students, and particularly our international students: the problem of getting ‘guarantors’ for private tenancies.

It provides:

  • an explanation of guarantors and guarantee schemes;
  • evidence about international students’ concerns and expectations regarding accommodation;
  • advice on taking up the issue of guarantee schemes with your institution and examples of successful schemes
  • How your student union can work with ULU, including on our Vice Chancellor’s Pledge on housing.

We will be approach London Students’ Unions to work with you on lobbying your Vice Chancellor and senior team.

–          We have produced in depth ‘Know your rights’ materials for tenants – we have printed 7, 500 copies, see here: http://ulu.co.uk/about/campaigns/currentcampaigns/housing/

–          Tenants Union: we held meetings on this earlier in the year but are beginning to pick the mantle up again.

A website is in the process of being built, an alternative, student MTV ‘Cribs’ is being worked on, and once students get settled in halls we will be organising against high rents and poor quality housing.

  1. Student Activities: The emphasis remains very much on supporting and building existing societies, while also encouraging students to introduce new and innovative activities.

The ULU Student Activities Team took a great deal of time over the past year meeting and consulting with Student officers and staff to take feedback on what we offer SA-wise. Taking a lead from our members we have introduced new activities and increased the number of taster and development days, plus we have expanded the number of coaching and referee, umpire courses and increased the number of other requested activities.

We are running a number of courses for University of London students:

a)      Train to be a qualified first-aider

We have a fantastic opportunity for all ULU sports men and women to earn either an Outdoor Activities or Pitch Side first aid qualification. Our 2 day course covers everything from basic first aid and resuscitation techniques, to sports injuries, incident management and casualty evacuation. It’s ideal for a sports clubs designated first aider or society’s trip leader.

b)     Train to be an umpire/referee

Love sport?  Thinking of joining your Uni team? You can take your level of involvement of student sport to a whole new level by becoming a fully qualified referee or umpire and earn money refereeing university sport. We offer courses in football, rugby, netball, hockey and cricket, all of which have links with local leagues that can provide you with work, mentoring and continued development opportunities.

c)      NPLQ (National Pool Lifeguard Qualification)

With the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification you can become a fully qualified lifeguard allowing you to work in pools and leisure centres up and down the country as well as take the lead with any swimming or water borne clubs and societies you join whilst at university. The course lasts 5 days and is hosted by The Energybase NPLQ assessment centre.

d)     Women’s Self Defence

Designed and taught by Sue Smith, an instructor with 20 years martial arts experience and a 4th Dan in Aikido, our course will teach all of the legal, theoretical and practical skills.  The 6 sessions will give you a better understanding of personal safety and give you the confidence to look after yourself.

A few other projects that will interest members:

ULU On-line Sports Shop

If you have joined a new club and need kit or equipment the ULU on-line Sports Shop can help you.  We can provide everything from football kits that can be named and numbered, to Club or Society hoodies and specialist equipment. We have also made arrangements to put a percentage of any profit we make into a special pot that can used for the purpose of helping teams who may have difficulties.

Minority, Disability and Non traditional sports

Working with the ULU Disabled students’ officer, we can provide access to sporting opportunities that you may not find elsewhere, from something you have seen before like Handball or Softball to the more exotic sports like Roller Derby or Flag football. We will be hosting a number of taster days, one day competitions and training opportunities for a multitude of minority, disability and non traditional sports.

Voluntary

For those students that want to give something back during their time at university, the volunteer’s service provides direct links to charities operating in London and signposts opportunities from bucket shaking to administrative and marketing work. These can be a one off commitment at an event or a long term relationship that sees you build links with potential employers and flesh out your CV.

ULU Theatre Project 2014

We are currently in the process of securing funding to enable us to put on a ULU Theatre Production with Students producing, directing, acting and providing a variety of stage skills. Auditions will be in January 2014 with the actual production to be staged in March. More details about auditions will be given during Fresher’s.

Student Activities Conference 2013

This will bring together student officers and society presidents from across the city to share ideas and collaborate. It will take place in mid to late November.

4.     ULU Training and Part time officer training:

Alongside my two other sabbatical officers and ULU staff we held a three day training event for London student officers and activists, as well as to our own new part time officers.

5.     ‘Save ULU’ and London representation:

Since the ULU review we have been working on putting together a campaign for the new term. I have principally been involved in:

a)      Strategy and planning

b)      Financial modelling

c)      Contributing to the University’s review group process.

d)      Researching into contemporary student centres.

e)      Seeking feedback from constituent members on their views of the review and a campaign to defend the Union.

6.     ULU – Students’ Unions & Freshers:

–          I have been working with ULU staff on arranging our presence at Uol Unions freshers fayres, and shall be attending a multitude of fayres to promote ULU.

–          Contacting Students’ Unions to arrange meetings on joint work and support we can offer.

7.     Liberate London:

a)      We are running a joint campaign alongside London Islamic societies to secure prayer room and multi faith spaces on campus. We have commissioned research into the subject.

b)      London transport accessibility: we are currently compiling research into accessibility on London Underground. This is going to be a big focus for the ULU Disabled students’ officer and I.

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