What happened at the first EDI Advisory Board meeting?

TL;DR: The EDI board gave their suggestions on how we make sure we’re updating all students with the work we are doing on the 6 key themes, ways to improve gender safety on and off campus and how Welcome/Freshers’ could be enhanced for 2024.

As your Students’ Guild, we are committed to our values of empowerment, collaboration, and radical inclusivity. That’s why our EDI Advisory Board is so important to us enable a diverse group of students to hold us and the University to account on what we’re doing to achieve equality, diversity, and inclusion. Here is a summary of our first meeting of the year (31 October).  

Students Priorities for the Guild

Over the last couple of years, the Student’s Guild has been improving how it genuinely led by students, for students. One of the ways we’ve done this is by introducing a data-driven approach to listening to students to understand what is important to them.  

The Guild’s Insights Team shared with the Advisory Board how this was done this year. Over the last few weeks, we received over 2000 pieces of student feedback through surveys, workshops, and Let’s Talks. These six themes emerged from this research:

• Events and activities

• Job prospects

• Living costs

• Health and wellbeing

• Campaigns, initiatives, and activism

• Equality, diversity, and inclusion

These will shape what Guild stuff and Officers will focus on throughout the year – working from the actions suggested by students. The EDI Advisory Board looked at the suggested actions for each and considered if there were any minority or marginalised communities neglected. The Advisory Board then explored the EDI theme in more detail, giving feedback to the Insights Team about what this could look like.

The EDI Advisory Board liked that the Guild has taken this approach and has a plan but agreed it needs to be transparent and held to account reporting back to students and the Advisory Board in progress. The Advisory Board also asked if the different funding opportunities could be communicated to societies.  

The final version of the Student Priorities will be announced on Friday!

Gender Safety

Shades Chaudhary (the University’s Assistant Direct – Culture and Inclusion) and Pip (your Student Living Officer) shared what is being done to improve gender safety. The key foci for this year are: Consent Training for Students, Bystander intervention Training, Campaign Awareness, and Reporting and Support. There are also ‘business as normal’ initiatives: drink spiking kits, SWaN, campus safety guide, night bus, personal safety alarms, Best Bar None, and education toolkits for schools.  

The aim of the Exe-Change the Norm (bystander training) is to provide a toolkit and confidence for people to feel able to positively intervene in a range of scenarios to call out harmful language (which could be misogynistic, homophobic, racist, ableist etc). This training has been rolled out across the AU and there has been really positive feedback from participants and the data suggests it’s having an impact in reducing the number of incidents.  

The EDI Advisory Board gave feedback on the following aspects of gender safety.

Reporting: there is too much bureaucracy (need to only talk to one person), the AU protects its reputation (‘not as bad as them’ attitude), and there’s a perception that the University cares more about plagiarism than harassment/behaviour.  

Communications: make emails less info-heavy, capitalise social media (activism, campaigns, polls), stall in the Forum with freebies to engage students, provide a taster session.

Training: make it mandatory (maybe have a credit element), get info to people before Welcome, expansion to societies.  

Vrinda (Associate Dean for Taught Students - Racial Equality and Inclusion) shared with the advisory board that each department has a Academic Lead for Student Support (Racial Equality and Inclusion) who can be contacted by students who have concerns or need support regarding experiences of racism, racial discrimination, or discrimination. Vrinda will also pass on the feedback on reporting to the ALSS meeting.  

Reviewing Welcome and Accessibility  

Rhys (your Societies and Employability Officer) outlined why this autumn the Guild and the University changed the approach to the start of the academic year. Feedback from previous years said the Freshers’ Fair was too big, overwhelming, and not good for students or societies. This year, we moved to having themed days spread across the week. The Guild also ran events specifically targeted at groups previously neglected by Freshers’. In addition, weeks 1-6 were also used for extra society engagement.  

The EDI Advisory Board thought that the themed days were less overwhelming and hectic for students but having 6 weeks of Welcome put greater pressure on committees. Maybe societies could be given greater choice. Some clearer comms would be helpful as there was a lot going on. Postgrads could be included more, and the St Luke’s fair could have more fun elements. It was quite Forum-centric – could we have more festival vibes (music, food, etc.)?

This feedback will feed into the planning for Welcome 2024.

The next EDI Advisory Board will take place on Thursday 30 November.

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